The 1939 classic Gone with the Wind has been temporarily removed from the streaming platform, HBO Max. The move came after the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter movement highlighted the unfair treatment of the community, including the need for accurate racial depictions of black people.
A Hollywood classic at its time
Gone with the Wind is considered to be one of the most successful movies. It received 10 Oscars and remains the highest-grossing film of all time, with its earnings adjusted for inflation. However, the film has also been criticised for inaccurate depictions of slavery.
Set during and after the American Civil War and based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, the film features black characters who seem contented with their fate as slaves and who remain loyal to their former owners after slavery’s abolition.
The film also highlights how Mammy, a black domestic servant played by Hattie McDaniel – who won an Oscar for the role but was segregated from her white cast members at the ceremony –seems happy to benefit from the kindness of her white benefactors, while other black characters are seen in a negative light.
Has Gone with the Wind lost the wind in its sails?
Fast forward to 2020, and the film takes the spotlight, following the uproar of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and awareness. 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley launched a stinging opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, calling for the removal of the film from HBO Max. “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,” said Ridley.
In return, the streaming platform has temporarily taken down the movie. “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,” said a WarnerMedia spokesperson to The Verge. However, does the removal of this Hollywood classic represent a step in the right direction?
Ridley argues that although he plans on keeping his subscription to HBO Max, he hopes that decision-makers can understand the pain to scroll through the platform’s library and witness it elevate one film in particular that has “helped to perpetuate the racism that’s causing angry and grieving Americans to take to the streets.”
On the other hand, Forbes writer Scott Mendolson is rather weary of the impacts of taking down this movie on a single platform. The film can still be rented on other major video on demand platforms for as little as US$4. Additionally, the film is also currently the top-ranked DVD over at Amazon, while readers can even get the original novel on Kindle for US$0.65.
Therefore, while Ridley’s efforts to ensure the accurate racial depictions of the black community sends a strong message to the film industry, there’s still plenty of work to be done to ensure the #BlackLivesMatter movement does not simply fade away in the coming months.
Source: Los Angeles Times, The Verge, Forbes