Ever have one of those movies that you not only just don’t like but absolutely detest? A movie that you develop such an intense hatred for that you can’t even think about it without feeling the bile gurgle in your throat? I have a lot of movies like that, too, but if I had to pick the one I hate the most, it would be Forrest Gump.
First, a qualification: I have nothing bad to say about the artistry, directing or acting in this film. It’s superbly acted and beautifully shot. And who could not love Tom Hanks, right? The guy is the very embodiment of everything that the character he is playing is supposed to represent. He’s wholesome, sweet, and lacks the cynicism of today’s world. You can’t not love this guy.
Given all that, just what is it about Forrest Gump that has me hating it so much to where it’s one of my most hated films of all time? After all, look what it’s all about:
First, it’s a sweet and sentimental life story told in the vein of the inspirational “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. We are given an uplifting tale of a slow-witted man who is able to beat the odds and experience a life of successes that we could only dream of. He becomes a major celebrity, runs a successful business and achieves the American Dream in spite of so many odds being stacked against him from the start. He even fathers an adorable little child who is the epitome of sweetness and light.
Secondly, the movie plays out as a kind of combination escapist fantasy and farce. Not only does Forrest stumble across some of the most iconic events and figures in Baby Boomer history, he is completely oblivious to their historical and cultural significance. Call it the Being There of the 1990s.
Lastly, Forrest Gump presents itself as a nostalgic trip down Baby Boomer Lane. As the film unfolds, we follow him from birth up through the 1990s while touching upon every single pivotal moment and historical figure that defined the “Boomer years.” Even the soundtrack hits the right notes–every song is like something straight out of a Time Life Remembers compilation disk.
And all throughout this movie, there is some kind of tragic love story between Forrest and a childhood friend, Jenny, who lead two very different lives after they separate as young adults. While Forrest goes on to have a happy, successful life, Jenny goes down a path of self destruction before prematurely dying at a young age.
Touching, beautiful, sweet, wonderful and uplifting, right? What could be possibly wrong about all of this for someone to hate this movie?
Well, now I’ll tell you.
Forrest Gump as Historical Revisionist Propaganda
Forrest Gump came out in 1994. That year, we were still at the height of the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Craze, a period from the late 1980s to about the mid-1990s when everything from Hollywood movies to the fashion industry was taking a major look back at the Baby Boomer years, particularly the 1960s. The reason why is that this was a period when some of the most dramatic technological, cultural and sociological events of that period were hitting their 20th anniversaries. Naturally, with so many anniversaries down the pike, Boomers were beginning to reminisce about how wonderful and exciting their formative years were.
Forrest Gump looked like one of many Baby Boomer nostalgic trips that came out during the craze. But the reality is that it was only pretending to look like a nostalgia trip as a bait and switch. Audiences were supposed to go into it thinking it would be another fond look back at the Boomer Years. But the real purpose of the movie was to feed everyone propaganda about what those years and the Boomers were all about.
What was this propaganda and how did Forrest Gump present it? Let’s take a look at the so-called Jenny and Forrest romance–or, like I call it, the “fauxmance.”
If you were one of those people who were completely confused about the “love story” between the two lead characters, you were not alone. The reason why you sensed something was wrong is that when you get down to it, there was nothing remotely close to a love story between the two. Basically, their relationship–if you could call it that–boiled down to a self-centered flake writing off her mentally disabled childhood friend for most of his life, then showing up out of nowhere decades later to use him, because he was the only person left whose bridge she hadn’t burned.
Since there was no love story, what were you really seeing in Forrest Gump?
The reality is that Jenny and Forrest were not really characters so much as symbols. Jenny was a symbol of the Counterculture Boomer who protested the government and rejected tradition by living a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Forrest was a symbol of the Establishment Boomer who didn’t protest, did everything the authority figures told him to do and settled into a life of tradition.
Many people who bought into the fauxmance saw the many points of the film in which Jenny and Forrest crossed paths at various key moments of the Boomer years as a type of “two ships passing in the night” type of relationship, as in, “Awww, look at them. They were destined to be with each other. If only all this other stuff hadn’t gotten in the way.”
Although the relationship on the surface looked like it was a tragic love story between Jenny and Forrest, it wasn’t. It was really an allegory using these two symbols to teach the audience what happened to the dorks like Forrest who respected the establishment and the hip, cool kids like Jenny who joined the counterculture.
This is the real reason why we got to see Jenny and Forrest crossing paths over and over in the movie. It wasn’t about seeing two star crossed lovers constantly missing their chance at various points in their lives to be together. It was to get a blow by blow comparison of how life played out between these two Boomers as one went traditional and the other went counter-cultural.
The pattern throughout the movie is always the same. We see a bunch of great things happen to Forrest. He catches up with Jenny, and we see her singing nude at a nightclub. Years later, they cross paths again. Forrest is having a great life, contrasted with scenes of Jenny–now an antiwar protester–getting abused by her boyfriend. Years after, it happens again. In the 1970s, Forrest is having a great life, and we cut to a scene of Jenny–at the height of the disco and Sexual Revolution–contemplating suicide. Fast forward to the 1980s. We see the umpteenth great thing happening to Forrest, and now she’s dying of AIDs, a natural outcome of her sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle.
