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  • Writer's pictureNathan Max

America's Most Offensive Movie

Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images. Mammy helps Scarlett O'Hara get dressed in Gone With The Wind.

Gone With The Wind is a beloved cinema classic that makes every list rating the all-time best films, so it might have come as a great shock this week when the 1939 movie set in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era South was temporarily pulled by an HBO online platform.

The film won 10 Academy Awards, including one to an African-American for the first time in history, so it was heralded in its day.

But here is the truth. Gone With The Wind is a uniquely offensive piece of propaganda that glorifies racism and marital rape. This movie does not stand the test of time, not even close, and a modern-day audience viewing it for the first time would be shocked and outraged.

The black characters are depicted as dimwits, liars and criminals, while the most vile white character, who happens to be the main character, is portrayed as being valiant in the face of adversity. Hattie McDaniel, the black actress who wins an Oscar, played “Mammy,” a maid who dutifully stands by her master, even after she was freed from slavery.

Blacks are referred to in the film as “darkies,” and when several of the “heroic” white characters go to a “political meeting,” it is a veiled reference to the fact that they are actually the Ku Klux Klan going to take arms against impoverished freedmen living in “shanty towns.” For an historical perspective, it is worth noting that during the Reconstruction Era, the KKK was a particularly violent organization, leading the federal government to pass the Enforcement Act of 1871, also known as the KKK Act, giving President Ulysses S. Grant the right to declare martial law in an effort to protect freed slaves and their suffrage rights.

One of the movie’s heroic political fighters discusses how well his family treated their slaves on his plantation and claims that he would have eventually freed them had the South won the war. During one of the Civil War scenes, the film shows slaves marching to the front to fight for the South, while Atlanta is under siege.

But this movie isn’t just overtly racist. It’s sexist too, in a Harvey Weinstein sort of way.

In perhaps the movie’s most troubling scene by today’s gender-equality standard, the dashing Rhett Butler forces himself on his wife, main character Scarlett O’Hara, in a drunken rage. The next morning, O’Hara wakes up appearing refreshed, glowing and giddy, as if getting raped by her intoxicated husband was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her.

O’Hara also assaults three people during the movie, and attempts to commit battery on a fourth, but she swings and misses and then falls down a flight of stairs, causing her to miscarry. That pregnancy, incidentally, was the result of the aforementioned marital rape.

Gone With The Wind is an example of the false “Lost Cause” narrative, that the Confederacy was a noble pursuit and those who fought for it were noble individuals. It wasn’t, and they weren’t. This movie is propaganda, plain and simple, and it should be viewed by people for what it actually is.

An offensive revisionist lie.


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