As protests against racial injustice continue, the newly launched streaming service HBO Max decided to remove Gone With the Wind from its library due to racist depictions. HBO Max plans to add the movie back eventually, “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions,” but in the wake of the heavy media coverage about the removal, Gone With the Wind is burning up the charts elsewhere. The 1939 movie is now at the top of the best-sellers sales chart for TV and movies, and at number 5 on Apple’s iTunes movie chart.
How are we supposed to react to this story? There are a few ways to approach the news about Gone With the Wind at the top of the Amazon best-sellers chart. One is that it’s being rented en masse because the news of the HBO Max removal has brought the film back into the collective consciousness of viewers. Another is that some people don’t quite understand how streaming works, and are worried that the HBO Max removal will somehow banish every single copy of the film from existence, forever (it won’t, obviously).
And then there’s the third, far more depressing option: potentially racist people outraged over this removal are renting/purchasing the film from Amazon and Apple out of spite. I’d sure like to believe that isn’t the case, because that would be pretty depressing. But…I wouldn’t be surprised. Although I will admit it’s slightly amusing to think of clueless folks renting a 238-minute movie with an overture and intermission, unaware of what they’re getting into.
According to Variety, “Amazon bases its rankings on sales data. The site currently offers the 70th anniversary two-disc DVD edition of Gone With the Wind starting at $29.55, while Amazon Video offers the movie as a digital HD rental at $3.99 and for purchase at $9.99.”
“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,” said an HBO Max spokesperson. “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.”
Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind follows Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley wrote:
“[Gone With the Wind] doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. 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. It is a film that, as part of the narrative of the “Lost Cause,” 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.”
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