Protests around the U.S. and around the world have caused a lot of people to reexamine issues of race in America in all parts of life, and that includes entertainment. On June 8, 12 Years a Slave, screenwriter John Ridley wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times where he asked HBO to remove Gone with the Wind from the HBO Max streaming service because it "romanticizes the horrors of slavery." HBO has now responded, by doing exactly that.
Gone with the Wind is no longer available on the service, though HBO says the movie will return at some point with new material designed to discuss, and condemn, the film's historical depictions.
Gone with the Wind is, accounting for inflation, still one of the most successful movies ever made and it's also one of the most critically acclaimed. The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, it would win eight, while also being awarded another honorary award as well as a special one for technical achievement.
One of the awards the film would win was the Best Supporting Actress award, which went to Hattie McDaniel. She became the first African-American to win an acting Oscar. McDaniel had to come to the stage from her segregated seat at the back of the auditorium to accept the award.
Gone with the Wind is set in Georgia during the days surrounding the American Civil War. The white southern characters are certainly the heroes of the story, and so it is seen by many as spinning the era of American slavery in a positive light. In a statement from HBO to THR, it was made clear that when the movie returns to the HBO Max service, the film itself will remain unchanged, but new material will be included that puts the movie into context...
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.
Gone with the Wind certainly isn't the first piece of media that has had to deal with the way perspectives have changed over time. Everything from animated Disney movies to Looney Tunes have seen situations where something created decades ago, that was seen as normal and acceptable at the time, is looked at very differently through a modern lens. There is no real consensus as to exactly how to handle these situations. While removing the offending material from circulation is one option, as the HBO statement makes clear, there's also a fear doing so has the effect of not only erasing the problematic material, but making it seem as if the problem never existed as well.