Classic film’s ‘lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery,’ film scholar Jacqueline Stewart says in new intro
After a two-week absence, “Gone With the Wind” is back on HBO Max, accompanied by two videos giving historical context to the classic film.
In a four-and-a-half-minute video introduction, Jacqueline Stewart, host of TCM’s “Silent Sunday Nights” and a University of Chicago professor in cinema and media studies, discusses “why this 1939 epic drama should be viewed in its original form, contextualized, and discussed,” and details the movie’s controversial history.
Stewart notes that the movie was not universally praised when it was released, and that the multiple Oscar-winner presents “the antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery, upon which this world is based.” Its black characters are portrayed in broad stereotypes, and “the treatment of this world through the lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery as well its legacies of racial inequality,” she says.
“‘Gone With the Wind,’ with its landmark production values, signature scenes and iconic characters has shaped the way generations have pictured slavery and the Reconstruction period that followed,” she says. “It is not only a major document of Hollywood’s racist practices of the past, but also an enduring work of popular culture that speaks directly to the racial inequalities that persist in media and society today.”
While acknowledging that watching the film “can be uncomfortable, even painful,” Stewart says “it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion. They reflect the social context in which they were made and invite viewers to reflect on their own values and beliefs when watching them now.”
The other video is an hour-long panel discussion from the TCM Classic Film Festival in April 2019, titled “‘Gone With the Wind’: A Complicated Legacy,’” and moderated by author and historian Donald Bogle.
HBO Max pulled the movie from its streaming library earlier this month amid a national reckoning on race, after criticism that it romanticized slavery and the Civil War-era South.
“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,” an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement at the time.