After being pulled, the classic 1939 film Gone with the Wind will be returning to HBO Max — but this time, the film will feature a disclaimer, as well as an introduction from scholar and university professor Jacqueline Stewart.
Stewart published an op-ed Saturday on CNN, in which she explained why America “can’t run away from ‘Gone with the Wind,’” and argued that the film should still be widely viewed “precisely because of the ongoing, painful patterns of racial injustice and disregard for Black lives.”
“HBO Max will bring ‘Gone with The Wind’ back to its line-up, and when it appears, I will provide an introduction placing the film in its multiple historical contexts,” wrote Stewart. “For me, this is an opportunity to think about what classic films can teach us.”
“Right now, people are turning to movies for racial re-education, and the top-selling books on Amazon are about anti-racism and racial inequality,” the professor added. “If people are really doing their homework, we may be poised to have our most informed, honest and productive national conversations yet about Black lives on screen and off.”
“Gone with the Wind” is a prime text for examining expressions of white supremacy in popular culture. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s blockbuster novel, “Gone with the Wind” taps into longstanding myths about the gentility of the antebellum South. The film’s lavish costumes, magnificent plantation sets and sweeping Technicolor cinematography render Scarlett O’Hara’s romances and economic tribulations in grand melodramatic fashion.
As the title indicates, “Gone with the Wind” looks back nostalgically at idyllic days that are no more (because they never were). By harkening back to the great old days, plantation dramas invite white viewers to imagine appealing but false pedigrees. When working class and poor white viewers identify with a noble white lineage, for example, they might be less likely to form what could be beneficial alliances with their Black working class and poor counterparts.
Gone with the Wind was taken down from its HBO Max platform after filmmaker John Ridley’s successful calls on WarnerMedia to censor the film.
Ridley, however, insisted that he was not engaging in censorship, nor was he trying to “erase history.,” and justified his reasoning by noting that Gone with the Wind “isn’t history,” but rather, a “historical fiction.”
WarnerMedia chief Bob Greenblatt — who originally called the move to pull the film “a no-brainer” — now says that restoring the film with an added disclaimer and introduction from Stewart will work just fine. “We failed to put the disclaimer in there which basically sets up the issues that this movie really brings up,” said Greenblatt. “We took it off and we’re going to bring it back with the proper context.”
“It’s what we should have done,” he added, “I don’t regret taking it down for a second. I only wish we had put it up in the first place with the disclaimer. And, you know, we just didn’t do that.”