The message is clear. The kids of the 1960s who took to the streets and joined the counterculture all wound up as druggie deadbeat socially irresponsible losers who burnt out early. The kids like Forrest who respected the Establishment wound up living a perfectly charmed life.
Some people will argue all this by saying, “No, you’ve got it wrong. The reason why we see Jenny’s life going so horribly wrong compared to Forrest has to do with her terrible childhood. Forrest had a great mom. She had a terrible dad. So it’s not a statement about the counterculture as a whole. It’s about how an upbringing can impact a person for life.”
Fair point. The problem is that Forrest Gump makes it clear that it was Jenny joining the counterculture that made her life a mess, not her childhood.
Naturally, some people are going to want to counter this assertion with, “If the movie is saying that Jenny joining the counterculture is why her life went so bad, why make an issue of her abusive childhood to begin with?”
Well, the answer is so that the movie could further imply that Jenny joined the counterculture as a result of her father’s abuse. Being sexually abused, she develops a skewed sense of sexuality. Because of this, she joins the Free Love Movement of the 1960s and Sexual Revolution of the 1970s. Angry at her father, she lashes out at authority figures in general by joining the antiwar movement. Lastly, with no strong, morally upstanding parent to guide her, she also lives a nontraditional life of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Now here’s the problem that I have always had with all of this. There was nothing inherently wrong with any film wanting to counteract everyone’s rose-tinted glassed trip down memory lane of the Boomer Years. In fact, given how over the top the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Craze was, it was necessary. After all, the Boomer Years weren’t all flowers and love beads. The 1960s were the most turbulent decade in American 20th century history, and the 30 years that followed saw a large number of social problems in the fallout.
So counteracting the romanticism of the Boomer Years and the Boomers themselves has never been my issue with the film. The issue is that Forrest Gump’s alternative take on the Boomer Years isn’t objective. It’s 100% reactionary historical revisionist bullshit (pardon my French), a lot of which was based on either half truths or flat out lies.
Let’s take the scenario of Jenny dying from AIDs, for example. There was no way, no how that she would’ve both caught and died from AIDs as early as she did in the film. At the time, AIDs was a disease that had primarily afflicted gay males, and to such an extent that it was literally called the “gay cancer” for years before it was officially labeled AIDs. So the movie making it look like as if there were female fatalities in the earliest phases of the AIDs crisis is just a flat out lie, and purposely invented to imply in not so subtle ways that many women like Jenny wound up dying of AIDs as a consequence of the 1960s’ Free Love movement and the 1970s Sexual Revolution.
Another example of Forrest Gump’s playing fast and loose with the facts is its portrayal of who the members of the counterculture were and what the counterculture was all about.
Look, it’s definitely true that some kids did, in fact, join the counter-cultural movement as a response to poor upbringing. However, most members of the counterculture were kids who had grown up in perfectly stable, normal homes but had felt stifled by middle class values of the 1950s, which had stressed conformity, materialism and the blind acceptance of authority.
They were also the kids who had been made to feel like outcasts for being “different” from their conformist peers or couldn’t handle the pressure of having to live up to the extremely high standards of their middle class parents–in other words, kids like Forrest.
If you want a glimpse of who the average counterculture member was, look at Janis Joplin. Joplin was the quintessential hippie. Ironically, her upbringing couldn’t have been more traditional or Middle American.
So why did she act out? She grew up feeling completely outcast by members of her ultraconservative town and was ridiculed throughout her life for her appearance. (She was cruelly voted “ugliest man on campus” by her classmates at the University of Texas in 1962.) It was experiences like this that drove her and so many people like her to give birth to and join the counter cultural movements of the 1960s. Not child abuse. Not coming from a broken home. Being different–like Forrest.
So, contrary to Forrest Gump‘s simplistic viewpoint, it wasn’t the case that anyone who had bad parenting wound up in the counterculture and anyone who grew up in a traditional, ultraconservative household like Forrest didn’t. Not even close. More members of the counterculture came from the type of morally upstanding, conservative upbringing that Forrest had than you would think.
If that was the case, why did Forrest Gump go out of its way to say that the hippies and everyone else who was a part of it were the products of child abuse or came from broken homes? The answer is simple–to suggest that there was nothing legitimate about the 1960s protest and counterculture movements, that all it really came down to was a bunch of hurt angry and confused kids acting out the pain of child abuse and bad parenting. In other words, if everyone had had the morally upstanding, traditional parent that Forrest had, there would’ve been no counterculture.
This, of course, is ridiculous. The 1950s and 1960s were a period in which blacks were being hosed down like dogs in the South, Civil Rights workers murdered in cold blood and gay men routinely rounded up, beaten up and arrested in police raids. This was an era in which kids with their whole lives ahead of them were being drafted into a war that didn’t make sense to them. This was also the era in which there was a growing cynicism about government after the Warren Commission’s report on the JFK assassination.
To suggest that the only reason why the counterculture happened was that everyone was either damaged goods or had terrible parents is a disgusting dismissal of the very real social, political and cultural issues that were not only plaguing the United States but the world as a whole.
