HBO Max on Wednesday returned the Oscar-winning 1939 drama Gone With the Wind to stream on its service, now with a four-and-a-half minute video introduction putting the classic film's racist depictions into context.
The film presents "the antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery, upon which this world is based," Jacqueline Stewart, an African American cinema expert and TCM host, says in her video intro, noting that Gone With the Wind represents enslaved Black people as longstanding stereotypes, "as servants notable for their devotion to their white masters or for their ineptitude."
"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," Stewart says.
The film is also accompanied by a 56-minute recording of a TCM panel discussion from April 2019, called Gone With the Wind: A Complicated Legacy, that examines the film at greater length, as well as a short four-minute documentary about Hattie McDaniel, who won an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in the film. She was the first black performer to win an Oscar.
Two weeks ago, HBO Max temporarily pulled Gone With the Wind from the service following an editorial in the Los Angeles Times written by Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley. He urged HBO Max to suspend streaming the film in the midst of worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, saying the movie romanticizes the horrors of slavery and perpetuates stereotypes of people of color.
His call to HBO Max came amid weeks of worldwide protests against racism and police brutality after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, for nearly nine minutes on May 25, killing him.
As it removed the film, HBO Max said it would returnto the catalog but that keeping the title up without an explanation or denouncement of its racist depictions would be irresponsible.
"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," HBO Max, which is part of AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, said in the statement at the time. "These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today."
The company has a precedent for this kind of response. The language of HBO Max's statement, for example, is nearly identical to disclaimers that Warner Bros., another WarnerMedia company, has put before certaincartoons rereleased on DVDs or streaming services since 2005.