"Gone With the Wind" has been reinstated on HBO Max with a two videos that discuss the film's problematic portrayals of slavery and Black people. Before the film now plays on the streaming service, Turner Classic Movies host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart presents an introduction in which she explains the 1939 movie portrays "the antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery, upon which this world is based."
Another video now included with the title is a one-hour panel discussion entitled "The Complicated Legacy of 'Gone With the Wind,'” from Turner's 2019 Classic Film Festival, which was led by Donald Bogle, Variety reported. Bogle has been called "America's foremost Black film historian."
In her introduction, Stewart, who is also a professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago specializing in African American cinema, talks about “why this 1939 epic drama should be viewed in its original form, contextualized and discussed," while acknowledging that "the film has been repeatedly protested, dating back the announcement of its production."
"Producer David O. Selznick was well aware that Black audiences were deeply concerned about the film’s handling of the topic of slavery and its treatment of Black characters," Stewart says in the video.
The enslaved Black people in the film are portrayed in familiar tropes, she explains, such as "as servants notable for their devotion to their white masters or for their ineptitude." Ultimately, she says, "the film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality."
HBO Max pulled the 1939 film from its service on June 10 because, HBO said, it "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."
Screenwriter and director John Ridley, who won an Academy Award for "12 Years A Slave," was among the many people who had called for the movie to be pulled, writing in the Los Angeles Times that "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."