The US civil war epic Gone With the Wind has been removed from HBO Max's streaming library due to its "racist depictions," the company confirmed Tuesday. The temporary removal comes as mass protests sweep across the United States and a number of other countries following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who was killed while in police custody.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, an HBO spokesperson said that "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" and "these racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today." The company felt that "to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible," adding that "these depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia's values."
According to the spokesperson, Gone With the Wind's removal is only temporary and the film will return to the streaming library at a yet-to-be-determined date "with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions," though it will "be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."
Released in 1939, Gone With the Wind tells the love story of southern aristocrats Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler and starred Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the 1936 best-selling book by Margaret Mitchell, it takes place on a plantation outside Atlanta in the aftermath of the Civil War and has long been considered controversial due to its depiction of black people and its positive view of slavery. On Tuesday, amid growing tensions in the country and calls for an end to systemic racism and police brutality, 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley, in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, encouraged HBO Max to "consider removing" the film as it had its "own unique problem."
Ridley described Gone With the Wind as "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" and one that "romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the 'right' to own, sell and buy human beings." He asked that "all content providers look at their libraries and make a good-faith effort to separate programming that might be lacking in its representation from that which is blatant in its demonisation."
The film is just the latest title to be affected in response to the nationwide protests as media companies reappraise their content. Just before HBO Max announced the temporary removal of Gone With the Wind, Paramount Network announced the cancellation of the long-running police reality show Cops after 31 years. Meanwhile, A&E's hit docuseries Live PD is being evaluated, with the network having pulled last week's episode. On the streaming platform side, Netflix pulled British series Little Britain, citing the sketch show's use of blackface.