June 10, 2020

HBO Max Pulls 'Gone With the Wind' and That's a Good Thing

Gone with the Wind
Frankly, Scarlett, you should give a damn. 

According to CNN and multiple news sources, HBO Max, the newest mega-streaming service, has made a decision to remove the massively successful and controversial film from its library. For now. The streamer has said it "will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions."

There is outrage from many sides of many issues on this one. But in the end, it could be a win for everyone involved. We'll get to why shortly. 

Gone with the Wind is arguably the most successful feature film of all time. It's also deeply problematic on many levels. This actually makes it very reflective of the nation that spawned it.

But there are major questions we must ask about this removal, the role of this film in our history, and how issues like this are handled. We are living in a moment in 2020 that feels almost like a Civil War revisited. Surely this choice will be politicized by both sides in the all-out culture war that we are currently witnessing. 

The removal came after this op-ed from John Ridley who wrote among other things, "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." Ridley won an academy award for adapting 12 Years a Slave.

Gone with the Wind
'Gone with the Wind'

Gone with the Wind is a product of its time, and arguably a product of a time before that. Margaret Mitchell's sweeping Civil War Era epic novel was published in 1936. MGM quickly obtained the movie rights and turned it into an era-defining movie event that still holds the record for most tickets sold. 

Mitchell's influence was her family's ideas of the antebellum south. Her perspective is unique to a wealthy white woman, born to a well-off family that had fond memories of that world. Mitchell was raised on those stories through that lens, and this perspective on those events shaped her and shaped the story she would tell. Similarly, the film itself is a reflection of the social views of 1939. One must recall that 1939 was a time of segregation in the United States. Jim Crow Laws still reigned in the South. 1939 was not a time of equality for people of color. Not by a long shot. 

On the one hand, limiting access to a movie like Gone with the Wind without proper historical context seems to be an easy call. The argument against it will be one against the idea of censorship. Of course, HBO is well within their right to pull the film. Many will look to the idea of freedom of speech or expression. The reality of that is more complicated than most people realize, from uscourts.gov, "The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech." 

That's putting it mildly. 

The important thing here is to focus on the endgame: having a version of Gone with the Wind available to stream with a full historical context. This doesn't actually harm anyone, it makes the film available and it also makes sure audiences learn how to appreciate it in its proper context. This would help with any old movie. As time goes on, great works of art become dated in ways both big and small. In some instances, they become so dated that they become challenging to decipher. 

Gone with the Wind
'Gone with the Wind'

We would be lost without those who put the effort into deciphering and explaining the proper context of all works of art. From Homer to Margaret Mitchell. It's hard for you and me to relate to the world of Ancient Greece. After all, the battle for Troy was in 1260 BC. I think the social and political values were slightly different then. I might not be able to relate to Achilles and his story unless someone properly contextualized it all for me. Then perhaps I can look past certain elements of his tale to value those that still can be applicable or those that add to the story.

We should celebrate the call to further educate and contextualize. Ignore that Gone with the Wind will be off HBO Max for a little while. If you need to see it in the meantime you can find it elsewhere. Once it's back, it'll come with assets and information that will benefit the movie itself for generations to come. 

Because let's not forget that Gone with the Wind has other problems. That famous love scene between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler? It's uh... basically rape. 

The more you look at old movies through the modern lens the more issues you will find. Not just social issues, but human decency issues. Issues that might make a hero seem like a villain by today's standards. 

If you are crying out against the censorship of Gone with the Wind because you love the movie and you want people to see it, trust me—this will help more people see it and even better, help more people appreciate it. Not so they can look past the fact that Rhett Butler is a bad person by today's standards, but so they can judge him according to his era. Otherwise, ignorance will reign. Ignorance of all kinds. 

Achilles is a hero for the ages, but if he lived today he'd be a monster. 

A personal note, not long ago I showed my son The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo, who has more than a little bit of Rhett Butler's cinematic DNA, isn't exactly appropriate in his behavior towards Princess Leia. It's important to me that my son understand that's not an okay way to behave towards women, but for him also to understand that it was considered appropriate when Han Solo did it and while we can emulate Han's heroism in some areas, we can't emulate that specific behavior.

The world is a complicated place, the answer is not to rely on simple solutions. The answer is to dig deeper and educate further. With more context and more information, we can actually appreciate more movies on more levels.      

Your Comment

19 Comments

Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite films <3

June 10, 2020 at 11:56AM

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First African American Male to Receive Academy Award - James Baskett “Song of the South” (Film censored)

First female African American to receive Academy Award - Hattie McDaniel “Gone with the Wind” (Film censored)

Sad to see wonderful performances and stories shelved in the name of vain attempts to rewrite history. The audience learns about the stories of others through films and then applies that to their lives in the present. Isn’t that the point of watching films?

June 10, 2020 at 12:14PM, Edited June 10, 12:16PM

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I think it's funny you think they're trying to rewrite history, as if history hasn't already been written to tell the narrative that people who wrote it believe in. A majority of schools in the central and southern United States barely gloss over slavery. There are "official" history books handed to millions of children every single year that in short, say slavery happened and then everyone was free and that's it. The truth is, our history books are extremely inaccurate to begin with and already support racism by leaving out all the atrocities that white people committed toward Black people, Native Americans, Mexicans, Asians and so on, to form this country. Taking a few movies away that try to show the oppression as not all that bad isn't rewriting history, it's doing justice to a history that was written wrong in the first place.

June 11, 2020 at 7:57AM

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Taylor Morgan
Contract Filmmaker
136

You all are going to get trump reelected with this pc culture. What next? The Sopranos? Full metal jacket? The scene in the shinning between Jack Torrance & Delbert Grady?

