Earlier this month, streaming service HBO Max made the decision to remove the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, often heralded as a “classic” of American film-making, from its library. Their reasoning included the film’s problematic portrayals of Black characters and Black slavery. Speaking with Variety, HBO Max executives confirmed that the film was removed in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black victims of police brutality.
A spokesperson for HBO Max stated that the film depicts “ethnic and racial prejudices” which were unfortunately common during the time period. “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,” they stated. The film’s removal was supported by a number of industry personalities, including 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, who wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times discussing the subject.
Now, HBO has confirmed that film will return alongside a new introduction designed to place it within an appropriate historical context. This introduction will be created, written and presumably narrated by Turner Classic Movies host Jacqueline Stewart, who is also a Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Chicago.
Stewart wrote a piece for CNN defending both the film’s reinstatement and its new introduction, calling Gone with the Wind both “a prime text for examining expressions of white supremacy in popular culture” and “a valuable document of and testimony to Black performance during an era when substantial roles for Black talent were extremely rare in Hollywood films.” In particular, she referenced Hattie McDaniel, whose role as Mammy made her the first Black actor to win an Academy Award, but, at the awards ceremony, was not permitted to sit at the same table with the rest of the cast.
It is not known at this time when Gone with the Wind will be returning to HBO Max.