Gone With The Wind

There are a lot of things that I understand about Gone With the Wind, directed by Victor Flemming in 1939. I know that it shows a romantic version of the south. I know that it is an American epic. I know that Scarlett is supposed to be a strong woman. I understand all of the ideas behind the sexual politics of the film. But I really don't like it. I do like the first half - the characters feel rich and interesting, and I like the arc of the story. The second half, to me, feels like a soap opera that goes on for too long. I'm happy when it ends, because I feel like it drags. This is because I don't like any of the characters, and I don't feel anything when bad things happen to them. I get tired.

I guess I just don't see the romance in this. It's complicated to articulate why and I'm not going to do it on the internet. I think a big part of the appeal of this movie is the same as the appeal of the infamous "bodice-ripper" romance novels. To be sexual and a woman is taboo, so to be taken against your will is freeing - you can be sexual without the stigma of becoming a whore. It's liberating and exciting to do this.  Ebert happily describes why people love this movie, as "it stirs their fantasies about being brought to sexual pleasure despite themselves" (The Great Movies, 200). For about a hundred reasons, I don't share in this fantasy, so I don't buy into the movie, at all. I feel sort of sickened about the relationship that Rhett and Scarlett have. I hate that the movie has a scene that is clearly abusive and violent, but after being raped, Scarelett wakes up smiling and humming. "All better!" Like I said, I get why it exists and what people see in it. But that isn't me, and my opinion is what I'm going with. I get it - I just don't like it.

The character I hate least in this film is Scarlett. I like how strong she is, I just hate that she has to be punished for it, which is the point of the film. Everything leads up to Rhett "I don't give a damn"-ing her, because she needs to be "swatted down" even if she gets back up again. I will say that this is clearly progressive for 1939. In fact, I think this movie feels so new that it's hard to believe that majority of the actors in this movie have died. It doesn't feel that old, and Scarlett is one of the reasons why. She is a great, free-spirited woman, and I love her for that.

The other characters, I guess, never grew on me. And when they die suddenly in a big clump at the end of the film, I don't have much sympathy. As I said, it feels like an overly long soap opera. Rhett always says something stupid and then one of his children die. Scarlett says she wishes she wasn't pregnant. "Maybe if you're lucky, you'll have an accident," Rhett jeers. She gasps in shock and immediately falls down the stairs. Rhett attempts to walk down a step or two and stop her, but eventually just watches her silently roll down the stairs, where she promptly loses the baby, her eyes closed peacefully, her cheeks flushed. Later - "If you fall of that horse, don't come crying to me!" he declares as Bonnie rides off to her death. She slides off her two-foot-tall pony and dies beautifully, as if taken in a deep sleep. Another oopsy from Rhett. It all happens in such quick succession. I guess I just have a hard time feeling much for this film when it starts to feel so cliched. The story in the first half is so good, I think, that I'm always taken aback by how insipid it becomes in the second half.

I know that this is movie blasphemy and many people deeply love this movie. I have a strange, unfounded fear of all southern gentlemen, and a deep loathing of soap opera drama. I find them combined in this movie, and I just can't ever let go and get lost in the story or the characters. Maybe I'm too surled from the constant snow panic (snowstorm predicted for the Midwest, which I guess no one has any experience with here so we all must stock up on groceries and silliness), but I didn't feel this movie tonight at all. It made me irritable, as you can tell.

With that said, I can't really recommend watching this, based on my own opinion of it. If you like it, you should check out the blu ray - it was restored really well and it looks very nice, and is worth adding to your collection. I must add again that this is just my opinion - it's not some deep analysis of the film or anything, it's just how I felt, emotionally, after watching it. As much as it's not pleasant to share, I'd be lying, greatly, if I tried to act like a lot of this didn't bother or annoy me. So there you have it. :)

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Gone with The Wind

The Grand Illusion