LOS ANGELES (AFP) – “Gone with the Wind” was removed from the HBO Max streaming platform Tuesday, as mass protests against racism and police brutality prompt television networks to reassess their offerings.
The multiple Oscar-winning US Civil War epic released in 1939 remains the highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, but its depiction of contented slaves and heroic slaveholders has garnered criticism.
“‘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 in a statement to AFP.
“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.”
Demonstrations have swept the United States since the May 25 killing of African American George Floyd while in police custody, with calls growing for police reform and the broader removal of symbols of a racist legacy, including monuments to the slave-holding Confederacy.
Floyd died last month as a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck for almost nine minutes. The officer has been charged with second-degree murder.
“12 Years A Slave” writer John Ridley said in a Los Angeles Times op-ed Monday that “Gone with the Wind” must be removed as it “doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation” but ignores the horrors of slavery and perpetuates “some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
The film will return to the recently launched streaming platform at a later date, along with a discussion of its historical context, the company said.
No edits will be made, “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.”
– ‘Normalized injustice’ –
Meanwhile Tuesday, long-running reality series “Cops” was canceled by Paramount Network.
The show followed real-life US officers on duty for over three decades, but had been accused of glamorizing aspects of policing and distorting issues such as race.
“‘Cops’ is not on the Paramount Network and we don’t have any current or future plans for it to return,” a network spokesperson told US media Tuesday.
Police shows — both reality and scripted — are among the most-watched on US television but have come under scrutiny.
Civil rights group Color of Change, which campaigned against the show for its depiction of suspects and alleged masking of racism in police forces, welcomed the news Tuesday.
“For 30 years, #COPS has normalized injustice and misrepresented crime, policing and race,” tweeted president Rashad Robinson.
“But it’s far from the only crime TV show to do so.”
Dan Taberski, whose podcast “Running from Cops” claimed the show allowed police to remove unflattering material during editing, said he was “hopeful its cancellation 31 years later is a sign of positive change to come.”
Popular reality cop show “Live PD” has also been removed from schedules, while Jessica Alba-starring scripted procedural “LA’s Finest” saw its season premiere delayed Monday.
And in the UK, the BBC said it had pulled sketch show “Little Britain” — which features scenes where white actors wear makeup to portray characters from other ethnic backgrounds — from its iPlayer streaming service.
“Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer,” a spokesperson for the national broadcaster said Tuesday.