The new streaming service HBO Max been under fire (mostly by white film critics and white viewers) for the temporary removal of the 1939 Oscar-winning romantic drama, Gone With The Wind. Many believe that despite the fact that the film is still available to rent and buy, its removal from HBO Max will somehow erase its legacy, which celebrated the “beauty” of the antebellum South, from the film canon. Meanwhile, while many African Americans on social media were elated to see the racist imagery gone, some were concerned that by banning the film, Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American person to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of the “Mammy,” might be forgotten.
However, Oscar-nominated actress and musician Queen Latifah, who portrayed McDaniel in Netflix’s Hollywood, believes that the film’s removal is a good thing. In an interview with the Associated Press, the New Jersey native says that although the film was a landmark one for myriad reasons, McDaniel’s historic win was a bittersweet one.
“They didn’t even let her in the theater until right before she got that award,” Latifah says of the night McDaniel won her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. “Someone came outside and brought her into the auditorium. She wasn’t even allowed to sit in there. And then she had to read a speech that was written by a studio. You know that’s not what the hell she wanted to say.” Latifah also explained that after her win, McDaniel was typecast in similar roles, which she says was Hollywood’s way of marginalizing her and other black actors.
“A lot of that is still around today,” she continues.
Per CNN, a spokesperson for HBO Max said that they are aiming to promote a “just, equitable and inclusive future,” and that when the film returns to their service, it will come complete with a “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.”
“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 said.
Jacqueline Stewart, a black film historian and professor who hosts Turner Classic Movies’ Silent Sunday Nights, will be featured in the film’s new disclaimer. In an op-ed for CNN released Saturday, she discussed the importance of showcasing Gone With The Wind in 2020, writing that the film is “a prime text for examining expressions of white supremacy in popular culture.
“[I]t is precisely because of the ongoing, painful patterns of racial injustice and disregard for black lives that Gone with the Wind should stay in circulation and remain available for viewing, analysis and discussion,” she adds. “If people are really doing their homework, we may be poised to have our most informed, honest and productive national conversations yet about black lives on screen and off.”