I guess I just don’t see the political aspects of it at all. It seems incredibly indifferent in that regard, and I think a political message is the last thing it’s trying to promote. If this was a film about Jenny I imagine we wouldn’t see much of Forrest’s exploits either and would be left with a more generalized view of his path as well.
And what would we see? Futile protests, abusive relationships, drug abuse, and promiscuity.
With Forrest we see the greatest events of the later half of the 20th century.
And it’s all because Forrest is a puppet of society and never questions anything he’s told.
This dishonest and backwards look at history makes me nauseous.
The more I think about it the more I dislike how saccharine coated it is.
I think it was Spence who said it was racist.
Maybe some people like racism? I’m not sure.
Whether Zemeckis is a conservative racist or a shallow entertainer, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, the movie just isn’t that great.
Like Jazz said the way I remember it his heroic act in Vietnam was a result of him disobeying authority not conforming to it. Forrest isn’t a hero because he follows “the man”, he’s a hero because he has skills and (as corny as it sounds) a big heart. Just because he doesn’t rebel doesn’t make him a puppet. But I tend to think there’s room for both rebellious and non-cynical attitudes and gave up on politics long ago so maybe that’s why I enjoy this movie.
It’s easy to risk your life. Valiant, but easy. There is no moral ambiguity.
It’s interesting that people view the film as saying: “Obey authority. Do what you’re told without asking questions and you’ll be rewarded greatly!” I’ve watched the film many a times, and my thoughts were that Forrest was always obeying the orders of to the people closest to him: Jenny, his Momma, Bubba, and Lt. Dan because they were what mattered the most to him. They stood up for him when people called him stupid and he wanted to let them know he appreciated them being his friend. He never cared about money, or being a celebrity, or getting to meet important people.
Someone on here mentioned a gripe against Jenny having aspirations but she gave up on them so she could accept a traditional female role and be happy. I don’t think it’s fair to say she abandoned her ambitions because they were never genuine ambitions. She was merely a (pardon my French) poseur and pursued these “alternative” lifestyles (folk singer, hippie, Vietnam protester, African-American rights activist) because she wanted to avoid living in the rural south and be reminded of her abusive upbringing.
If anything the overall message of the film is: come to terms with your problems, don’t just runaway from them, overcome them.
Lt. Dan was angry that there was no honor in fighting in the Vietnam War and that he lost his legs. So since he couldn’t literally run away from his problems “‘Cause you ain’t got no legs, Lt. Dan”, he escaped his problems by being an alcoholic. Eventually he came to accept he was crippled: Forrest called it finding God, whatever you want to call it, Lt. Dan had found inner-peace. Forrest wanted to know why his Momma was dying, but she said it was a part of life and that’s something you’re going to have to accept. Jenny’s advice to Forrest was always to just runaway. If bullies pick on you: run. If you’re in trouble during combat: run. But did running away make kids at school stop calling him stupid? No, people called him stupid his whole life. Did running away from combat help save his whole platoon? No,he ended up losing his friend and Lt. Dan ended up cripple…he realized it was very selfish to run away and went back to try to save them all. You could interpret Forrest running away at the end of the movie as him running away from his family: his Momma had just died and Jenny became pregnant (although he didn’t realize it, maybe ‘cause of if his own ignorance of what results during sex sometimes if you’re not cautious).
I don’t think anyone should read into it as a film idolizing conservatism or trying to simplify history. It’s a sentimental drama with doses of comedy.
^ I agree about Jenny, I was pretty surprised that people thought she made good choices when I thought it was pretty obvious she made very bad ones. Just because she was part of counter-cultural movements doesn’t suddenly make her a hero to be glorified. I honestly find the “conservative propaganda” reading of the film kind of bizarre (no offense to anyone, I just don’t understand where this comes from at all).
Obvious, shallow, vanilla, circle jerk of pop-history for the baby boomer generation is obvious.
And I thought it was pretty clear than anything counter-culture portrayed in this movie was portrayed negatively and deeply cynical toward people in it be it Jenny, those abusive, slimy boyfriends, and the people in the background who are just cut-outs of the era.
Jenny is a troubled character, so it only makes sense she would have abusive relationships. The potrayal of counter-cultural movements in this movie comes through the path Jenny took, not through the path that every single liberal at that time took. I’m sorry, but it makes the most sense that a troubled, abused woman in that time period would join these movements. How would you have portrayed her as troubled? Have her be a normal, un-cynical member of society with a steady business job? No matter what changes the counter-cultural movements brought I don’t think it can be denied it attracted a lot of broken, confused people. I think wanting the liberals to be the heroes of the movie is wanting it to be a completely different film than it is, which is nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Forrest.