It’s bad enough that Forrest Gump basically lied about AIDs and who and what the counterculture was all about, it further piled on by making it seem as if the children of the counterculture merely became burnt out losers who all wound up dying of AIDs while Establishment Boomers like Forrest Gump went on to live amazingly successful, wholesome lives.
You’re kidding me, right? Look, I’ll give you this–probably next to no Establishment Boomers died young from sex, drugs and rock and roll. But while very few didn’t, many of them lived well into middle age being hooked on booze and pills, with vicodin and other painkillers–not heroin–being the drug of choice. Others died early from heart disease and all types of other cancers–particularly lung cancer–while laughing off health nuts, environmentalists and the anti-smoking lobbyists who warned them about the dangers of smoking, pollution and a fatty diet.
Furthermore, many of them didn’t come close to embodying the wholesome “apple pie” American values that Forrest Gump is supposed to represent. If you want to see what became of Establishment Boomers, here ya go: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Dennis Miller, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity. There are your Establishment Boomers right there–angry, belligerent, divisive demagogues perpetually at war with the world and even other Americans in the name of patriotism, not a bunch of sweet, angelic-faced dorks spouting cheesy aphorisms on a park bench about chocolates. Gimme a break.
A 1950s Educational Film Writ Large
Besides feeding audiences a line of bull as to what the 1960s counterculture and the Baby Boomers were all about, there was another purpose to the Jenny and Forrest fauxmance of Forrest Gump–to serve as a heavy-handed, simpleminded morality and cautionary tale. There’s the message that if you always respect authority, never protest and hold the right kind of values–in other words, toe the line–you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams, and you’ll live a charmed existence. Everything will just fall into your lap like magic. Don’t toe the line, and you will wind up like Jenny–miserable, lonely and dead at a young age of a fatal venereal disease.
All of this is another reason why I can’t stand Forrest Gump. It has all the pretensions of being an Oscar-worthy film and timeless cinematic masterpiece. But strip away the lush cinematography, inspired casting, great direction and amazing special effects and what do you really have? An insipid 1950s educational film, the type that used to be shown in classrooms teaching children how to be good, upstanding American citizens. All that was missing was the stilted narration and a title card saying, “The End.”
Retard Jesus Trope [ETA: 3/2/20]
Throughout movie history, Hollywood has pushed archetypes that on the surface seem innocuous but in reality are offensive, lazy or stupid for one reason or the other–for example, the Magical Negro, the White Savior, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold. Forrest Gump was probably the first movie to create what I call the “Retard Jesus” trope. This is an archetype based on a condescending stereotype about the mentally disabled, that because many have the mental capacity of young children, they are loving and sweet to the point of being angelic. They never get angry, depressed or frustrated; they never swear, become disruptive or even physically aggressive. They’re Jesus personified. (It was this stereotype that Family Guy cleverly skewered in the episode, Extra Large Medium. In that one, Chris Griffin dates an “adorable” girl with Downs Syndrome, only to learn that she’s just as much as a jerk as anybody else.)
Forrest Gump not only perpetuated this stereotype, but compounded it by somehow suggesting that because mentally disabled people are so pure of heart, they’re blessed with the sort of divine grace in which nothing bad can ever happen to them. Life for the mentally disabled is hunky-dory peachy-keen while it’s miserable for everyone else. Opportunities magically fall into their laps, they can dodge bullets literally and figuratively (like not get killed in Vietnam or contract AIDs after sleeping with a partner dying from the disease).
There are a million reasons to explain why this Retard Jesus trope is offensive, but in service of this blog post, I’ll drill down to the most relevant one–what makes it so offensive in this particular movie is the cynical reason behind it. Forrest Grump creates this archetype under pretense of humanizing the mentally disabled; but the real reason why the film created it was to push populist agenda. The idea was to underscore its message that it’s good to be ignorant, stupid and mediocre like Forrest, because all three traits are a virtue.
Why are they a virtue? Not only will you become a more moral person, you’ll stay out of trouble and never have to deal with the anger, pain and frustration that comes with living at full mental capacity, since you’ll be living a charmed life. For example, if you don’t know enough about sex, you’ll never be in a position to contract HIV like Jenny did; if you don’t know enough about the Real World (and all its injustices), you’ll never wind up getting mixed up with a “bad crowd” (rabble-rousing, drug-taking hippies and militant black protestors). Remain deaf, blind and dumb and life will be great, because ignorance is bliss.
Forrest Gump as Petty-Based Fantasy
Out of all the issues that I’ve addressed, the thing I find most repellent about Forrest Gump is what drives the fantastical elements behind it. You see, usually fantasy is based on positive elements meant to create a sense of awe and delight in the audience, such as flight of fancy, whimsy and humor. The fantastical elements of Forrest Gump may seem like they’re in the spirit of something uplifting, but what drives the film isn’t whimsy or anything else remotely like that. What drives it is pettiness.
What do I mean by that? Well, in the 1960s, there was a huge culture war between the Counterculture and the Establishment, or–to put it in plainer terms–the hip, cool kids who lived life off the beaten path and the dorky kids (aka as “squares”) who lived life on the straight and narrow. In the end, the cool kids won. By 1969, they not only got to shape the country’s future politically, socially and culturally, they made their mark in history. Many of them, like Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, became legends and immortalized. The uncool kids, on the other hand fell by the wayside and became forgotten.
