NBA legend and cultural critic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t believe that Gone With the Wind should be banned from HBO Max or any other platform. Instead, he argues that the movie, and other controversial works of art, need a warning label. Last week, HBO Max made the decision to temporarily pull Gone with the Wind due to the George Floyd tragedy and subsequent protests around the world. The new streaming platform’s actions caused its own headlines, dividing people in the process.
Before getting into why Gone with the Wind should be preserved, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out what was wrong with the 1940 movie. “The film glorifies the Confederacy as if they were a bunch of highly principled martyrs hunkered down in holy glory,” says Abdul-Jabbar. He goes on to state that the Confederacy was actually a group of “entitled mob of human-trafficking murderers, rapists and traitors trying to destroy the United States.” While a lot has changed in the entertainment industry and the world at large, current events have proved that some things are still stuck in the past. But, does that mean that all problematic pieces of art should be censored? Abdul-Jabbar had this to say.
“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. The easiest way would be to include an introductory explanation-filmed or written-that explains that the work contains harmful racial or gender stereotypes that were acceptable at the time but which we now know are harmful. 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.”
In the wake of the worldwide protests, shows like Cops and Live P.D. have been /live-pd-canceled/completely canceled. Amazon is looking into possibly taking The Dukes of Hazzard from their streaming platform for glorifying the Confederate flag. However, maybe the show can stay up with a warning label explaining the use of the controversial flag. For now, it’s unclear what will happen with the popular 1980s TV series.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went on to discuss how art and history work together. Movies and TV shows are a big part of history and should be treated as such, though some will need context for future generations before viewing. However, there are plenty who would argue against this logic and flat out believe these pieces of art should be censored or even banned. Abdul-Jabbar went on and had this to say about art and history teaching new generations.
“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.”
Gone with the Wind is often hailed as one of the best movies of all time. There are some people who are unhappy about the movie being pulled from HBO Max, while others are all for it. But in the end, where does that get us? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a dire warning about censoring and silencing voices: “Once we start silencing voices, the only voice left will be the one echoing those in power.” You can read the rest of Abdul-Jabbar’s lengthy essay over at The Hollywood Reporter.