The four-hour long cinematic classic Gone With The Wind is taking a bit of a hiatus from the HBO Max streaming service as the country continues to protest racial injustice.
Yesterday, John Ridley – who wrote 12 Years a Slave – wrote an op-ed in the LA Times regarding GWTW, with the headline, “Op-Ed: Hey, HBO, ‘Gone With the Wind’ romanticizes the horrors of slavery. Take it off your platform for now”
“Gone With the Wind,” when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color, writes John Ridley, Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years A Slave,” for @latimesopinion. https://t.co/qgm8WiP0LB
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 8, 2020
It read, in part:
As a filmmaker I get that movies are often snapshots of moments in history. They reflect not only the attitudes and opinions of those involved in their creation, but also those of the prevailing culture. As such, even the most well-intentioned films can fall short in how they represent marginalized communities.
“Gone With the Wind,” however, is its own unique problem. It 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.
Ridley also made it clear he doesn’t want the movie taken down forever or censored in any way:
Let me be real clear: I don’t believe in censorship. I don’t think “Gone With the Wind” should be relegated to a vault in Burbank. 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. Or, perhaps it could be paired with conversations about narratives and why it’s important to have many voices sharing stories from different perspectives rather than merely those reinforcing the views of the prevailing culture.
It seems like HBO agrees and has obliged his request as they say in their official statement:
Gone With the Wind is a product of its time and 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. These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, 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.
I had no idea GWTW had that kind of effect on so many people…honestly, I’ve never even seen it. But when you have an Oscar-winning screenwriter has that type of issue with it, it’s safe to assume that opinion is probably shared by a large amount of African-American viewers.
The request and response seems absolutely fair. No one says it should go away forever, but it also shouldn’t stand alone. WarnerMedia says it will bring it back while adding a denouncement of the injustices portrayed and include more discussions of the movie’s historical context.
This seems to be to be a great example of calm heads clearly communicating an issue and a corporation responding responsibly with empathy.