For members of the Establishment, it must have burned in their craw to see so many of their hated rivals being lionized as the unsung heroes of that period. But also, when the Baby Boomer Craze hit, there must have been a feeling of being underrepresented, perhaps even the feeling of being completely left out of the official Boomer narrative altogether. That is understandable. After all, as far as that narrative was concerned, the 1960s and 70s were all about the iconoclasts–the hippies, the yippies and the rock and rollers. Everyone else–the “squares”–might as well not have existed.
I can only imagine that all this undivided media attention on celebrating the sheer awesomeness of the 1960s counterculture and its icons resulted in the type of anger, jealousy and frustration that caused Jan Brady to famously rant on The Brady Bunch, “Marsha Marsha Marsha!” Except in their case it was, “Janis Janis Janis!” and “Jimi Jimi Jimi!”
As a traditionalist feeling left out by the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Craze, what to do? Well, you can put out a historical revisionist film that tarnishes the cool kids’ legacies by portraying them as being nothing more but a bunch of druggie burnouts who made nothing of their lives and died of AIDs (see: Jenny). But you know what else you can do? You can also use this film to peddle an alternative history fantasy as an answer to the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Craze.
To elaborate further, like I said previously, the craze was all about the counter cultural icons of the 1960s and 1970s and no one else. For the most part, that period belonged to the Jimi Hendrixes, Jerry Garcias, Bob Dylans and Abbie Hoffmans, not the Perry Comos, Andy Williamses and Nancy Sinatra Jrs. Imagine someone envisioning an alternative history in which the Establishment was not only just as important to Boomer history as the counterculture, but had a folk hero of their own who was just as big, if not bigger than the counter cultural icons ever were? Imagine that scenario and what you have is the movie, Forrest Gump.
Think about it. What do you think was really behind the “joke” of Forrest basically becoming the most famous, successful and iconic Boomer of all time? Or the fact that it was he who became indirectly or directly responsible for all the key defining moments and pop cultural trends of the Boomer Years?
The John Lennon segment says it all. John Lennon–a classic 1960s rebel–was one of the most iconic figures of the Baby Boomer years. His Dick Cavett appearance was an equally iconic moment in Boomer history that was replayed ad nauseum during the Baby Boomer Nostalgia Craze. In Forrest Gump, look what happens in the scene in which Forrest is doctored into the famous John Lennon TV segment. He steals the spotlight from Lennon. Because of this, he becomes just as much a part of that iconic episode as Lennon.
This is what having Forrest being the epicenter of Baby Boomer culture was all about. It wasn’t really about making a joke in the vein of the movie, Being There. It was about the Establishment creating an alternative history in which a member of their own became just as iconic and as integral a part of Boomer history as the counterculture’s icons, if not more. In other words, it was about the “square” kids of the 1960s saying, “If they had Janis and Jimi, we had Forrest, and he was bigger and better than they ever were.”
Forrest Gump also allowed the square kids a feeling of representation in the Boomer narrative, which up until that moment, had completely excluded people like them who had never joined a protest, never did drugs or drank, always listened to authority and did things like wait until they got married to have sex. Of course, the alternative history scenario was total fantasy-based. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was to have something–no matter how illusory–that could finally make them feel as if they were just as important a part of Boomer history as the counterculture.
Now You Know Why I Hate Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump may have done an amazing job trying to portray itself as nothing but a sweet, wholesome, feel-good nostalgic movie and inspirational tale. However, for those who were old enough to remember the 1960s or have lived in its immediate aftermath, and for people who aren’t easily manipulated, it’s very easy to see the movie for what it truly is–petty fantasy, 1950s educational film and historical revisionist propaganda of the worst kind.
This is why I will never in a million years respect or like this film, no matter how many times people try to convince me that it’s one of the best movies of all time, no matter how many times people try to sell me on how “positive” and “uplifting” it is, no matter how many times people try to remind me how many Oscars it won. Forrest Gump is cynical junk. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted junk, but cynical junk nevertheless.
Sorry, but your claims about AIDS are not accurate. As early as 1981 there were women getting infected with HIV in the setting of IV drug use and sex work. fewer than gay men, to be sure, but not zero.
Not to be condescending, but I not only was alive and well during the AIDs crisis, several of my coworkers either contracted HIV, died from AIDs or lost a partner to AIDs.
So, as someone who saw all of this firsthand, let’s try to clear the confusion about all this.
AIDs is not HIV. HIV is the infection; AIDs are the complications you get from having HIV and what you eventually die of.
There were no female AIDs fatalities at the very beginning of the crisis when it was so new it was “an unknown virus”. The fatalities were gay males, which is why it was called the “gay cancer.” The movie gets the timeline completely wrong; it has Jenny dying of AIDS in March of 1982 when it was still being called the “gay cancer”, and a full year before the first female victims were reported.
The very link that you sent to me actually backs up what I said. (“January 7 : CDC’sMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reports the first cases of AIDS in women: Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York”).
AIDs. Not HIV. AIDs.
