HBO Max announced yesterday that it was removing Gone with the Wind from its catalog, presumably because it is racist propaganda. The 1939 movie might rise again on the streaming service at a later date but "with a discussion of its historical context," which is racist.

Gone with the Wind isn't just popular entertainment of the period that pulls you in and then springs a blackface musical number on you. (Oh, Swing Time!) The film is based on Margaret Mitchell's bestseller, and shamelessly promotes the Lost Cause narrative, which is as repulsive as Holocaust revisionism. Black people weren't crazy about Gone with the Wind even when we were stuck in the back of buses, but obviously no one was listening to us. The NAACP requested that the film at least not include a scene from the book where the Klu Klux Klan “saved" the white heroine from black men. This was when the Klan was murdering black folks on the regular.

Screenwriter Sidney Howard raved that Mitchell's book boasted the “best-written darkies in all of literature." They were “uncolored" (no pun intended) by the “white patronizing" that might, I guess, depict them as human beings. Mitchell describes black people as "apes" and "gorillas." When Scarlett O'Hara, the spiritual ancestor of all Amy Coopers, is reunited with one of her former slaves, instead of killing her on the spot, he lovingly greets her like a pet: “[H]is watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff."


The usual conservative suspects are upset with HBO's decision. I worry about how committed white people are to ending racism when they can't even stop watching racist films. It wasn't long before we got the “you're erasing history" argument.

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HBO Max removing a single racist film from its catalog is just like George Orwell's 1984 except you can still buy the film on iTunes and stream it on Amazon Prime. The Thought Police isn't going to arrest and torture you if they catch you watching your Blu-Ray copy in a grungy motel room.

There were a LOT of movies released in 1939. and most have faded from collective memory. We should ask ourselves why (white) people still watch Gone with the Wind. It's not because of history. White people are very uncomfortable when confronted with accurate depictions of racism. That's not their idea of a popcorn movie.

Slavery was objectively a bad thing, and the Confederacy was a bunch of traitors who fought to preserve it. There's a reason there are no epic romances featuring a spoiled Nazi twit and an arrogant Nazi rogue whose Jewish servants are comic relief. That's grotesque. My first film encounter with Nazis was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They were the bad guys. Boo! Hiss! Children of any race are intended to identify or at least empathize with Scarlett and Rhett. I think if cops weren't murdering black people in the street and the president wasn't a white supremacist, we could perhaps shrug Gone with the Wind off as merely problematic. I'm not normally a proponent of the gateway theory but I dunno. Maybe white people shouldn't watch racist movies, just for a while. It can't hurt.

What I didn't see coming was so many white film preservationists lamenting the erasure of Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her performance as Mammy.

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McDaniel appeared in countless movies that were slightly less racist than Gone with the Wind. She usually played a maid in them because America sucked, but as she famously said, “I'd rather play a maid than be one." That is a condemnation of American racism, not an endorsement of Gone with the Wind.

It's also perverse to use McDaniel's Oscar as a cudgel. The Academy Awards were (and are) part of a racist film industry. There's obvious bias in the actors and roles they recognize. Besides, Dorothy Dandridge also made history as the first black woman to receive a Best Actress nomination for Carmen Jones, a film I'm sure most of your white asses haven't watched.

Carmen Jones www.youtube.com

Meghan McCain, who I believe is John McCain's daughter, was “more interested" in discussing HBO's decision with her “The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg than she is in discussing it with any of us common black peasants who don't have Academy Awards. Goldberg won Best Supporting Actor for her meme-worthy performance in 1990's Ghost. She was the first black woman to win since McDaniel more than 50 years earlier, because Hollywood is racist as fuck.

It's unbelievably gross that McCain is going to pull the “my black friend" card on national television. If Goldberg agrees with her, then McCain will discount every other black person who doesn't, which is both unbelievably racist and a typical Wednesday for us. And if Goldberg is like all “mother fuck Gone with the Wind and John Wayne," the white girl tears will fly. We can't win.

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Megyn Kelly, who claims she was unaware of the racist history of blackface, also opposed Gone with the Wind losing a single platform.

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Racist films probably shouldn't be “our" cultural touchstones. Kelly is apparently unaware that black families don't sit down and watch fucking Gone with the Wind together. If black people shared a “cultural touchstone" that was so openly contemptuous of white people, she'd feel personally attacked. Conservatives can't even accept that we like Spike Lee movies. (Lee's masterpiece, Bamboozled, is also almost impossible to find.)

Gone with the Wind is still freely available on many platforms I won't provide (Google them if you must). There's also benefit to seeing the film presented in a critical format as part of a documentary on how racist Hollywood was.

In America, about six black people were lynched while Gone with the Wind was in theaters. If you don't know their names but have swooned when Clark Gable says, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," maybe you should consider what sort of history the film is teaching you.

Bamboozled - p1 - the show pitch www.youtube.com

[New York Times / The Atlantic]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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