Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is speaking out about HBO Max pulling the 1939 epic “Gone With The Wind” over its outdated cultural depictions, romanticization of slavery, and the glorification of Confederacy.
His latest column for The Hollywood Reporter comes after “12 Years A Slave” screenwriter John Ridley called on HBO to pull the film for now – not an outright ban – advocating for the film to be re-introduced at a later date.
In this Hollywood Reporter column, Abdul-Jabbar writes “Gone With The Wind” should remain available “along with other films that give a more broad-based and complete picture of what slavery and the Confederacy truly were.” He goes on to suggest it should be “paired 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.”
HBO Max pulled the film on June 9.
Abdul-Jabbar is on board with a temporary removal of the Clark Gable film, but doesn’t want to see it permanently unavailable.
He writes, “Given the current public heated climate of widespread protests over police brutality and systemic racism, maybe let’s hold off shoving the joys of slavery and heroes of racism in our faces.” Abdul-Jabbar also asks the “crucial question of where do we draw the line” when it comes to censorship and what is “allowed.”
Citing Whoopi Goldberg’s take on “The View” in which she posed, “If you start pulling every film, you’re going to have to pull … a very long list of films,” Abdul-Jabbar says that works of art can be presented with introductions “that explains that the work contains harmful racial or gender stereotypes that were acceptable at the time but which we now know are harmful.”
“What we need is a way to present art within its historical context so the works can still be available and appreciated for their achievements but not admired for their cultural failings,” he continues. “Links to further discussions and information also could be provided. That is the bare basics of what we should do to emphasize that these portrayals are no longer acceptable. To do nothing is a tacit endorsement of their destructive messages. And, like vaping, prolonged exposure causes damage to our children. We put a warning label on one, why not the other.”
He concludes his op-ed adding, “Art can either inform us of past follies or it can perpetuate them. Movies and TV shows that display the subjugation, humiliation, or marginalization of anyone are like the Confederate monuments: they have a place in history as both manifestations of and warnings against our ignorance. In contemporary life, they are weighty anchors pulling us down to the bottom while the rest of the world swims freely toward the future.”