“December : At Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubinstein treats five black infants who are showing signs of severe immune deficiency, including PCP. At least three are the children of women who use drugs and engage in sex work. He recognizes that the children are showing signs of the same illnesses affecting gay men, but his diagnoses are dismissed by his colleagues.”
All I was trying to say was that women, too, were affected early on.
I dislike Forrest Gump as well, but I’m not sure I understand why the timing depicted matters or how it makes the movie worse.
Okay, I’m going to explain this to you for the last time before I give up.
I repeat–no women died of AIDs in the earliest phase of the crisis, when it was still unknown. I explained to you why that was. HIV is the infection, but AIDs is what you die from as a result of the infection.
You snipped a quote that in no way, shape or form conclusively states that women died of AIDS in 1981. It just theorizes that five might’ve had HIV and passed it onto their children. It doesn’t even seem really sure about whether the babies had contracted the disease because it mentions in the same breath that they also had PCP in their system, as if making the concession that the compromised immune systems could’ve very well been due to PCP, too.
“I dislike Forrest Gump as well, but I’m not sure I understand why the timing depicted matters or how it makes the movie worse.”
It cynically moved the timing of women dying of AIDS to make the larger point that the women of the Sexual Revolution were “punished” for acting out sexually. That’s why it matters. By lying to the audience about when women died, the movie undermined its message and the story it was trying to tell. If you have to lie to make a point, you have no point. If you have to finagle historical facts in a historical drama to make the story “work”, the story fails as historical drama. Would you think it wasn’t a problem if a dramatization of 9/11 showed Mayor Rudolph Giuliani strapping on FDNY gear and rushing inside the Twin Towers and rescuing 100 people to show how heroic he was that day? Of course you would, because that never happened. Even for the sake of artistic license, you’d have issues with it.
Also, this kind of twisting of historical fact makes the movie “worse” in another way–it flies in the face of its image of being a non-cynical movie. In other words, Forrest Gump wants you to love it for being oh, so wholesome, endearing, pure of heart and lacking in cynicism. Yet look at what it did with the AIDS crisis. The crisis was that of Americans refusing to help the victims because they were gay males, and of victims being so ashamed of contracting it that they hid it from everyone. (There was such a stigma attached to having a “gay disease” that even high profile gay male celebrities who contracted it asked their loved ones before they died to lie about what they died from.)
Taking a crisis that devastated one community– to take a cheap shot at women of the Sexual Revolution–trivialized what the community went through and what the AIDS crisis was all about. It’s also incredibly judgmental. However, we were all supposed to be endeared by FG and embrace it wholeheartedly for being the very opposite of what it was presenting itself as, as being all about positivity and warmth,
I think there is a misunderstanding.
“showing signs of severe immune deficiency, including PCP”
The quote refers to pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), one of the AIDS defining illnesses. It is a fungal pneumonia that only affects people with immjnodeficiency, hence why it defines AIDS in people with HIV. It is now often known by the proper name of pneumocystis jiroveci. Doesn’t have to do with phencyclidine.
Humor me and read the quote again. It says that the babies were born with AIDS in 1981.
As an aside, I’m not trying to antagonize you. I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thoughts.
Anyhow, I have some more to say but I will need a real keyboard.
Your information is incorrect. Women were dying of AIDS long before it was officially recognized as such. You are hanging onto a narrative that women died of AIDS long after men started to do so. That is incorrect.
As early as 1982, women are dying of AIDS: (not HIV, AIDS,): http://www.thebody.com/content/16547/a-timeline-of-women-living-with-hiv-past-present-a.html
I’m not entering the debate. I just liked the article and wanted the author to know.
I truly appreciate your perspective and the amount of time and effort you put into writing this. I do find it interesting that your intense “hate” of this film makes me think you may have missed the true, heartfelt and perhaps the true intent/message that was brilliantly delivered. Hate is exactly the opposite feeling this movie helped me to see. I am not a religious person in any way, but Forrest Gump gave me a current day guide in the way we need to love and care about ALL people in our own lives. Forrest seemed to care little about money or politics, but simply showed us the most important part of life, LOVE. None of today’s/yesterday’s biases/prejudices or opinions entered his life in any way… not racism, sexism, xenophobia or any form of hatred affected his actions in life. Forrest was always content and happy with whatever hand he was dealt in life, even though it was clear that others’ attitudes or opinions did leave him wanting more. Not more of any of the unimportant little things in life like money or politics, but simply love. Yes, we can learn a lot from these actions and I do not feel any of this was political or belittling of class decisions so many others seem to make in life. If a simple southern man from Alabama can so easily learn the most simple form of love, why not me too?
You are my hero, and everyone should read your “Triumph of the Gump” blog. Forrest Gump was a horrible movie and I think you’re right in that it spawned the snowflake movement and America’s descent into awarding mediocrity.
Thanks, Chris! It heartens me to know that there are others who see through this movie. I’ve been getting so much flack for my dislike of Forrest Gump because so many people were successfully manipulated into thinking that it was “just” a sweet, inspirational film. Maybe if Forrest were an idiot savant like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, it would be. But the fact is, Forrest is a mediocre human being who only achieves success through dumb luck, grace and parental intervention (his mother) and he succeeds where smarter, braver and more creative people fail. So, that right there is a red flag.
