Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Berlant on Forrest Gump-- Reactionary Liberal Analysis

Berlant, Lauren. "On Being Normal, Average, Common, Ordinary, Standard, Typical, and Usual in Contemporary America." The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. 180-87.

Lauren Berlant's analysis of the movie Forrest Gump is on target in its assertion that the film portrays a revised, rosey-lensed look at recent U.S. history, and even from the producers' advertisements of the film, a strong sense of conservative values, or at least traditional "family values", is palpable. However, her criticism of the film as a vehicle intentionally employed in order to further a right-wing political agenda is pure political paranoia. For example, Laurent claims that Forrest Gump seeks to "eradicate women from the public sphere," citing Gump's mother's stay-at-home, super-domestic lifestyle, and Jenny's trials as some sort of judgement for venturing into the public world. Jenny's chain of traumas, however, does not come as retribution for transgressing any social norm, or at least not any hetero-normative constraint. Instead, her struggles seem to me to point out the futility and unhealthiness of following, as she zealously does, the fickle trends of pop culture and staking one's identity therein. Forrest, conversely, represents the ignorance of societal pressure that allows one to find identity and confidence in transcendent values such as love, honesty, and integrity, as displayed by his loyalty both to Jenny and to Bubba.

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