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Now, before the film plays on the service, it is preceded by a video from TCM host and University of Chicago cinema and media studies professor Jacqueline Stewart, who tells viewers, “You’re about to see one of the most enduringly popular films” of all time, but warns “the film has been repeatedly protested, dating back to the announcement of its production” due to its romantic depiction of the antebellum South and stereotypical Black characters.
The film, 1940’s best picture winner at the Oscars, also is now accompanied by “extras” including videos titled “Gone With the Wind: A Complicated Legacy” and “Hattie McDaniel: What a Character!” as well as Stewart’s introduction as its own video.
In her introduction, Stewart adds, “Watching Gone With the Wind can be uncomfortable, even painful. Still it’s important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion.” Watching such films can prompt viewers to reflect on their values, Hollywood history and what pop culture says about a previous era, she suggests.
Gone With the Wind was initially removed from HBO’s streaming service on June 9, amid nationwide protests over systemic racism following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times on June 8, 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley called on HBO Max to “consider removing” the title because “it is a film that glorifies the antebellum South” and, “when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
In a statement at the time, HBO Max said that it would return the film to the service with “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions” attached. A few days later, WarnerMedia Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt called the decision a “no-brainer,” adding, “We failed to put the disclaimer in there, which sets up the … issues that this movie really brings up.”
An adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel of the same name, Gone With the Wind became one of the highest-grossing films in history and won eight Oscars, including a supporting actress award for Hattie McDaniel as “Mammy,” a servant at the Tara plantation. Though McDaniel was the first Black person to win an Oscar, she and other Black colleagues could not attend the film’s premiere in Georgia due to Jim Crow laws and, at the Academy Awards, she had to sit at the back of the room, away from her fellow cast and crew.
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