Yes, worst film ever. The great irony is the soundtrack is one of the best ever. FG also tried the old chestnut,”we went to Vietnam to help all those poor misguided peasants to resist communism”. The most galling quote, “years later I found out that somebody shot that president” the old lone gunman theory. The historical revisionism is deeply disturbing. The guy who lost his legs in Vietnam is also a big thread in the “do right by your country” narrative. The phone call reporting the Watergate break-in, on and on it goes revising the crimes of the establishment, vile, obnoxious, condescending, dreadful film. Reading this article put me in mind of another dreadful, film enforcing similar themes,”Blast from the Past” featuring Christopher Walken as a professor whose son is born in a nuclear shelter by his parents free from the terrible influences of the real world, equally galling….
Forrest Gump is one of my favorite films of all-time, I honestly think it deserved the critical acclaim and praise it got. I’m not the biggest fan of treacly films either, but there’s nothing you can say in this article that can convince me that it isn’t a great movie, sorry. I prefer Shawshank and Pulp Fiction, but I still love this movie.
You should really read the book. It is far more cynical than the movie and Forrest is not likeable at all. This movie was never meant to be anything deep. Like I told a friend of mine who yelled “Bulls@@t!” at one point during a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, nothing in it is real! Forrest Gump the movie is a semi-nostalgic madcap “on the road” film with some melodrama thrown in for kicks, calculated to appeal to a wide audience and to sell the soundtrack (and, presumably, other related things like Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurants). Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Robert Gene Consiglio
I think Forrest Gump stunk too. Here are the reasons. It is full of clichés and stereotypes. Jenny is a manipulating, pain in the butt-ocks that Forest should have dumped right from the start. Forrest is too naïve and dumb to figure out that chasing her is a waste of time. Forrest allows Jenny to lie to him and manipulate him for years. It’s pathetic and irritating. The “Bubba shrimp” thing is VERY irritating too. They keep repeating things in the movie…. shrimp this and shrimp that…shrimp…. stupid. The movie uses people with disabilities to play with our emotions and garner our sympathy. The movie manipulates our emotions artificially. The insertion of Forrest in important events in American history is just a stupid gimmick that reminds me of altering history in the former USSR. It’s fake history and it never happened. The scene where Forrest talks about the KKK to a black woman is preposterous. She would have been offended and left for certain. The movie seems to suggest that the whole counterculture movement was self destructive. Mom and pop values from the 50’s are better than all the counterculture of the 60s and 70s. (which helped shape the America we live in today). Most of all, I hate the character of Jenny, who Forrest seems to have some grade school crush on that he never gets over. Forrest, above all, has no backbone, no values and incapable of doing anything on his own. The movie seems to suggest that being mentally slow is ok and that mediocrity will pass the bill. Good Americans must be obedient and follow the rules and kill communists and stand up for Momma’s apple pie and the American flag. Oh, “life is like a box of chocolates” is the same as “life is like a card game and you have to do the best with the cards you are dealt”. Not very deep, I’m afraid. The scenes where he plays football are insulting by the way, because they suggest that academic programs will recruit morons as long as they are good athletes that generate wins and money for their program. The running scenes suggest that Americans will blindly follow any movement like lemmings. I think this whole movie is an insult to the intelligence all Americans. I am from Canada by the way. Thanks for reading.
What you and the author are missing is that Gump fits into a literary genre called the Tall Tale – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_tale – when I saw it (when it came out, the only time I saw it), I immediately recognized it as such (because I spent some time in the South where sitting around telling tall tales is still a tradition – that’s exactly what’s going on here. The humor of a Tall Tale is “how big of a lie is going to tell with a straight face” and the artistry from the teller’s perspective is, “how far can I go before they realize it’s a tall tale”.
The brilliance of this film is that it has 2 layers of tall tale – the storyline itself, plus the stereotypes of the hippie counterculture being the loser and the proper conservative being the winner, those are a layer of tall tellin’ too.
Here’s a contemporary review that takes a similar approach to mine, more eloquently:
Forrest Gump was not a tall tale. If it had been one, Robert Zemeckis and the screenwriters would’ve made sure to establish that Forrest was a false narrator. There would’ve been a few sly winks to the audience or something in the last scene to imply, “Oh, he’s just exaggerating.” But it’s very clear from the movie that the events of the movie actually happened.
Nor was the original source written to be a tall tale, either. Remember, the movie was based on a book. In the book, everything actually happened, without irony or sarcasm.
If you are seeing the movie as a “tall tale,” that is because a tactic was to pander to certain demographics, so no one would be aware of the more sinister motivations underlying the film.
For example, if you were really into Chicken Soup for the Soul, you would’ve seen this movie in the vein of that book series, especially with its themes of someone “beating the odds in the face of the impossible.”
If you were a Reagan Era Reactionary, the movie was a perfect allegory of everything that was evil and wrong about the counterculture and an expression of everything that was great about Ronald Reagan Conservatives taking the country back from the Far Left.
If you were a Baby Boomer who was still taking a trip down memory lane, then the movie was that–yet another Baby Boomer nostalgia film hitting all the points of that genre (JFK, Vietnam, MLK, disco era, AIDs, etc.), right down to the Time Life Remembers soundtrack.
