On Tuesday, 9 June 2020, HBO Max temporarily removed Gone with the Wind (1939) from their platform. I’ve never watched it (it’s four hours long!) but if, as the studio said, it had negative representations of black people and glorified the role of slave owners then I’m glad it’s gone for now – as I’m glad that the Cowboy and Indian films I loved watching as a child have also mostly gone.
I know from personal experience that culture in all forms has a powerful impact in shaping both attitude and behaviour norms – in the case of black children often negatively.
For this reason, a review, and perhaps a ‘clean-out’ of popular culture, is long overdue. But what about what some might call ‘high culture’?
Were we to audit the artifacts in museums and galleries, literature and the performances in our concert halls, opera houses and theatres, would we be happy at what we see? Who is qualified – and who do we trust – to decide what gets cut or re-contextualised? The move also raises valid questions around free speech and so is fraught with danger.
If we cut all stereotypical and one-dimensional depictions in the media, I’m not sure what we are left with. But this should not stop the Arts Council and other funders of arts, culture and heritage from taking action. We should audit the UK’s arts and cultural output and open up a conversation.
Piece written by Kevin Osborne, CEO of MeWe360