Two weeks after announcing that it was temporarily removing contentious Hollywood classic Gone With The Wind from its cinematic library, HBO Max has now returned the film to its roster—with a few additions. Per Variety, the content of Victor Fleming’s 1939 Oscar-winner remains untouched, but it’s now accompanied by two new pieces of content, both intended to provide context for the racist attitudes of both the film, and the society in which it was crafted. The first is an optional intro, written and presented by Turner Movie Classics host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart, giving a frank assessment of both the film’s own racist content, and the racism of the times and environment into which it was released. The second addition is an hour-long recording of a panel from the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2019, titled, “The Complicated Legacy of Gone With The Wind”.
The addition of these two videos is in line with calls for HBO Max to not simply present the film—impossible to divorce from the early history of Hollywood—without a critical assessment of both its content and its legacy. Stewart’s four-and-a-half minute introduction covers a wide variety of topics related to the film, noting that it presents “the Antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based,” and that “the film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.” She also notes that the film’s production was rife with the effects of racism, with the movie’s Black co-stars legally barred from attending its premiere due to Georgia’s Jim Crow laws, and Hattie McDaniel segregated from her colleagues at the Oscars when she became the first Black person to win an Academy Award.
“Watching Gone With The Wind can be uncomfortable, even painful,” Stewart notes in her introduction “Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion.” The film’s return to the streaming service comes as other media companies wrestle with what to do with their own—often far more recent—instances of racist content, with removal of the work in question currently appearing to be the go-to response. Taken as a whole, it suggests that the film and television industry is still feeling out the proper way to grapple with both its long history of racism—and the modern day instances that continue to depressingly crop up.