“Forrest Gump pretty hard to defend for me, not just for the thematic reasons given above, but also that it was just too gimicky and I found Tom Hanks’ reading performance very offputting, although most clearly disagree.”
I think it’s a film that a lot of people hate nowadays, but at the time everyone was raving. It’s kind of like Titanic in that regard, although Titanic has obviously stood the test of time more than F.G.
As for Being There, i think the difference between the two is obvious. Being There is not just about luck and conformity, it’s about the nature and power of perception. It’s about what we project onto others. Forrest Gump is somewhat about that, but it’s not at the core of the film. Chance is literally a blank slate. Forrest Gump, on the other hand, is not. He is a loveable simpleton with a clearly defined personality. People that listen to Forest know that he is a little slow, but they end up loving him anyway. Chance’s personality, on the other hand, is made up of the bits and pieces that he has absorbed around him, and he manages to convince people he knows what he is talking about by regurgitating these bits of pieces in a hilariously deadpan and solemn way.
Aren’t they both allegorical – allegory being a more encompassing metaphor.
I didn’t think so, but maybe. What gives you that impression?
Its not very subtle or “good taste”, but at least the times it takes place in are interesting. Even though the Vietnam veteran, the hippie and so on seem like stereotypes. It depends if you are okay with that or not I guess. Some people do not want films to be original or challenging. There are films that are a lot worse than this, believe me.
I read the book several years before the film and was surprised by how little of the broad humor made it in the movie. Spoiler: the death of Jenny really made me angry. Yes she made some poor life choices, but got herself together before AIDS would have been a genuine risk. The return of Captain Dan seemed contrived and unnecessary also. Finally Forest raising little Forest or whatever that kid’s name was is ridiculous! The writer had the two meet, but the kid went back to live with Jenny who by then could easily raise him better than one as mentally challenged as Forrest.
GASP! Jenny doesn’t die in the book??
And Rock, it’s not about the over the top negatively cliched presentation of liberals as much as it is Forrest taking away all of their accomplishments. He’s the one responsible for the good things they did in this twisted universe.
Dutch said, Obvious, shallow, vanilla, circle jerk of pop-history for the baby boomer generation is obvious.
I can understand this response—much more than I can the “promotion of stupidity and attack on liberals” reading. Btw, how often does Hollywood attackthe counter-cultural movement, and liberal ideas in general? My sense is that Hollywood films that deal with politics tend to do the opposite. Am I wrong about that?
Based on my memory, my feeling is that Jenny getting into the counter-cultural movement was primarily a contrivance for the film to do a cultural and historical review. Like Back to the Future the film seems to want to weave the characters and story into the past and make these clever and funny connections with the past. There’s a lot of moments like this in the film—e.g., FG meeting Nixon (or was it JFK?)(giving Zemeckis the opportunity to make the scene seem real), the Have-a-Nice-Day smiley face tie in and “shit happens” slogan, etc. Jenny getting into the counter-culture was a contrived way the film could cover that part of the 60s, imo.
As for the bad boyfriends and Jenny’s other misfortunes, I thought that primarily served the idea (trope?) of not seeing and appreciating the one who loves you when they’re right in front of you. Also, and more importantly, it fit with the theme I’ve been suggesting—namely, a critique on the things we value over things like kindness, love and loyalty. Jenny choose everything else but FG. Why does Jenny not choose FG from the beginning? Maybe she doesn’t love FG in that way (you can’t force yourself to be in love with someone, even if they’re a great person and friend), but you get the sense that Jenny doesn’t see FG in that way because he’s slow and not attractive; that she’s looking for something else, which is understandable. When she finally marries FG, she does so primarily because she realizes that his kindness and love are far more important than the deficiencies he has. That’s the message, to me, and it’s not really a conservative one or an attack on liberal politics (at least I’d like to think not).
I can understand a criticism of the way the film casually toys with and changes history, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it does it only to liberals. A big part of the film is that Forrest is somehow “responsible” for a lot of historical events. I don’t think it’s limited to solely liberal or conservative terms.
This does bring up another interesting question though, can we enjoy films that have different political ideologies than we do and should we be able to?
When I first saw this film back in 1994, and subsequently when I first wrote about it, I invented the term ’Pap-claptrappery" to define it, and I stand by that. I, like my apparent soul-brother DREW GREGORY, too, list this film as one I “just despise with all my being.”
