Look, it is fantastic that the entertainment industry is using this moment of righteous civil unrest to take a good, hard look at the many, many ways it has relied on systematic racism to function. The contract terminations, the messages of support, canceling COPS... It’s all indicative of what we hope will be sustained, widespread change in industry standards from this moment on. However, we also can’t ignore the way shit had to categorically hit the fan before we got to see the slightest hint of tangible consequences and some actual self-awareness. Gone With The Wind, for example, has always been two things at once: a cornerstone of classic American cinema and a thoroughly dissected and criticized look at a grossly romanticized Confederacy. Prior to the recent, global protests against racial injustice, many entertainment institutions, such as WarnerMedia, chose to primarily recognize the film as the former, hence why, until Tuesday, you were able to stream the film from HBO Max’s vast library.
But now, per CNN Business, the burgeoning streaming platform has temporarily removed the 1939 film from its library with plans to bring it back “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
The move also comes after 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley called for this very development—including the film’s return to the platform with additional context and insight—in an op-ed written for the L.A. Times, stating that Gone With The Wind “is its own unique problem. It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.” There is no timeline as to when the film will return to HBO Max’s library.
This is surely a good step towards reconsidering some of the more problematic pop culture staples that have long been canonized and upheld as immovable tentpoles in our entertainment. But we should still ask why it took this much trauma, justified anger, and protest to get these major institutions to notice and make more considerate choices.
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.