Friday, June 19, 2020

Gone With the Wind Returns to HBO Max

After a brief furlough, executives for HBO Max, the new streaming service designed to compete against the new Disney Plus streaming service, have announced that Gone with the Wind is returning to the lineup. More than a week ago an announcement was made that the 1939 blockbuster (considered one of the 100 greatest movies ever made) was under scrutiny by folks who felt the film was promoting the benefits of slavery. Sadly, social media blew up with comments from both sides (tho, to be fair, more than 90 percent of the comments were in defense of the movie) and what I was shocked about more than anything was the misinformation that was circulating like wildfire. 

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind

It was apparent (from one perspective) that most of the complaints on social media from people complaining against the film never even saw it. Hattie McDaniel, a talented African American who played the role of "Mammy," ultimately became the first African-American to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award. But, according to one comment on Facebook, "Hattie McDaniel was just interviewed last week and said she would like to fling the Oscar back," unaware that McDaniel passed away in 1952. Another comment on Facebook remarked: "Gone with the Wind features negative cartoon stereotypes that are insulting to black people, especially Brer Bear and Brer Fox." (Someone should have told that person that Gone with the Wind  has no cartoons and that Brer Bear and Brer Fox are animated characters of another motion-picture.)

I also found it alarming that most of the news reports got the facts incorrect. The majority headlined that Gone With the Wind was banned from HBO Max permanently, or that the movie was banned altogether from broadcasting. sold out of Gone With the Wind, in all formats, within 24 hours as if customers feared they would never have a copy to watch ever again.

First of all: Nobody "banned" the 1939 Hollywood landmark movie. You can still watch the movie on DVD and Bluray, it will continue to air annually on Turner Classic Movies, and continue to be screened over Google Play, Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Second, what HBO Max clearly stated (and such factoid was overlooked) was that the company was temporarily removing it from streaming and would bring it back with a special filmed introduction explaining the film's historical significance. "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," a spokesperson said. "It will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions." This is not uncommon as many motion-pictures and vintage cartoons contain an on-screen disclaimer, or a disclaimer on the DVD packaging, reminding people that there might be some material offensive to others but for historical reasons the films remain intact and unaltered.

Jacqueline Stewart of Turner Classic Movies

So, for the record, the film was never banned on any permanent level. It was removed temporarily so that Jacqueline Stewart of the University of Chicago Turner Classic Movies could film a special introduction. Let us be honest: many of today's movies and TV shows have far worse material than Gone With the Wind, and frankly, anyone can find a reason to ban any movie (made yesterday or today) if it does not meet up to the Ozzie and Harriet standards. So if you meet someone who says that Gone With the Wind was banned altogether from all platforms, you can correct them and help stop the spread of misinformation.