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Gone with the Wind

We publish a letter by Humphrey McQueen to the Canberra Times about taking the film Gone with the Wind from YouTube etc.

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The Editor
The Canberra Times

Gone with the Wind should be permanently taken down from streaming platforms because you cannot see the burning of Atlanta on anything smaller than the screen for which it was made. 

The heart of GWTW is not its racism, the slave-owners’ rebellion or the Klan but that the protagonist is a powerful woman, the unspeakable Scarlet O’Hara. Almost any other Hollywood movie would have had Clark Gable in her place. Moreover, how many others would dare to have their child killed? Margaret Mitchell got 30,000 letters from women saying that GWTW was the story of their lives. 

Two sidelights to images of the slaveholder’s rebellion are a Confederate Mt Rushmore outside Atlanta, while downtown a panorama has Gable’s face is on the South’s champion. 

            If GWTW deserves a ‘trigger warning’ so does almost every U.S. movie and TV show. Movies set a million miles from chattel-slavery depict Africans as servile when they are not servants; the most active role is that of entertainer. Even in the anti-fascist Casablanca, Sam plays that role again.

Not until In the Heat of the Night (1967) is this pattern broken. Sidney Poitier is a Philadelphia detective sent to investigate murder in a Mississippi cotton town. When he speaks out of turn, the white planter slaps his face. The Poitier character slaps him right back. The planter turns to the local police office, played by Rod Steiger:

“Did you see that?”

“I saw it,” Steiger replies, “but I don’t believe it.”

He voiced the reaction of movie-goers everywhere at the time and pretty much ever since. 

Humphrey McQueen
Griffith
28 June 2020

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