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‘Gone with the Wind’ returns to HBO Max

Wendy Lee
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles – “Gone With the Wind” has returned to HBO Max after it was pulled from the streaming service earlier this month.

The 1939 Academy Award-winning film has come under criticism for the way it depicts the antebellum South, denies the horrors of slavery and perpetuates stereotypes of enslaved people devoted to their masters. On HBO Max, the movie now opens with a roughly 41/2-minute introduction by African American Turner Classic Movies’ host Jacqueline Stewart, who discusses its history and its racism.

“Eighty years after its initial release, ‘Gone With the Wind’ is a film of undeniable cultural significance,” Stewart says. “It is not only a major document of Hollywood’s racist practices of the past, but also an enduring work of popular culture that speaks directly to the racial inequalities that persist in media and society today.”

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in the film "Gone With the Wind."

Along with Stewart’s introduction, HBO Max viewers have access to additional videos, one featuring a panel discussion on the movie’s complicated legacy and another about actor Hattie McDaniel, who in 1940 became the first African American to win an Oscar, for her portrayal of the film’s enslaved “Mammy.”

Filmmaker John Ridley wrote earlier this month in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that WarnerMedia should consider removing “Gone With the Wind” from its streaming service.

“It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south,” Ridley wrote. “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.”

After Ridley’s comments, WarnerMedia, which oversees HBO Max, removed the movie from its service and said that it planned to return “Gone With the Wind” after adding further information.

“These racist depictions were wrong then, and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible,” the company said in a statement earlier this month.

In her introductory video, Stewart acknowledged that “watching ‘Gone With the Wind’ can be uncomfortable, even painful.”

“Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion,” Stewart said. “They reflect the social context in which they were made and invite viewers to reflect on their own values and beliefs when watching them now.”