Streaming service HBO Max has temporarily dumped the once-acclaimed Gone with the Wind amid an outcry about its dated depictions of slavery and racism.
The 1939 US Civil War drama was quietly pulled this week, as a global anti-racism movement grew following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police.
HBO Max said the movie would eventually return. When it does, it will include a discussion about its historical context and a denouncement of its racist depictions.
“Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society,” an HBO Max spokesperson said.
“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.”
It is the latest in a string of TV shows and movies to be cancelled or dumped following the global Black Lives Matter protests.
In Australia, they include shows by comedian Chris Lilley, who has long been criticised for playing racially insensitive characters. Netflix withdrew them this week.
Australian streaming network Stan removed British sketch comedy Little Britain on Wednesday – hours after it was dropped from all British platforms.
Elsewhere, US real-life show Cops has been cancelled, after more than 30 years on air. Paramount Network said it had “no current or future plans for it to return”.
But the withdrawals have drawn their own criticism. On Thursday, Nine Network Indigenous host Brooke Boney said eradicating shows from the past because they showed people of colour in a poor light was not the way forward.
“If these companies truly want to make lasting change, and not just virtue signal in a moment of turmoil, then they need to support new talent and open doors that have been closed to people of colour,” Boney told Today Show viewers on Thursday.
“If they truly want to make a difference in the way we tell stories about who we are as a society, we don’t do that by deleting things we have done in the past.”
Also on Thursday, Australian entertainment reporter Peter Ford asked where film executives drew the line when it came to offending viewers.
“If we are going to be sincere about this and go down this path and absolve ourselves of our sins, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a highly offensive caricature of an Asian because it was Mickey Rooney playing it,” Ford said.
“There will be dozens of movies that are offensive because of the caricatures of Asian people, Jewish people and gay people.”
The removal of Gone with the Wind came after a Los Angeles Times column on Monday by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley. He said the movie perpetuated racial stereotypes and glorified the antebellum US South.
Gone with the Wind is set on a plantation outside Atlanta after the American Civil War. It tells the love story of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), the daughter of a plantation owner, and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a fellow Southern aristocrat.
The film won eight Academy Awards and broke theatre attendance records. It was the highest-grossing film of all time to that point and, according to CBS News, if box office totals are adjusted for inflation, it still holds that title.