An old classic is going to be absent from HBO Max, at least temporarily. Gone with the Wind has been removed from the channel in the wake of criticism that the film depicted racist attitudes out of context.
According to HBO Max, the 1939 film was “a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, become 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.”
Gone with the Wind is based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell and features slave characters who appear comfortable with their position and show immense loyalty to their former owners even after slavery’s abolition.
John Ridley, screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this week asking HBO Max to remove the film. “It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south,” he said. “It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color. The movie had the very best talents in Hollywood at that time working together to sentimentalize a history that never was.”
A CNN spokesperson said that when the film does return to HBO Max, “it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions … 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.”
According to Ridley, he’s not hoping the film never again sees the light of day. “I don’t believe in censorship,” he wrote. “I would just ask, after a respectful amount of time has passed, that the film be re-introduced to the HBO Max platform along with other films that give a more broad-based and complete picture of what slavery and the Confederacy truly were.”