In times of progress, it’s natural to reflect on cultural transgressions. So, in the midst of recent events, some fans were less than pleased with how race relations are depicted in 1939’s Civil War-era drama Gone with the Wind. Following a public outcry, the movie was soon removed from HBO Max. However, here’s why its imminent return to the service is great news.
HBO Max pulled ‘Gone with the Wind’ after some controversy
Given how old Gone with the Wind, it’s no surprise that the movie’s content is deemed controversial by today’s standards. After all, entertainment from the 1990s and even early 2000s is already egregiously dated, especially in its appalling treatment of women and the LGBTQ community.
So, of course a film that is more than 80 years old doesn’t fit the current reckoning for past misdeeds in diversity and representation. But simply eliminating the movie from HBO Max certainly doesn’t accomplish anything. After all, progress does not equal erasure.
Pretending cultural remnants of past eras don’t exist won’t make the lingering effects of systemic racism any less potent. Another solution is necessary, one which can update the conversation and stimulate the current discourse, hopefully steering it toward a long-term solution.
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The 1939 classic will return with a new introduction
Soon after HBO Max pulled the movie, the streaming service confirmed its return. And as promised, the streaming service will frame the movie with a greater historical context. According to Entertainment Tonight, Jacqueline Stewart — a host for Turner Classic Movies — will headline a new introduction to the movie.
In addition to hosting TCM’s Silent Sunday Nights features, Stewart is an African-American author and scholar of film history. She also previously contributed an opinion piece for CNN regarding her thoughts on the HBO Max decision. And since TCM has its own channel on HBO Max, Stewart’s introduction fits perfectly on the platform.
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The movie’s dated cultural sensibilities deserve greater context
Countless movies have disparaged Black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and others over the years. And in the case of many of these films, there is nothing worth salvaging there. Ever heard of the 1986 “comedy” Soul Man, for instance? Oof. Let’s forget about that one. But Gone with the Wind is a special case.
Unlike so many other terribly offensive movies, Gone with the Wind made an indelible mark on the culture and cinema history. The movie won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It features unforgettable performances and quotable lines. And even now, it remains the highest-grossing movie of all time, adjusted for inflation.
Clearly, Gone with the Wind boasts artistic and cultural merit. So, rather than attempting in vain to sweep it away, re-evaluating it through a modern context is a much more fruitful endeavor. The movie presents — especially now, in the current political climate — an opportunity to pinpoint the role racism continues to play in society and ways in which we can do better.
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