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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie erroneously suggests that the genteel, slavery-centric, plantation-owning way of life that is "gone with the wind" is worth romanticizing.
Positive Role Models
Scarlett is fierce, determined, and ambitious, but also frequently vain, selfish, manipulative, and unkind. The real role model in the film is Melanie, who is the epitome of selflessness and grace. Many characters demonstrate perseverance.
Portrayal of movie's Black characters is reductive and racist. Hattie McDaniel may have won an Oscar for her role as Mammy, but she and the movie's other Black characters act stereotypically and as if they actually enjoy their enslavement.
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Violence & Scariness
Movie revolves around Civil War; overt and implied violence. Wounded soldiers are shown screaming, needing amputations, dying in tent hospitals. Union officers set Atlanta on fire, which leads to perilous journey for main characters. Scarlett shoots a bloodied Union deserter and drags his body away. Scarlett falls down the stairs, loses a pregnancy. A child dies after a horseback-riding accident. Rhett handles Scarlett roughly, makes a comment about wanting to tear her apart. While drunk, he roughly carries her to her bedroom, implying that he's forcing her to sleep with him. Men try to steal Scarlett's carriage, causing her to almost fall off a bridge.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scarlett frequently uses her sexual attractiveness to get her way. She flirts with many men, even married ones. She often dresses in what was considered a risqué manner at the time (e.g., in cleavage-baring dresses with very tight corset). A few kisses. Belle is a "lady of the night" -- i.e., one of the original "hookers with a heart of gold."
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Probably the most famous "damn" in all of movie history.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink often, usually at parties (wine, champagne, brandy). Scarlett and her father drink whiskey. Rhett gets drunk on occasion, and in one scene three men pretend they're drunk to avoid confrontation. Rhett and other Southern gentlemen smoke cigars throughout the movie.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the epic drama Gone with the Wind is based on Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel. It centers around the Civil War-torn South and includes several scenes of war-related violence, including wounded soldiers dying and main character Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) shooting a Union deserter. The sexuality isn't as overt as in contemporary movies, but it's still pervasive. Scarlett purposely uses her sexual appeal to manipulate men. There's plenty of flirting, several kisses (some very passionate), and a minor character who's a good-hearted "lady of the night." One scene implies that a husband forces his wife to go to bed with him. Alcohol and cigar use are also frequent, especially during the movie's many parties, and there's a bit of strong language (particularly one very famous "damn"). It may concern some parents that the Confederate South is portrayed as having been a place of gentility and charm, and the movie's depiction of Black characters is problematic and stereotypical. The enslaved people seem to actually enjoy their lot and are portrayed as either superficial and ignorant or fussy and smothering. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to look past this film's stereotypical depiction of enslaved people and its romanticizing of the antebellum South, but Leigh and Gable's performances are undeniably excellent. Actors who want a master class in chemistry should be forced to study their scenes together. Leigh, an Englishwoman, is effortless in her portrayal of a manipulative Atlanta socialite, and Gable causes swooning with the briefest of smoldering looks. The supporting cast is also remarkable, as are the cinematography and the costume design (the unforgettable green velvet dress made from curtains!).
Director Victor Fleming could have retired after 1939, and he'd still be lauded for having directed (or at least finished directing) two of the 20th century's landmark movies: Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Both films regularly rank in all-time-greatest lists, and both films will likely make a different impact at various points in a viewer's life. A tween taking in all four (!) hours of Leigh and Gable in Gone with the Wind might focus on the costumes and war, while an older teen might hone in on the swoon-inducing romance, and an adult might be less sympathetic to Scarlett and favor Melanie's quiet strength instead. There's a reason Hollywood's adaptation of this Southern saga won nine Academy Awards (including the first Oscar ever given to a Black actor, Hattie McDaniel, although she was famously almost barred from attending) and is still remembered decades later. It's got it all: drama, conflict, intrigue, romance, historical significance, a timeless score, and an amazing cast. Just be sure to put it all in context and identify the teachable moments for kids.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.