There’s been a lot of talk about Gone With the Wind lately, mostly by people who I’m sure have not watched Gone With The Wind and had no intention of watching it (the movie is 3 hours and 58 minutes long).
Why are we now suddenly talking about the movie? Mainly because of HBO Max’s decision to pull the movie from its service in the wake of the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. The decision has its pros and cons, no, it isn’t going to solve anything, and it is mostly posturing, but yes, it is true that the movie is, problematic at best, very damn racist at worst.
So is it censorship? What’s the movie about? Why is it problematic? Let’s dig in:
CENSORSHIP OR NOT?
It’s really hard to argue this point, considering that the movie is available in multiple platforms, and HBO Max has a right to decide what movies they want to make available on their service. They’re not banning the movie, they’re making a business decision. You don’t like it? Great! Go watch the movie in some of the other platforms that have it available.
(Not that you were really going to watch the movie, right?)
But this leads into a bigger question of what type of art should be widely available without some sort of disclaimer. Gone With The Wind isn’t the only movie with wildly problematic portrayals of slavery – and if we’re going to strive for at least educating people before they watch a movie, why stop there?
WHAT’S THE MOVIE ABOUT?
Presumably, Scarlett O’Hara. This is, after all, the descrption you get when you Google the movie:
Epic Civil War drama focuses on the life of petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Starting with her idyllic on a sprawling plantation, the film traces her survival through the tragic history of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and her tangled love affairs with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
In all fairness, the movie is about her, yes, and about her love life, but it’s mostly about about the Civil War and about the South – both before and after the war. And that’s where the problem starts (but doesn’t really end).
WHY IS IT PROBLEMATIC?
Boy, is this a long list. Let’s start with the obvious, the movie glorifies the South and the lifestyle there during the period of time before and after the Civil War, even going as far as to paint the freed slaves of the Reconstruction era as dangerous. It also minimizes slavery, by leaning into the “kind slave-owner”/”happy slave” trope. It is, without a doubt, Confederate propaganda, and I think we can all see why that’s more than a tad dangerous these days.
And I haven’t even gone into the show’s toxic AF main couple, you know, the one some people idolize but that, if we’re being honest with each other, should have probably never gotten together, and absolutely earned the ending of the movie.
So, in conclusion, the film is a hot mess in many respects, a reflection of it’s time in the worst ways, and yes, also groundbreaking cinema that paved the way for other – better films – in others. It can be all of those. And you can experience all four hours of it, it would just be better if you stopped to think about the inaccuracies and the context before you did.