Film scholar Jacqueline Stewart defended Gone with the Wind's return to streaming and will add historical context on its racial depictions

By Ale Russian
June 15, 2020 11:46 AM
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Gone with the Wind will soon return to HBO Max after the streamer pulled the classic to add "historical context" to some of the outdated and insensitive aspects of the film.

In an op-ed written for CNN, Black film professor Jacqueline Stewart explained her involvement with the new disclaimer and why she thinks it's important to continue showcasing the movie. HBO did not provide a date for the film's return.

"HBO Max will bring Gone with The Wind back to its line-up, and when it appears, I will provide an introduction placing the film in its multiple historical contexts," wrote the University of California professor. "For me, this is an opportunity to think about what classic films can teach us. Right now, people are turning to movies for racial re-education, and the top-selling books on Amazon are about anti-racism and racial inequality. If people are really doing their homework, we may be poised to have our most informed, honest and productive national conversations yet about Black lives on screen and off."

Earlier in her essay, Stewart, a film scholar who co-hosts Turner Classic Movies, explained how the movie could help offer answers on how discrimination has been embedded into every fabric of society and pop culture.

"Some complained that taking the film down was a form of censorship. For others, seeing Gone with the Wind featured so prominently in HBO Max's launch felt like salt rubbed into wounds that have never been permitted to heal," Stewart wrote. "These wounds are reopened with every act of anti-Black violence, every delay in justice and every failure to acknowledge the extent of Black suffering."

"But it is precisely because of the ongoing, painful patterns of racial injustice and disregard for Black lives that Gone with the Wind should stay in circulation and remain available for viewing, analysis and discussion," she continued.

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"As the title indicates, Gone with the Wind looks back nostalgically at idyllic days that are no more (because they never were)," Stewart explained. "By harkening back to the great old days, plantation dramas invite white viewers to imagine appealing but false pedigrees. When working class and poor white viewers identify with a noble white lineage, for example, they might be less likely to form what could be beneficial alliances with their Black working class and poor counterparts."

Last Tuesday, the streaming platform confirmed that the 1939 classic was pulled from its platform, but that it would soon be returning to subscribers accompanied with a "discussion of its historical context and a denouncement" of its portrayal of black people and 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," a spokesperson for HBO Max told PEOPLE 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."

Directed by Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind starred Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel, who became the first black person to win an Academy Award, albeit for the controversial role of Mammy. Adjusted for inflation, the film remains the highest-grossing of all time.