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Are films involving ‘racial prejudice’ a snapshot of the past?

Yesterday, American streaming service HBOMax mad the decision to pull the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” from its catalogue. The reason? As much of a classic the film is, it’s also incredibly controversial. The film’s portrayal of slavery, African Americans and the Civil War South has been received much more critically in the decades since its release.

A spokesperson for HBO has said that the film is “a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society.

“These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible,” the spokesperson said.

When the film does return, HBOMax has assured that it will not be altered, and will be presented “as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.” Instead, HBO will issue historical context warnings and advisories towards the films content.

Netflix also made the decision to pull most of Australian comedian Chris Lilley’s catalogue, including the incredible popular “Summer Heights High” Netflix cites that characters such Ricky Wong, a Chinese student; S.Mouse, an African-American rapper; and the eponymous Jonah Takalua, a Tongan high schooler are not appropriate within a 2020 society. No statement was given towards any form of historical preservation of these works.

In the case of “Gone With the Wind“, the film is a portrayal of a particular moment in history, and is faithful to the era it is set. Lilley’s work on the other hand is part of a mockumentary, playing off stereotypes from the demographics of the characters.

In the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, many points of popular culture, history and everyday lifestyle are being re-assessed. It will ultimately come down to the consciously minded to decide what content is historical commentary vs. content that has simply gone too far.