Thursday, March 17, 2011


“He is too stupid to be racist, sexist, and exploitative; this is his genius and it is meant to be his virtue.”

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.

I believe that Berlant has taken the wrong idea of Forrest Gump’s virtue in this quote. She takes her point far over the top in saying that his virtue is actually in the fact that he is too stupid to realize the problems that are around him. I believe something closer to the truth is that his virtue is in his innocence, which allows him to overlook the bad in people and society. Unintelligent people are not completely incapable of being bigoted or exploitative. In fact, it could be said that those who are unintelligent are more easily manipulated to be that way. Why then does she think that Gump’s virtue is in his stupidity? I believe that Berlant took her point over-the-top in an attempt to add to her argument. This extreme hyperbole of the virtue of Gump’s stupidity is also shown when Berlant writes that “the film seeks to make its audience want to rewrite recent U.S. history into a world that might have sustained a Forrest Gump” (Berlant, 184). It is preposterous to think that we would want a world where the extremely unintelligent were exceedingly capable of success. I believe that Berlant put too much stock into Gump’s sort of rags-to-riches story. Gump’s virtue is not actually in the personality traits that his stupidity causes, but more so in the fact that he is able to carry on and exceed despite his mental deficit.


  1. I keep coming back to the line that describes the movie as an innocent story during the time when America has lost its innocence. To say that a nation has lost its innocence during a period where minorities, bot racial and gendered, are attempting to gain the same rights as the dominating sub-group renders the movie as a rejection of those rights and the equality they bring. Gump represents the idea that there was nothing wrong before those movements, that the white males of the population were sympathetic to women and minorities. However, there is also the implication that even though he has a below average IQ, since he is a white male he can achieve success and fame easier than a black male or white woman could. To say that it shows the success of someone mentally handicapped is fallacious, as Gump does not really achieve the things himself. As Berlant points out, all of his success and fame befall him by chance, like the fishing boat surviving, or someone else investing his stocks in Apple. There is a definite bias towards white males and conservativism in Gump that Berlant was very astute in illuminating.

  2. I completely agree with Lewis because I also thought that it was too harsh to say that he was too "stupid." I understand that Forrest was slightly mentally incapable of certain things, but he did things with such passion. So is Berlant then saying that all of those drug addicts and racist people were NOT stupid? I feel that Berlant does not give Forrest enough credit for what he did to help and save people in the film. He did so many things to honor his community, individuals and himself. I feel that you could not have asked for more in Forrest Gump's character and I feel that Forrest was the "direction" that America needed. This was also clearly defined in the "run across America" because believe it or not many people followed him. Forrest did so many simple things that had such great impacts on people's lives. He was not too stupid to be racist or sexual, he was just simply a good-hearted fellow. I know that he sometimes followed orders literally, but it was never for something stupid. So honestly I just can't see how Forrest is "stupid." I can't even remember at any point in the film where Forrest actually does something stupid. I think Berlant is the one who is too stupid to actually realize that Forrest Gump is not stupid. Maybe that was the filmmakers trick, to make people think that Forrest was just stupid, but we are actually the ones who are stupid for thinking that.