If you were a true blue patriot, the movie was the perfect “Americana” movie for you (stars and stripes forever; apple pie; etc.).
And if you were a Southerner, the movie was steeped in all the charming traditions of that culture, which included its genteelness, respect for authority, people being so polite as to strike up random conversations with strangers, and yes, even fondness for quirky, wholesome things like tall tales and folk tales.
The Chicago Tribune review you linked to actually underscores my point. Look at how little the reviewer talks about the actual movie (performances, stories, etc.) and gushes over and over again about how “American” the movie is. Because for him, the movie was not a “tall tale/folk tale”; it was pure Americana. That’s all he saw out of the movie–not because he didn’t “get it” but because part of the evil genius of the film is that it pandered to various mindsets with such precision that if you were hooked on a groove, you couldn’t see the other grooves.
To use an analogy, Forrest Gump is the embodiment of the famous fable about the blind men and the elephant. Depending on what the men touched, they believed that it was anything but an elephant and were so sure of their conclusions that they would bicker with each other about what they were touching. The guy touching the elephant’s side was sure it was a brick wall, and a second guy touching the leg was sure that it was a tree stump. The guy touching the trunk was sure it was a snake, and the one touching its tail was sure it was rope: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-gRvf-4jgH0c/VvPpbdFjx9I/AAAAAAAAIUU/u965GJKHlCUHWqg15e8u0ohqU-7UfgxOQ/s1600/Blind%2BMen%2Band%2Bthe%2BElephant.jpg.
The point I’m trying to make is that this isn’t a case of me and other people opposed to the movie not “getting it.” We see it for the “elephant” that it is, but fans are still seeing it as a “rope” or a “tree stump” or a “snake”, etc. This sinister mind gaming of Forrest Gump is why I keep attacking this movie. It’s probably one of the most psychologically manipulative movies of all time. If only people would see it.
It’s funny that you mentioned the USSR and its altering of history, because the more I think of Robert Zemeckis and Oliver Stone (who also loved this gimmick of blurring fact and fiction), the more this movie does come across as sinister agitprop by a subversive.
The reason why I say that is that normally when directors blend history with fiction, it’s for comic, whimsical or exaggerated effect. But in Forrest Gump, Zemeckis tried very hard to make Forrest’s insertion into historical footage as seamless as possible, as if hoping to implant false memories in audiences or at least make his scenes of historical fakery so compelling that audiences would willingly choose the fake over the real thing.
I think your problem is that you are just reading too much into the movie. I am pretty sure that they put Gump with John Lennon not because they wanted to make any type of point but just because it was a fun thing to do, and the technology was new. You are creating a narrative around why they made the film that just isn’t true. It’s like with the red pillers and Jenny lol, saying the movie is indoctrination to turn men into betas.
It’s like with the aids thing, you say Jenny died in 1982 and that the first woman to die of aids died in 1983 (I have not confirmed either fact). Then you say they want to tie this to the sexual revolution, which we don’t know, we do see Jenny sharing needles and using hard drugs. Here is my point anyhow, you leave no room for the makers of the film to make a mistake or artistic license, instead you decide it has to mean something, that they made that choice on purpose. It could just be a mistake.
“I think your problem…”
I don’t have a “problem.” I saw a movie that was praised to the gills about how amazing it was, but I couldn’t get past the obvious subtext and wrote about it.
Your gut instinct to immediately try to find fault in my thinking process is one of the main reasons why I started this blog. I didn’t “decide” anything. I don’t “have a problem.” I didn’t “leave no room for a mistake or artistic license.” But this is how Reddit, social media and other websites on the internet have dumbed down debate. When a person can’t argue against someone’s take on something, they resort to the laziest strategy possible–“I’m going to try to figure out what’s WRONG with you to explain why you don’t like this [you didn’t get it/you’re a liberal/Conservative/feminazi/sheeple/homophobe/trans].”
I want a space for elevated debate and exchange of ideas. Not dumbed down debate or the type of exchange where one person basically talks down to the other person.
Another reason why I started this blog is to spread awareness about how movies work. Case in point:
“I am pretty sure that they put Gump with John Lennon not because they wanted to make any type of point but just because it was a fun thing to do, and the technology was new.”
Did you know that this “technology” that you’re talking about is rooted in what’s known as “doctoring”? In Communist and Fascist countries, they would use various techniques to blur the line between reality and fiction by splicing in real footage with fake or even airbrushing or adding in people into famous photographs.
This “doctoring” technique is why Oliver Stone used it in both JFK and Nixon. He is a propagandist who used it to create false memories in audiences, so it would be increasingly hard to remember the real iconic footage from his fake ones.
This technique is the reason why Robert Zemeckis used it. To play Devil’s Advocate, maybe he just saw it as a “harmless” technology to be used for fun. The problem is that Zemeckis is not a moron. Like everyone else in the film industry, he learned about how certain cinematic techniques can and has been used to subtly convey ideas and instill emotions in audience members.
“Here is my point anyhow, you leave no room for the makers of the film to make a mistake or artistic license, instead you decide it has to mean something, that they made that choice on purpose.”
