“While Jenny deliberately seeks out the deteriorating political and aesthetic public culture of modern America, Gump notices nothing and excels at everything he decides to do. He is too stupid to be racist, sexist, and exploitative; this is genius and it is meant to be his virtue” (Berlant 183).
“I have suggested that the crisis of the contemporary nation is registered in terms of threats to the imagined norm of privatized citizenship: Gump defines ‘normal’ through the star’s untraumatized survival of a traumatic national history, which effectively rewrites the traumas of mass unrest of the last few decades not as responses to systemic malaise, exploitation, or injustice, but as purely personal to the dead, the violent, and the violated” (Berlant 185).
As Professor Szczeszak-Brewer mentioned in class, Berlant’s argument hinges on the premise that Forrest Gump is centered within the context of an identity crisis in America. Suddenly, there is an alleged gap in what we as Americans espouse—a nostalgic desire for an official national culture. I grapple with Berlant’s distinction between the private and the public spheres. She claims that Jenny leaving her home represents a “vicious” urge for a public identity. Indeed, Jenny represents the epitome of the star struck, fame-crazed girl gone awry. She attempts to insert herself into the culture—just like Forrest’s mother tries to “lubricate[. . .] Forrest’s way into normal culture” (Berlant 181). And Jenny attempts this insertion via her sexuality. Indeed, she plays a role in two decades of the American sexual and political development (Berlant 182). Jenny dies of AIDS. Thus, Berlant argues, she does not survive “the traumatic national history.” Forrest, on the other hand, does survive. But does he really?