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HBO Max Shelves 'Gone With The Wind' Temporarily For 'Racial Prejudices'

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel, as Scarlett O'Hara and Mammy in a scene from <em>Gone With the Wind</em>. The movie has been temporarily removed from the HBO Max streaming service.
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Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel, as Scarlett O'Hara and Mammy in a scene from Gone With the Wind. The movie has been temporarily removed from the HBO Max streaming service.

Updated Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. ET

Streaming service HBO Max has temporarily removed the 1939 classic film Gone with the Wind from its library.

"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," an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement.

"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."

The spokesperson adds that the movie will return to the streaming service at an undetermined time, with a discussion of its historical context. But the movie itself will remain untouched "because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."

Gone with the Wind was a landmark achievement in American cinema — not only for its technical prowess and craft, but also because supporting actress Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to ever win an Academy Award, for her role as Mammy.

But the movie — with its glorification of the antebellum South and its glossing over the horrors of slavery — hasn't aged well.Critics say it looks back at the Confederacy with a certain nostalgia and fondness.

As the recent protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd have continued across the country these criticisms over the movie have been renewed. Screenwriter, producer, and director John Ridley posted an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week calling on HBO Max to remove the Gone With the Wind from its library.

"The movie had the very best talents in Hollywood at that time working together to sentimentalize a history that never was," Ridley wrote. "And it continues to give cover to those who falsely claim that clinging to the iconography of the plantation era is a matter of 'heritage, not hate.'"

While we don't know yet when Gone With the Wind will return to HBO Max, it is still available to buy or rent from other places. In fact, as of Wednesday, the 2-disc 70th edition DVD has risen to the top ofAmazon's "Best Sellers" charts for Movies and TV.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.