The streaming service, from the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, plans to bring back the 1939 classic with a newly added introduction by Black scholar and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart to make it clear the company does not condone the film’s prejudices.
The move is a step in the right direction, wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a column for The Hollywood Reporter about why he doesn’t endorse censoring a film like “Gone With the Wind.”
“What we need is a way to present art within its historical context so the works can still be available and appreciated for their achievements but not admired for their cultural failings. The easiest way would be to include an introductory explanation—filmed or written—that explains that the work contains harmful racial or gender stereotypes that were acceptable at the time but which we now know are harmful,” he said.
“To do nothing is a tacit endorsement of their destructive messages. And, like vaping, prolonged exposure causes damage to our children. We put a warning label on one, why not the other.”
But if Queen Latifah had her way, the film wouldn’t make a return.
“Let ‘Gone with the Wind’ be gone with the wind,” the 50-year-old rapper and actress said during an interview with the Associated Press last week.
“Gone With the Wind,” widely considered one of the greatest films in American cinematic history, has long been criticized for romanticizing depictions of slavery and the Civil War-era South. Some theaters in recent years have pulled the old movie from their rotation, dubbing it “racially insensitive.”
“Gone With the Wind” took home nine trophies at the 1940 Academy Awards, including best supporting actress to Hattie McDaniel for her role as Mammy, making her the first African American to win an Oscar.
But Latifah, who plays McDaniel in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix miniseries “Hollywood,” argues that McDaniel’s win wasn’t as glamorous or groundbreaking as it appeared.
“They didn’t even let (McDaniel) in the theater until right before she got that award,” Latifah said. “Someone came outside and brought her into the auditorium. She wasn’t even allowed to sit in there. And then she had to read a speech that was written by a studio. You know that’s not what the hell she wanted to say.”
Latifah continued: “Then after that, all she could do was play the same kinds of roles. … So the opportunities at that time and the way that those in power in that business were relegating us and marginalizing us and not allowing us to grow and thrive after that was just terrible. And a lot of that is still around today.”
Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t share Latifah’s views. She led “The View” panelists in a discussion last week over how, as she saw it, censoring “Gone With the Wind” is unhelpful, but educating viewers on the film’s context is.
“If you start pulling every film, you’re going to have to pull … a very long list of films,” said Goldberg, the second black woman to win an acting Oscar after McDaniel.
Fellow “View” co-host Meghan McCain, the person who suggested that the “Gone With the Wind” controversy be their show’s “hot topic,” joined the conversation with a question about how to talk about the movie with her future child.
The expectant mom said that she would probably have to explain that “this is a fantastical, completely fictionalized version of the South during this time that was wrecked with slavery” before sharing the film, one she grew up watching.
Goldberg told McCain that in movies, “There’s a whole history of people that are not represented.”
Goldberg continued: “Probably what you’ll tell your child is what I tell my kids when they turn on movies and it takes place in New York and there are no people of color. We have to say: ‘We’re trying to do better now. These were great movies, (but) they weren’t as enlightened as we are now.'”
Abdul-Jabbar pointed out in his column, however, that parents don’t always get to dictate and guide their children’s viewing experience.
Megyn Kelly also shared her views on HBO Max’s removal of the film last week.
“Are we going to pull all of the movies in which women are treated as sex objects too?” she tweeted. “Where does this end?”
She reasoned that if “Gone With the Wind” were to be removed, then the same logic would also lead to the removal of episodes of “Friends” and “Game of Thrones,” anything by John Hughes and Woody Allen, etc. “Let’s keep it going until all we have left is The Queen and Captain America,” she said.
Based on a 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell, “Gone With the Wind” is a historical epic about a romance between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a gambler who joins the Confederacy.
Protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death have forced entertainment companies to grapple with the appropriateness of both current and past productions. Last week, the Paramount Network dropped the long-running reality series “Cops” after 33 seasons. The BBC also removed episodes of “Little Britain,” a comedy series that featured a character in blackface, from its streaming service.
In an op-ed June 8 in the Los Angeles Times, filmmaker John Ridley urged WarnerMedia to take down “Gone With the Wind,” arguing that it “romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the ‘right’ to own, sell and buy human beings.”
The “Gone With The Wind” removal comes on the heels of news that HBO Max’s “Looney Tunes Cartoons” reboot will not include infamous rabbit hunter Elmer Fudd’s cartoon rifle.
“We’re not doing guns,” Peter Browngardt, the series’ executive producer and showrunner, told the New York Times. “But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.”
Like all characters on the throwback animated series that started last week earlier this month on HBO Max, Fudd will be gun-free. The new episodes harken back to the Looney Tunes, which had their peak in the 1940s and 1950s heyday, in every other way – filled with cartoonish dynamite explosions and intricate ACME-brand booby traps.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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