Entertainment

HBO Max pulls Gone With the Wind temporarily to add historical context

HBO Max has temporarily removed Gone With the Wind from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era U.S. South.

Movie will return with context and denouncement of racist depictions, says spokesperson

A crowd gathers outside the Astor Theater on Broadway in December 1939 for the premiere of Gone With the Wind in New York. HBO Max has temporarily removed the film from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the movie, long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era U.S. South. (The Associated Press)

HBO Max has temporarily removed Gone With the Wind from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era U.S. South.

Entertainment companies have been forced to grapple with the appropriateness of both current and past productions in the wake of protests against racial inequality, sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

On Tuesday, the Paramount Network dropped the long-running reality series Cops after 33 seasons.

The BBC also removed from its streaming service episodes of Little Britain, a comedy series that featured a character in blackface. Meanwhile, Netflix has removed from its platform in Australia and New Zealand four comedy programs featuring Chris Lilley, who has been criticized for performing in blackface and for offensive depictions of people of colour. 

'Wrong then ... wrong today'

In an op-ed Monday in the Los Angeles Times, the filmmaker John Ridley urged WarnerMedia to take down Gone With the Wind, arguing that it "romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the 'right' to own, sell and buy human beings."

In a statement, the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, called Gone With the Wind "a product of its time" that depicts racial prejudices.

"These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible," an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement.

Based on a 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind is a historical epic about a romance between the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner (played by Vivien Leigh) and a gambler who joins the Confederacy (played by Clark Gable). (The Associated Press)

The company said that when Gone With the Wind returns to the recently launched streaming service, it will include "historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."

Based on a 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind is a historical epic about a romance between Scarlett O'Hara (played by Vivien Leigh), the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a gambler who joins the Confederacy.

WATCH | Hattie McDaniel wins best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Gone With the Wind: 

Gone With the Wind has long been denounced for featuring slave characters who remain loyal to their former owners after the abolition of slavery. It remains the highest-grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation.

It won eight Academy Awards, including best picture and best supporting actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first Black actress to be nominated for or win an Oscar. McDaniel required special permission to attend that Oscars ceremony, which was held at a whites-only hotel, and was seated at a separate table far from her fellow Oscar-nominated colleagues.

With files from CBC News

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