The 1939 movie, which has long been seen as an American classic, has been highly criticised for its depictions of race. The movie sees Hattie McDaniel's slave character become a free woman, yet she continues to happily serve a white family after the abolition of slavery.
"It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south," John Ridley, who won the adapted screenplay Oscar for his work on 12 Years a Slave, wrote in an op-ed published by the Los Angeles Times this week. "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."
Ridley called on Warner Bros. to remove the movie from HBO Max and then, after a respectful amount of time, bring back Gone With the Wind with an added disclaimer to recontextualise it for new audiences. The studio later took the movie off its new streaming service and has since clarified that it will return with a disclaimer containing "a discussion of its historical context" and a "denouncement" of its depiction of race.
The full statement reads: “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.”
Gone With the Wind takes place in the American south in the aftermath of the Civil War, and is based on the 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell. Victor Fleming directed the movie, which went on to win eight Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for McDaniel – the first person of color to ever win an Oscar. At the awards ceremony, McDaniel was unable to sit with the rest of the Gone With the Wind cast due to racial segregation rules.