Yesterday, HBO Max removed the 1939 epic Gone with the Wind from its library. The film, while a cinematic classic, also features incredibly racist depictions of black characters while romanticizing the Confederacy. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to make strides, confederate monuments are coming down around the country, and Gone with the Wind is a confederate monument of sorts. So what do we do with a piece of cinema that’s important to cinematic history but features objectionable content?
HBO Max’s solution is to re-add the film with more context so that it’s clear that WarnerMedia streaming the film is not an endorsement of its values. An HBO Max spokesperson tells Variety:
“’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. 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. These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”
This is probably the right call. Although films like Gone with the Wind and The Birth of a Nation can be deeply racist, to erase them completely is to pretend like America never screwed up. Unlike a statue, which is traditionally presented as a monument to greatness, art is more complicated and should be treated as such. I’m glad that HBO Max is adding extra context (similar to what Disney+ did with some of its library). However, no amount of added context can change the fact that Gone with the Wind is a very long and boring movie that has a handful of good moments. Alas.