HBO Max’s decision to remove Gone with the Wind from their streaming platform kicked up quite a fuss. The action was sparked by an article from 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley, who made a persuasive argument that the movie “doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. 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.”
Mere hours later, one of the most famous films of all time disappeared from HBO Max. Like most things these days, this sharply divided opinion. Black Lives Matter supporters – many of whom have long criticized the movie for its objectively pretty rosy vision of the slave-owning South – were happy to see it go. Conservatives were not, though, comparing it with book-burning and sending out a blizzard of snowflake emojis over social media.
But HBO Max never intended to delete Gone with the Wind forever, and in their original statement they said that:
“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.”
Now, it’s being reported that the film will be back, uncut, as early as next week, complete with an introduction by a black scholar (though we don’t know who yet). Presumably, this introduction will discuss the ahistorical depiction of the South, the late 1930s context in which Margaret Mitchell’s novel was written and the film was made and the reasons it continues to inspire passion to this day.
Will this make everyone happy and end the debate? Not a chance in hell. I suspect that Gone with the Wind will continue to raise hackles across the political spectrum for decades to come. Though I can’t help but wonder how many people contributing to the debate have actually sat down to watch this nearly four-hour romantic drama from 1939.