June 10, 2020 at 1:26PM

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Jason
babysitter
204

So censorship is bad, but it's also okay.
That's very 1984 of you.

June 10, 2020 at 2:37PM

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Dan Earl
115

This article has just taken NFS off my daily read list. Why try to rewrite history ? You can rightly support BLM without the absurd concept of banning gone with the wind.

June 10, 2020 at 3:22PM, Edited June 10, 3:25PM

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Nope. Totally disagree. Censorship is censorship whether it's for a week or a year. There are probably hundreds maybe thousands of movies that might be deemed racist or sexist in part or whole.

First of all what are the odds a Gen y, z, alpha would even think to watch this film with hundreds of pieces of content flying at them daily. Second, would they watch it all the way through? Third, the racist scenes are just so over the top any person with half a brain would get how antiquated and wrong and just plain ridiculous they are.

June 10, 2020 at 4:22PM

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The price of the blu ray on Amazon is $334.00!
WTF

June 10, 2020 at 4:26PM

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Vincent Gortho
none
1213

Gone with the Wind is a masterpiece, what’s next? Burning books? Iv already heard this story.

June 10, 2020 at 5:09PM

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Genuine questions:
Why is this controversial?
How is this censorship?
If this is so controversial and amounts to censorship when is it ever going to be appropriate to discuss or address these things?

I’m black.
I’m really trying to understand.
I’m listening...

The floor is yours.

June 10, 2020 at 6:59PM, Edited June 10, 6:59PM

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People are concerned that a service that is both not free to access and does not include every film ever made, is no longer showing a film that paints a racist as a hero for being a racist and celebrates him...

Businesses make business decisions based on social and commercial reasons.

This is precisely censoring nobodies speech, this is removing art from a curated service because it doesn't fit the private businesses current social and commercial standards. People seem to think those screaming censorship on the right dont censor and all about free speech, when they fire presentors who say they support abortion rights...

People, free speech is your ability to speak and express your thoughts, and yes that means to complain when businesses to make business decision that you dont agree with. But that business decisions is not censoring your speech at all so calm the fuck down snowflakes

June 10, 2020 at 8:28PM

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Isaac Elliott
Director - Producer
591

Calm down ? I think you're the only one swearing

June 10, 2020 at 8:31PM

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You are the only one here to calm down.

June 11, 2020 at 5:52AM

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I'm a white male. I grew up in the deep south with every opportunity to use my racial status to oppress others. By the grace of God I dodged that trap, and I largely accredit that to films about the era of slavery, post-civil war oppression and civil rights struggles.

Watching Gone with the Wind as a kid, I felt ashamed of the racism and privilege demonstrated by white people in the film. I learned by non-example never to live my life that way, nobody had to explain that to me.

I also greatly admired the bravery, honor and dignity of the black characters in the Song of the South. Uncle Remus was a true hero in that film, his character inspired me so much I read the original Uncle Remus books and learned even more. I would love to share this film with my sons, but Song of the South is banned and has been for many years. The decision was made for us that the only possible outcome of watching that beautiful film is to learn to become a racist if you're white or feel marginalized if you're black. I whole heartedly disagree, people can think for themselves.

Banning of films is prejudice.

Does that help?

June 11, 2020 at 7:54AM

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I absolute agree with you, it's time to restore the Uncle Remus legacy, that movie it's a great example of friendship, tolerance, equality and respect for the nature and for the people. It's a shame how the Disney administration handled that movie.

June 11, 2020 at 8:21AM

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I'm never a fan of censorship but this banning of films remind me of the 80s ban of "video nasty" in the UK by then PM Margaret Thatcher which was a very oppressive period of British history. Me wanting to watch violence videos is not about me wanting to indulge in violence but more about my rights being infringed and also I wanted to see what other who had watched it to be shocked, entertained or other thought provoking debate they had afterwards. I felt I was robbed by censorshop.

June 11, 2020 at 6:21AM

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Simon Chan
Director of Photography
231

You Americans are so deeply drowned in your own pseudo morals - and getting worse - that you have completely lost any sense of reality. So convinced of your moral superiority, the slightest debate is not even an option for you. And this leads to this sort of grotesque article condoning this absurd idea that deleting century-old works of Art (films, statues etc) helps anything but one's quick and cheap attempt at publicly presenting moral virtue. Sad.

June 15, 2020 at 8:08AM

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I honestly don't understand all the sensitivity behind this film being censored or pulled in anyway, we live in the modern age of information. If someone truly wants to watch the film lol they can truly find it through numerous means online. A business has decide due to the current social climate for their own reasons to pull it. Art has always gone through censorships there are works of art privately owned which you'll never see but that doesn't deprive you in any way, i'm sure you can google the image lol and feel from it what you must same way you can torrent this film. The cinematography was beautilful but if for the sake of bringing equality into the world this helped even 0.00000000000000004% then stop complaining and move on and torrent it and show it to your kids so as to not loose whatever privilege you had.

June 15, 2020 at 11:36AM

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kal.el
1

This fuckin website makes me more and more disgusted with every article I read lately. It's basically become the 'let's see what the morons of the industry think today' page. Fucking censorship supporters, how stupid do you have to be to not pick up on racist shit in old movies, and realize it's not ok? REALLY fuckin stupid is the answer, which is not the case for the people who are going to be watching this. You think average Joe or trucker Mike are gonna EVER be watching fuckin Gone With The Wind? No, the only people who are affected by this are the cinephilles, who already have the proper context to understand this movie. This ain't about 'let's properly contextualize this' it's about a petty fucking vengeance by the frustrated nazi fucks that are spearheading this PC culture. Can't wait for the first book burning!

June 15, 2020 at 4:20PM

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