Gone With the Wind has been temporarily pulled from HBO Max and Paramount Network canceled Cops. Candy Chan writes about how entertainment media is responding to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gone With the Wind, a true American classic set during the Civil War, has been temporarily pulled from the streaming service HBO Max.
As protests continue across the nation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, conversations surrounding police brutality and systemic racism have moved from the Internet to corporate boardrooms and meetings. Media companies are reassessing the content they provide. HBO’s decision to pull Gone With the Wind follows Paramount Network’s cancellation of the long-running police reality show Cops.
‘A product of its time’
Gone With the Wind is a love story set in a plantation outside Atlanta after the American Civil War. Though the movie garnered praise and accolades after its premiere—it won eight Academy Awards, including best-supporting actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first Black person to ever win an Oscar—it has also been accused of romanticizing the antebellum South and erasing the horrors of slavery.
“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,” an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement.
“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.”
The movie received renewed scrutiny when John Ridley, screenwriter of the Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave, penned an op-ed calling for its removal on Monday. While movies are “often snapshots of moments in history,” Ridley writes, Gone With the Wind not only ignores the racial sins of the antebellum South, but also perpetuates “some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
Ridley argues that the romanticization of the Confederacy and plantation lifestyle legitimizes the idea that the secessionist movement of 1860 was “something more, or better, or more noble” than a violent effort to keep slaves and protect the terrible institution of slavery.
Towards the end of the op-ed, Ridley also clarifies that he does not “believe in censorship.” But without the proper contextualization, the movie depicts a false and harmful image of the plantation era, devoid of the human sufferings and brutality Black enslaved people faced every day.
HBO Max said in a statement that the film will eventually return to the service with a “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions” of Black people and slavery.
Megyn Kelly: ‘Where does this end?’
The temporary removal of Gone With the Wind has sparked heated discussions on Twitter, and Megyn Kelly is among those leading the battle against HBO Max. On Wednesday, Kelly, a former host on Fox News and NBC News, retweeted a Wall Street Journal article about the decision to pull the film and captioned it: “Are we going to pull all of the movies in which women are treated as sex objects too? Guess how many films we’ll have left? Where does this end??”
Several other media personalities also weighed in, with many referencing McDaniel’s historic Oscar win for her portrayal of Mammy, a house servant and slave at the plantation. Kelly also retweeted a video of McDaniel accepting her award. In her acceptance speech, McDaniel said, “I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope that I shall always be a credit to my race and the motion picture industry.”
Yet other users on Twitter were quick to point out that McDaniel’s win, as momentous as it was, did not spare her enduring the rampant racism and segregation. The 1940 Academy Awards ceremony was held at The Ambassador Hotel, a ‘No Blacks’ hotel in Los Angeles. McDaniels’s presence was at a special favor of the movie’s producer David Selznick, and even when she was allowed into the hotel, she was not allowed to sit with at the table with her fellow cast members. She sat at a small table against a far wall with her escort and her agent.
McDaniel’s win praised her performance, but her race still barred her from the rights her white colleagues experienced.
Kelly followed up on her first tweet by calling for HBO Max’s removal of TV shows Friends and Game of Thrones, as well as movies made by John Hughes and Woody Allen, “could go on & on… & on…& on…” These shows have been noted for its predominantly white cast and Hughes and Allen have been criticized for sexism in their movies.
Senator Ted Cruz also mentioned the temporary removal of Gone With the Wind in a recent tweet responding to a false claim that streaming services are to remove Quentin Tarantino films. Cruz writes, “Is this real? First Gone With The Wind, now this? STOP the censorship, you Orwellian statists!”
Those on Twitter criticizing HBO Max are condemning the decision to pull the film as censorship, seemingly neglecting the fact that the movie will return to the streaming service but with a discussion of its historical context.
Gone With the Wind is also apparently a personal favorite of President Trump; after Parasite won the best picture at the Oscars in February, Trump said at a campaign rally: “The winner is … a movie from South Korea! What the hell was that all about? We got enough problems with South Korea with trade… Can we get ‘Gone With the Wind’ back, please?”
The Police Narrative is Changing
Cops, a series with a six-year run on Paramount Network and 30 years on air, was pulled last week and will not be coming back. A&E also pulled last weekend’s episodes of its hit docuseries Live PD.
The show Cops has faced criticism over the years for how it portrays suspects and police tactics. A podcast called Running From Cops said that officers on the show would sometimes coerce subjects into signing releases to be filmed, and that crewmembers have carried weapons assisted the police at times.
With the nation embroiled in discussions about police reform and abolition, shows about police and law enforcement have been noted for its role in forming the mainstream narrative that poses cops as the protagonists. Even in shows where police are depicted as corrupt, the police perspective remains. This perspective feeds the categorization of order—“police imposed status quo”— as good and neglects the viewpoints of the communities being policed.
In 2019, polls found that Americans trusted police officers more than Congress members; the police were one of the most trusted institutions in the country. However, a YouGov poll conducted after the death of George Floyd shows that there are disparities between white and Black Americans when it comes to their trust of the police. When asked if they trust local police and law enforcement to look out for the best interests of them and their family, only 36% of Black respondents said they had a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust compared to the 77% of white respondents.
The death of Floyd and the ensuing protests are changing the police narrative. As more videos surface of police deploying rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters, the idea of police abolition, once a radical and near impossible suggestion, is at least being entertained by people and politicians.