Film poster for Gone with the Wind.
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media criticism / culture

How Theaters and TV Networks are Changing the Way They Show Gone With the Wind

After almost 80 years, America is finally rethinking how it screens its favorite movie.
The same night that Tiki torch–bearing white supremacists rallied around a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, 1,500 moviegoers at Memphis, Tennessee’s Orpheum Theatre came out for another nostalgic vision of the old South—Gone With the Wind, still arguably the most popular film of all time. In the coming weeks, the theater found itself at the center of a national controversy, after it announced that it would not be showing Gone With the Wind next summer, ending an annual tradition it had upheld for most of the past 34 years.

Yet prior to the Unite the Right rally, and the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer, the president and CEO of the theater, Brett Batterson, had already decided to leave the film off the upcoming 2018 program. According to the Memphis daily newspaper the Commercial Appeal, he had determined, after consulting with a couple of local university professors, that Gone With the Wind was no longer a good fit in the lineup given the current political climate. In a press statement, the theater said, “As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”

Batterson’s decision was criticized by everyone from Fox News commentators, who called it “cultural cleansing” and the work of “culture jihadists,” to French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, who described it as an “alarming suppression of artistic expression.” The controversy boiled over and out onto the opinion pages, reigniting the decades-old critical debate over what we should do with a film like Gone With the Wind
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