HBO Max pulls Oscar-winning film ‘Gone With the Wind' over depictions of slavery

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. | GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

HBO Max has pulled the Oscar-winning film "Gone With the Wind" from its library following two weeks of protests sparked by the officer-involved death of George Floyd. 

A spokesperson for HBO Max, which was launched by WarnerMedia, announced the move on Tuesday, saying: "'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."

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. It won eight Oscars, and Hattie McDaniel made history by becoming the first black actress to win an Oscar.

HBO Max 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." 

HBO Max said the film will be available on its platform at a later date, along with added "historical context."

The spokesperson added: "These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia'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."

The decision to remove the film caused an uproar on social media.

Daily Caller's Greg Price said, "Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for her role in 'Gone With the Wind.' It's also her birthday tomorrow. Way to erase a historic black achievement in the name of social justice." 

"This is idiotic. We should learn from the past, not pretend it never existed," Hollywood Reporter's awards columnist Scott Feinberg tweeted.

@HBOmax tweeted back, saying, "You can all stop being outraged: GONE WITH THE WIND will return to ⁦@hbomax⁩, but with more context added. 

The news of "Gone With the Wind's" removal comes on the heels of Paramount Television's announcement that it has canceled the long-running TV series "Cops."

Netflix also faced criticism after the film "The Help" became one of its top-viewed movies last week. The 2011 film is about African Americans working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. Actress Octavia Spencer was awarded an Oscar for her role in the film, which grossed more than $200 million at the box office. 

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