After briefly removing "Gone with the Wind" from its HBO Max streaming service, WarnerMedia has restored it with a new introduction and a previously shot panel discussion putting the Civil War-era film classic and its depiction of slavery in context.
"The film has been repeatedly protested, dating back to the announcement of its production," film professor and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart says in a 4½-minute introduction that also appears as a separate short. The movie, she notes, "paints the picture of the Antebellum South as a romantic, idyllic setting that's tragically been lost to the past," and like Margaret Mitchell's hit novel that it adapts, depicts "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."
Stewart notes, "The film represents enslaved Black people in accordance with long-standing stereotypes: as servants, notable for their devotion to their white masters, or for their ineptitude. And the film's treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia, denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality."
Watching the film today "can be uncomfortable, even painful," Stewart says. "Still, 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."
In addition to the introduction is a separate featurette, "The Complicated Legacy of 'Gone with the Wind.' " The April 2019 panel at the TCM Film Festival in Los Angeles is moderated by author and film historian Donald Bogle and features Stewart; movie producer Stephanie Allain (2005's "Hustle & Flow," 2019's "Juanita"); and famed film scholar Molly Haskell, author of the "Gone with the Wind" study "Frankly, My Dear" (Yale University Press, 2009).
Another separate featurette is an existing TCM interstitial, narrated by Bonnie Hunt: the nearly 4½-minute "Hattie McDaniel: What a Character!," a biography of the actress whose portrayal of house slave Mammy made her the first African American to win an Academy Award.
"Eighty years after its initial release, 'Gone with the Wind' is a film of undeniable cultural significance," Stewart says in her introduction. "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."
The introduction is not scheduled to run with the film's showings on sister network TCM. "TCM films new introductions every time a movie airs on the network," a network representative told Newsday. "For instance, the introduction to the film when it aired for the 25th anniversary of the network last year will not be the same as the next time it airs on TCM. This particular introduction is unique to HBO Max, but be assured that 'Gone with the Wind' will always have its due context from one of TCM's hosts when it airs on the channel."