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HBO Max Temporarily Removes “Gone with the Wind,” Will Bring It Back With Historical Context

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  • The recently-released streaming platform HBO Max removed “Gone with the Wind” from its library for depicting racial stereotypes and prejudices.
  • The move came one day after “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley asked the platform to temporarily remove the film and add historical context.
  • HBO confirmed that the film will eventually return but with that added context that shows the film as a product of its time.
  • Still, its removal stoked intense debate from those who called the move censorship and quoted George Orwell’s police state dystopian novel “1984.” 
  • Others called foul to that argument, saying that the film itself is a piece of propaganda that depicts a romanticized view of the fall of the South following the Civil War.

Gone with the Wind” Removed From HBO Max

A slew of TV networks and streaming services announced changes on Tuesday as conversations about racism and injustice have soared since the killing George Floyd.

Paramount Network, for instance, canceled its show “Cops,” which has around 1,100 episodes and has been on the air since 1989. “Brooklyn 99” star Terry Crews said the show’s upcoming season will address topics like racism and police brutality. Netflix and the BBC have removed “Little Britain,” an early-aughts sketch comedy. A&E is evaluating whether or not to bring back “Live PD,” which is currently embroiled in its own scandal.

By far, the biggest debate, however, came after HBO Max removed a movie that is 80 years old: “Gone with the Wind.

“‘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 spokesperson said on Tuesday. “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.”

HBO also said it plans to eventually bring the film back “with a discussion of its historical context” while denouncing its racial missteps.

The 1939 film starring Vivien Leigh and Clarke Gable is the highest grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation (Sorry, Endgame).

The move to pluck “Gone with the Wind,” a historical epic meant to depict Southern antebellum life during and directly following the Civil War, came one day after The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed from “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley. In that op-ed, titled “Hey, HBO, ‘Gone With the Wind’ romanticizes the horrors of slavery. Take it off your platform for now,” Ridley criticizes the platform for not adding historical context before the film.

“As a filmmaker, I get that movies are often snapshots of moments in history,” Ridley said. “They reflect not only the attitudes and opinions of those involved in their creation, but also those of the prevailing culture. As such, even the most well-intentioned films can fall short in how they represent marginalized communities.”

“‘Gone With the Wind,’ however, is its own unique problem. It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”

Ridley is likely referring to the slave character that actress Hattie McDaniel played. McDaniel, who became the first African American to win an Oscar after this film, is still largely remembered for the role; however, McDaniel’s portrayal is not one without a complex history.

While she undeniably made waves in the advancement of people of color to be recognized in film, her character has also been associated with perpetuating the stereotype that slaves were happy to serve their masters. In fact, she’s even referred to as “Mammy” throughout the film.

“Let me be real clear: I don’t believe in censorship,” Ridley said in his op-ed. “I don’t think “Gone With the Wind” should be relegated to a vault in Burbank.”

Ridley continued by asking HBO to re-introduce the film with other films that give more of a complete picture as to what slavery and the Confederacy were or pair the film “with conversations about narratives and why it’s important to have many voices sharing stories from different perspectives rather than merely those reinforcing the views of the prevailing culture.”

“Gone with the Wind” Removal Sparks “1984” Comparisons

HBO’s decision was met with a flood of mixed opinions, and on Wednesday, “Gone with the Wind” became a trending topic on Twitter.

“HBO removing Gone With The Wind is just another part of the left’s sinister plot to erase American culture,” Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said. “Did you know—the first black American to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel for her role in Gone With The Wind? But the left doesn’t care. They just want to see it all burn.”

Many others invoked a quote from George Orwell’s “1984,” a dystopian novel depicting a police state that engages in revisionist history.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered,” the quote from Orwell’s novel reads. “And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

Many others, however, called foul to the use of this quote, one person saying, “Ironically, Gone With The Wind is a great example of this. It became part of a bigger fictionalized narrative of the noble confederate and the southern belle, romanticized slavery, and erased the less flattering realities of the south.”

Others criticized those trying to defend the movie by using Hattie McDaniel’s Academy Award win as an example. 

“You don’t give a shit about Hattie McDaniel so don’t use her legacy to spew propaganda about gone with the wind. this wasn’t the only movie she was in,” one user said.

Even more deconstructed the notion that the movie was being censored and hidden to erase an ugly history by pointing out the fact that HBO is a private company shelving the film.

The Help Sparks Discussion After Hitting Netflix Top 10

Alongside the discussion of whether what HBO amounted to censorship, there has also been massive debate regarding movies that focus on black characters through the lens of white characters. 

Those movies, known for their white savior tropes, typically depict white characters coming to the rescue of people of color in a feel-good way. They also tend to attract criticism for simplifying racial issues and taking agency away from minorities.

That discussion crescendoed after The Help spiked to number 1 on Netflix.

The movie stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer. In it, Stone plays an aspiring journalist who begins to document racism experienced by black maids in 1960’s Mississippi.

While, on the surface, that may sound like a recipe for success for those wishing to better educate themselves on black issues, Black Lives Matter advocates have argued that it’s more like Minny’s special pie: a load of crap.

“Not to say the film isn’t entertaining and may have other benefits, but if I were to pick one film that helps us understand where (black people) are today and what problems we face, that wouldn’t be the one I pick,” Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, told USA Today.

Even one of the movie’s stars, Bryce Dallas Howard, has urged viewers to watch something else if they want to learn about black history, 

“The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers,” she wrote on Facebook. “We can all go further.⁣”

Others dug up an old interview where Viola Davis says she regrets starring in the movie.

“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” she said in 2018. “They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”

Tuesday night, Netflix introduced a Black Lives Matter genre, which pops up when users go to their accounts. There, viewers can find a number of films and TV shows made by black people and about black people.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN Business) (Entertainment Weekly)

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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