Gone With the Wind has been hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Released in 1939, it would go on to win ten academy awards and for 25 years hold the record as the highest grossing film. Furthermore, adjusted for inflation, it is still the highest grossing film in history. GWTW has been the object of protests since it’s premiere because of it being historically inaccurate. But lately it has come under renewed fire for it’s glossing over of slavery.
HBO has pulled GWTW from it’s streaming service, HBO Max until it could be brought back with “historical context” Update: It’s back.
Since the movie was set in the Atlanta area, and was premiered in Atlanta, what does a native Atlantian (Atlantonian? Atlantite?) have to say about this?
The glory of the old south
The main complaint about GWTW is the depicting of slaves as happy workers who had no desire to leave the plantation. This tended to give a positive impression of slavery.
This is a completely accurate portrayal of the film. It does all that. Mammy, Prissy, Polk, they were all depicted as loyal house workers, not as slaves. Just part of the family.
Hollywood has done things like this for years. So many films are historically inaccurate. Below you will see some examples.
Should GWTW be banned?
Ban Gone With the Wind? Of course not, simply because something doesn’t conform to a historical reality doesn’t mean it should be stuffed away. Ever read Shakespeare? Julius Caesar? Remember the part about the over a million slaves Caesar and his armies captured? Women forced into prostitution? No you don’t, because old Billy romanticized the story and left that part out. That’s the same thing Margaret Mitchell did in her book.
Gone With the Wind isn’t a documentary. It isn’t even about slavery, it’s a romantic coming of age story about a 16 year old girl (Scarlett was older in the movie) and her life before, during, and after the Civil War. Every novel or film doesn’t have to be historically accurate. Where’s the outrage over “West Side Story”? Not only were New York gangs singing and dancing in the streets, the Puerto Ricans were played by white folks.
Listening to a podcast the other day, some were talking about what if the film were remade to more accurately portray the horrors of slavery. Well, here’s a list of the 15 most historically inaccurate movies. Let’s remake those as well:
- 15 – Shakespeare in love (where’s the bubonic plague?)
- 14 – JFK
- 13 – Gladiator
- 12 – U-571 (Gives Americans credit for cracking the Enigma machine)
- 11 – Apocalypto
- 10 – 300
- 9 – 10,000 BC (Mammoths helped build the pyramids?)
- 8 – Marie Antoinette
- 7 – The Last Samurai
- 6 – The Patriot (The British are depicted as cold blooded killers)
- 5 – Alexander
- 4 – Braveheart
- 3 – Argo
- 2 – Pearl Harbor (Fighter planes with a range of 300-400 miles flew 2,000 miles to bomb Japan)
- 1 – Pocahontas (see below)
Let’s see. Disney made a cartoon movie about a young Native American girl who was captured by the colonists, raped, held for ransom, then brought to England to show off as a “tamed savage” where she died at 21 years old. No, they completely change the events, glossing over the bad parts to show a fictionalized love story. Sound familiar?
In the Disney film, Pocahontas is a young woman who befriends John Smith, helps save his life, and later watches him sail away to England leaving her in the New World. Her capture, rape, etc are never mentioned.
Animation supervisor Glen Keane knew she was younger in real life than in the film, but in his words: ”We’re doing a mature love story here, and we’ve got to draw her as such. She has to be sexy.”
Controversy because of Black Lives Matter
If we’re not calling for the banning or remaking of Pocohantas, why GWTW? It’s Because everyone is so racially sensitive these days. Black Lives Matter is trending worldwide. See my previous post on how to fix racial relations in America. Spoiler: Banning films isn’t the way.
Mitchell’s book is historically inaccurate, and the film follows it pretty well, except for Selznick changing the race of Scarlett’s (attempted rape) attacker to white, downplaying the KKK raid on the shanty town because of said attack, and making it appear that Scarlett enjoyed the marital rape from Rhett Butler. So if you’re looking for a book or movie that is more historically accurate, Gone With the Wind isn’t where you should be looking. Even though it’s not a documentary, we should enjoy it for what it is.
“Frankly my dear,…”