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Why is ‘Gone with the Wind’ returning to HBO Max in the US?

The 1939 award-winning film, set in Georgia, was pulled from the streaming platform’s library content in response to claims it stereotypes and devalues black people.

Why is ‘Gone with the Wind’ returning to HBO Max in the US?
Silver Screen CollectionGetty Images

Last week, on-demand streaming service HBO Max issued a statement to announce that they would be removing the 1939 historical romance film Gone with the Wind from its library in the wake of complaints that it could be considered to stereotype and devalue black people and depicts a white supremacist view of American history.

The storyline depicts life on a cotton plantation in Georgia, as well as some of the social changes that occurred during the American Civil War and the Restoration period which followed it.

Some of the film’s language and its message concerning slavery and violence committed by black men have been problematic for both critics and civil rights groups since its original release. In spite of those racist overtones, Gone with the Wind did provide some positive repercussions for the black ethnic community in the US, with some observers saying it helped to bring greater engagement between Hollywood and black audiences while actress Hattie McDaniel, who played housemaid Mammy, won an Academy award for her performance, to become the first African American to win an Oscar.

'Gone with the Wind' to be put into historical context

HBO Max have since reversed their decision to pull the film and now say that Gone with the Wind will reappear in its streaming library but in a different format - one which will explain why such a production would never be made today. In a statement, HBO Max said, “'Gone With The Wind’ is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. 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. These depictions are certainly counter to Warner Media’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its 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. If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”

New version to feature introduction by academic Jacqueline Stewart

According to Fox News, a new, fully-restored version of “Gone with the Wind” will eventually be available on HBO Max and will feature an introduction by Jacqueline Stewart, a Turner Classic Movies host and professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She wrote an opinion piece for CNN at the weekend in which she explained why we should not turn our backs on films like Gone with the Wind. "Gone with the Wind" should stay in circulation and remain available for viewing, analysis and discussion,” Stewart explained. “As the title indicates, "Gone with the Wind" looks back nostalgically at idyllic days that are no more (because they never were). By harkening back to the great old days, plantation dramas invite white viewers to imagine appealing but false pedigrees. When working class and poor white viewers identify with a noble white lineage, for example, they might be less likely to form what could be beneficial alliances with their Black working class and poor counterparts”.


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