WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt defended the decision to remove the American Civil War classic Gone With the Wind (1939) from HBO Max, describing the decision to do so as a “no-brainer.”
HBO Max, which is owned by WarnerMedia, announced on Tuesday that they would be blacklisting the film, regarded by audiences and many critics as the greatest film of all time, on the grounds that it “depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society.”
However, Greenblatt stood by the decision to temporarily remove the film in an interview on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show on Friday, adding that they would bring the film back once the network had provided a disclaimer about its content.
“It was sort of a no brainer, I mean, we have the best of intentions obviously here,” he said. “I don’t regret taking it down for a second. I only wish we had put it up in the first place with the disclaimer. And we just didn’t do that.”
They’ve talked about some of the racial stereotypes and some of issues with how the Civil War is portrayed, which is much more positive than focusing on slavery the darker side of that issue. If it was on the linear network, it wouldn’t need it because they’re often talking about these issues. We failed to put the disclaimer in there, which sets up the issue, basically the issues that this movie really brings up. So, we took it off and we’re going to bring it back with a proper context, and it’s what we should have done.
Justifying the decision, which was taken as a response to the wave of violent Black Lives Matter protests sweeping America and other parts of the world, an HBO spokesperson argued that such “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.”
These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.
HBO’s pandering to demands to blacklist the film has led to widespread criticism from viewers, many of whom responded by going out and buying the film, making it a best-seller on Amazon.
The network’s decision to remove Gone With the Wind is all the more extraordinary given the performance of Hattie McDaniel, for which she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar of 1940. In doing so, she became the first black actor or actress to be nominated, let alone win, an Oscar category of any category.