‘Gone With the Wind’ returns to HBO with prologue on racism

Gone With the Wind
A copy of the book "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, signed by producer, director, and most of speaking cast of the 1939 Hollywood film, is pictured October 18, 2007, in Los Angeles, California. |

The Oscar-winning film "Gone With the Wind" returned to HBO Max's streaming library on Wednesday with a new introduction highlighting the film’s problematic portrayal of slavery. 

HGBO Max had pulled it earlier this month following protests sparked by the officer-involved death of George Floyd. 

The 1939 film depicts life at a pre-Civil War plantation and tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), the plantation owner's daughter. Despite winning eight Oscars, and Hattie McDaniel making history by becoming the first black actress to win an Oscar, its depiction of the Antebellum South has long received criticism. 

Jacqueline Stewart, host of “Silent Sunday Nights” and a professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, put together a four-and-a-half minute prologue that now runs at the beginning of the classic film unpacking the inherent racism found in the film and how it plays into the culture of the time. 

In her introduction, Stewart says that “Gone With the Wind” was “not universally praised.” She notes that its presentation of Antebellum South was only painted as a “world of grace and beauty, without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based.”

She adds that “it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form” in order to “invite viewers to reflect on their own beliefs when watching them now.”

HBO Max initially announced the removal of "Gone With the Wind" after "12 Years a Slave" screenwriter John Ridley wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times drawing attention to the film's depiction of slavery. 

The piece, titled "Hey, HBO, 'Gone With the Wind' romanticizes the horrors of slavery. Take it off your platform for now," led to the film's removal. Ridley argued in the piece that the iconic film perpetuates "the racism that's causing angry and grieving Americans to take to the streets." The removal sparked a cultural debate as to how Hollywood should deal with depicting offensive historic occurrences.   

The news of "Gone With the Wind" came at the heels of Paramount Television's announcement that it canceled the long-running TV series "Cops." Netflix also faced criticism after the film "The Help" became one of its top-viewed movies this month. The 2011 film is about African Americans working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s.

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