On all counts, save possibly interesting visual effects, this film offends – socially, historically, politically. Its attempt at revisionist history is out-and-out disgusting, as has been more than exhaustively described here on this thread already. But even as a film it is contrived, cliche, hackneyed and, when you get down to it, as dull as its main character. But there’s danger in that dullness, and what the O.J. trial is to the further disintegration of American law, what Entertainment Tonight is to the morphing of entertainment into news, what Paris Hilton and the ‘celebriculture’ is to the ongoing discounting of whatever culture we have left … this film and its popularity is a landmark of those few more degrees we’ve allowed ourselves to slip and those next spoonfulls of ‘sugar’ we’ve come to swallow. Tell me you can’t draw a direct line from the embrace of this kind of crap straight into the passage of the Patriot Act, or DOMA, or waterboarding.
Stupid is as stupid does, indeed.
Forrest Gump caused waterboarding and homophobia?
Hahaha … yeah, let’s spread that, too, R&B.
Caused, no. Contributed to both (and more) becoming more palatable in a lot more circles that prior generations would have found comfortable? Yes.
But where do these elements appear the film? Even if the film is as hippie-hating as you say, how can you make these connections? I think the most extreme thing that you can really pull out of this movie is that it loves war (Which I strongly disagree with). But at least elements of war appear in the film so that’s not an entirely unrelated idea. But how can you say it led to these other things that don’t even appear in the film peripherally?
Christopher said, Caused, no. Contributed to both (and more) becoming more palatable in a lot more circles that prior generations would have found comfortable? Yes.
Wow….uh. I’m not trying to mock you, Christopher, but I’m genuinely surprised at this. I mean, if we were to list all the factors that contributed to making water-boarding and homophobia, would FG even come up?
R&B and JAZZ-
Well, first off, both of you seem to have missed the part of the sentence where I said, “the embrace of this kind of crap …, I did not say any of the very real existing conditions are actually in the film.
With that corrected, I stand by my point. I see this film, among a myriad of other factors, not only films, as a glaring benchmark of how far we’ve drifted socially, and more and/or back towards a sedated drone culture. Just entertain us and show us pretty, brightly-wrapped things, and we won’t complain. They Live didn’t spread the ‘conform’ and ‘obey’ message as well as Gump, which was perhaps the prettiest-wrapped thing in all of 1994.
A few people have mentioned Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption from that same year, and both being bested by our film in question. 1994 really had a lot of good titles – Burton’s Ed Wood, Benson’s Nobody’s Fool, Zhang’s To Live, The Lion King, etc., and an argument can easily be made for either Pulp or Shawshank to have “deserved” to be named the best film of that year.
There is another film from that year, one I consider to be as much a masterpiece as the other two, which was also nominated in the best-of-the-year lists. Sadly, it is not even 20 full years since, and this film is quickly being relegated to the back of a lot of the collective memory, and I see that as insult added to injury because it is, if anything, the antithesis of Gump – Robert Redford’s Quiz Show. This is a very smart film about smartness and smart people, and how comfort and luxury can undermine strength and integrity and cause values (and values systems) to be thrown right out the window. Forest Gump, valueless already, makes simple sport of what that other, better film is lamenting. How ironic they should be in the same year. How sadly predictable the lesser, easier title prevails.
Redford’s film is an exploration and display of the beginning of America’s release of its values moorings via a visual medium; Gump is the result.
You couldn’t pay me to see Gump, I hated that popular “life is like a box of chocolates” line. Puke city.
Hear, hear, Chris.
How does the embrace of this film draw a direct line to torture? I’m sorry, but this just seems like such an absurd conspiracy theory to me. I’m willing to accept an answer, but I don’t you can make such an extremely radical statement and leave it at that without anything to back it up. I think (or maybe just hope) that even the people that described the film as “conservative propaganda” wouldn’t go so far as to say it can be linked to torture.
For those who don’t understand why GUMP is labeled as a conservative film, one only has to look at conservatives of the time period who called it that. Note the article below, for instance:
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Posted on Thu, Dec. 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — During his rhetorical bomb-throwing days in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich once dissected the seemingly innocent movie “Forrest Gump” and turned it into a scathing critique of President Bill Clinton, Democrats and liberals.
I lived through the 1960s-1970s and was involved with the peace movement, civil rights, feminism, etc. and Gingrich is right about the depiction of the counterculture in the film. Those were NOT the people I associated with.
I could say a lot more but I’ll hold my fire until I see some replies…
Positive interpretations hold the same amount of weight as negative ones. Just because a conservative agrees doesn’t make it so.
Conservative Bob Dole once said that Forrest Gump upheld “traditional family values”. In a film where the loving mother of our hero sleeps with the principal of a school just to get her son in and the hero has a baby out of wedlock? I don’t think so.