Why do you think artistic license is a magic bullet that cancels out accusations of propaganda or some other malicious intent? For example, if I did a movie about 9/11 that showed first responders being drunk off their asses the day of the event–to imply that this is why so many died in the Towers–that would be artistic license. If I showed a scene that implied that the passengers of Flight ’93 just sat and cried in a corner and did nothing, that would be artistic license.
The point is that artistic license can be used for agenda. In most cases, it is. Oskar Schindler never made a maudlin speech about how he could’ve saved more people, but Spielberg put that in to further build him up. Third class passengers were not locked up and left to drown on the lower decks of the Titanic, but Cameron put that in there to make a statement about how evil classism is.
I just think you are exaggerating based on what is actually in the movie.
“If that was the case, why did Forrest Gump go out of its way to say that the hippies and everyone else who was a part of it were the products of child abuse or came from broken homes?”
Like this for example, is there any reference to any other persons background other than Jenny?
It’s also funny in that examples you gave, like Hendrix, that did come from broken homes, Lennon was raised by his aunt.
And sure, those “establishment boomers” are perhaps not pleasant. But are you not wearing rose-tinted glasses when it comes to people like Lennon? I mean he sang about peace and beat his wife and son (Sean Lennon has talked about it), he sang about no possessions while living the life of a millionaire and doing drugs. Hendrix was also known to be violent. These were not exactly “pleasant” people either.
Oh, and I did argue against your take. Does it really matter that much if Jenny died in -82 (and we see her do needles), and the first woman died in -83? (Neither year confirmed by me.) It could be a mistake, or maybe the scriptwriter just didn’t care, as in “close enough”. You don’t know that it was a decision made on purpose.
9/11 is real, Flight 93 is real. Forrest Gump was not a real person, neither was Jenny. The presidents are only used for cheap laughs, such as showing butt to Prez Johnson, Nixon recommending Watergate, and telling Kennedy he has to go pee. No major political points made there. It’s similar with basically every other situation Forrest ends up in.
“Third class passengers were not locked up and left to drown on the lower decks of the Titanic” <—And this one is something I hammered into people millions of times myself.
I think you misunderstand Jenny as a character. Jenny loves Forrest, but she thinks that since he is as you say retarded, having sex or a relationship with him would be like having a relationship with a child (meaning wrong), just look at their early college scene, she is uncomfortable by her own actions, later she is forced to contact Forrest due to her illness (which is why I suspect they added HIV/AIDS at all), it's simply to make the story move forward, and I guess an event big enough to warrant a mention. Zemeckis said he wanted to make a movie about America coming together, which is why Forrest and Jenny are more archetypes than persons.
"It was about the Establishment creating an alternative history in which a member of their own became just as iconic and as integral a part of Boomer history as the counterculture’s icons, if not more."
“You misunderstood…” “”You are exaggerating…” etc., etc.
How do you know you’re not misunderstanding anything? How do you know you’re not underplaying anything? How do you know you’re not glossing over certain things because you secretly agree with the movie’s ideology?
See how easy it is to do that? See how easy it is for me to turn the tables, argue that the problem here is really you? Again, this is why I started this blog. You want to have the type of inane argument that happens at places like Reddit, YouTube, etc., where your first instinct is to shift the argument over from what’s being argued onto the person who is making the argument. If you want to have one of those arguments, then go over to Reddit or YouTube or some other place. But you’re not going to find what you want here.
I also literally asked you to back up many of your claims about the movie. Such as your claim that the movie goes out of it’s way to depict the background of the people in the counterculture. (And other things).
All of that you ignored for the smaller things.
I love your website so much. I especially enjoyed the thoughtful analyses you made of Gone With the Wind. 😭😍 Keep up the great work!
Thank you very much! 😁
I hate FG too, but I’m aware that it is a work of fiction, not “revisionist propaganda.” Does anyone here honestly believe he sat down with John Lennon or met Nixon too? Jenny was the first woman to die of AIDS – so what? It’s a movie. Movies are not facts. There’s also no Superman. I don’t watch narrative films for history lessons, but that’s just me. Even biopics or movies that are based on true stories need to be treated as fiction, which they are. If I treated them as historical documents I’d be as ignorant as Forrest. If one is seeking a larger truth from a work of art, that’s different, and in the eye of the beholder.
(By comparison I enjoyed the book Ragtime which was also a historical fiction. The movie didn’t it do it much justice.)
Personally, I hate FG because it’s a terrible movie. There’s scarcely a story. Meandering through historical events as a human funhouse mirror isn’t much of a story. The characters are one dimensional (here I agree with the writer on the disability trope). Once you are over the technical achievements, it’s a bore, unless you are just there to see the parade of familiar faces and events he stumbles through. Was the acting really that great? They did the best they could with the silly dialogue, I guess.
I explained, in detail, what the issue with the movie was and why it can’t be dismissed as “just fiction.”
The movie is propaganda. Propaganda uses subtext to slip in untruths in between the stuff that people know was made up. That’s the problem with the movie–not the stuff that was obvious fantasy, but the real life events referenced and how it reframed them.
I’m just curious about something. From what country are you posting from? Are you an American?