Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conservative Gump

"Forrest Gump narrates the recent history of the United States usin an image archive from contemporary rage at the radical movements of the 1960s and the culture of desire that borrowed their energy [from the "angry white male" voter] to challenge previously protected forms of American pro-family patriarchal pleasure and authority."-page 180

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. 180-186.

The above quote from Lauren Berlant's essay on Forrest Gump summarizes her point about the movie. The movie in question is in one way a rebellion against the dissipation of the nuclear family. For example, Gump's mother uses her sexuality in an "immoral" manner but it is only to "honor her child," as Berlant points out, and is done outside of any other relationship as Mrs. Gump's husband is absent. Jenny Curran's exploits in various counterculture movements never results in anything good for the girl until she unites with Gump, as Berlant also mentions. Curran's involvement also displays the effects of the movements in the latter half of the 20th century on white females in general and the way in which they may be redeemed by conservative white men.

One of the most poignant indications to the film's conservative message is the way in which the creator's billed it: "'Forrest Gump' is the romantic, rollicking tale of an innocent-at- large in an America that is losing its innocence." Gump's innocence is placed in between the immorality of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the Civil Rights Movement, and sexual revolution. As was mentioned already, Jenny's involvement is what is most indicative of the failure of those counterculture movements. While it is contested that the movie criticizes conservatism and liberalism, in most points it could it really does not. The Vietnam scene could not really be portrayed in any other way. Forrest also escapes the war without any of the wounds, emotional or physical, that many individuals suffered in the war. There is no allusion either to some of the atrocities committed by American soldiers. The filmmakers could not very well glorify something that could not be believably embellished. In the end Forrest still triumphs, saving his squad by blindly following orders from his "superiors."

1 comment:

  1. I really like how you said that Forrest's innocence was placed between everything bad that was happening in 1960s America. It was evident that the film used Forrest to show that America needed to head in another direction. You also mentioned that Forrest's mother used her sexuality in order to get Forrest to a better school, however we can see that Forrest uses his sexulaity with Jenny towards the end of the film. Even though he did not intend to use it for something, he was then able to raise a child and the point of that was to have a good man like Forrest to raise Jenny's child. One thing I did not quite agree with is when you said that Forrest saved his squad because he followed orders from his "superiors." When Forrest went back and forth saving his platoon members, he did not do it through "orders." As a matter of fact, when he comes across Lieutenant Dan, he tells Forrest not to save him, but Forrest still does. Later on in the film when Dan's life starts going down the tube we may have then questioned Dan's life and thought that maybe it really was his destiny to die on the battlefield. However, towards the end of the film Lieutenant Dan starts spending more time with Forrest and actually thanks him for saving his life and he then gets some synthetic legs and he seems overall quite happy with his life. So in no way do I think Forrest saved his squad "blindly."