April 17, 2011

Gone With the Wind (1939)

Let me preface this review by saying that the movie wasn't as bad as I remembered it being.  Don't get me wrong - I still didn't like it - but this time I dislike it for different reasons than I used to.  This is interesting to me, because ordinarily if I don't like a movie I simply never watch it again.  So this is quite possibly the first time I've ever rewatched a movie I didn't like, and therefore I am a bit surprised at what I took away from it.

I was going to write about the connection I saw between this movie and the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer, but after writing a few paragraphs and only beginning to scrape the surface of what I wanted to talk about I decided to save that for another time or else this particular "review" would be ridiculously long.  But I may still write it at some point in the future when I have more time on my hands because the parallels were compelling (at least they were to me.)

So disregarding that, I'm not too sure how to format this review.  Unlike "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" I can't summarize the whole film with commentary because at nearly four hours long that too would become too long and I simply don't want to devote that much time to this particular review.  But what then do I talk about?  I suppose for fairness' sake I should mention the positives first.  The filmography was pretty amazing.  From the expansive sets to the intricate costumes to some of the camera shots, the movie was very pretty to look at.  The filmmakers effectively created the world of the Old South, both pre-war and post.  Post war looked appropriately apocalyptic, which for these people I'm sure is an accurate viewpoint.  The music was similarly effective (good job, Max Steiner.)

But that's about it.  :(  The movie was way too long, and meandered a bit too much.  Some plot lines seem to have been forgotten, and the last quarter of the movie almost feels like another movie altogether.  The acting was very melodramatic (which may have been intentional, but by modern standards it comes off as comical and overdone so I have a hard time crediting it as "good" acting.)  The character development was only so-so as well.  Each character seemed more like a caricature than a character.  Scarlett is selfish and spoiled with no real depth or softer side to balance her out.  Melanie is good, decent, and kind to a fault - again there is no balance.  NOBODY is that good all the time.  It lacked credibility.  Rhett is an arrogant, abusive ass, and Ashley is a pathetic, spineless goober.  All the main characters could have used rounding out, though I suppose the most rounded is Rhett since I actually liked him in the beginning and only came to despise him after his marriage to Scarlett when his abusive and controlling side came out to play.  I don't care what people in the 1860s thought - controlling men who call all the shots and rape their wives ARE NOT ROMANTIC AND SHOULD NOT BE IDEALIZED.  Rhett lost all traces of my respect and affection when he started treating Scarlett like his own personal possession, and I didn't even like Scarlett.  Selfish and spoiled as she is, she's still a human being and shouldn't be treated that way.

However, what makes it worse is Scarlett's reaction to the whole thing.  We see Rhett, slobbering drunk, physically sling her over his shoulder and cart her upstairs to have his way with her, but instead of resisting or fighting back, we just cut to the next morning where she's propped up in bed all glowy and happy and singing with joy. She was just RAPED by her drunk husband, and she's HAPPY about it?!  I wanted to do this to her:

Way to spread a sexist agenda, Margaret Mitchell.  You should be ashamed.

I was more infuriated with the anti-woman messages in this film than the racist stuff, which is one of the things that surprised me because I remember hating this film for the racist portrayals of black people.  This time I was more focused on the sexist messages. I think people nowadays expect the anti-black message and hopefully know to ignore is as a relic of a time past.  But the anti-woman message is clearly not ignored as a relic of a less civilized time, because it is still being sent to children of today. That's what really bothers me.

People today know how horrible slavery was and nobody I know tries to justify it or say that we should bring it back.  But plenty of people still admire male force in relationships and think that women need to be completely controlled by their men.  This is the main brunt of my comparison with Twilight - Edward is painted out to be this heroic, wonderfully loving, protective, perfect man (just like Rhett) but in reality he's the type of man who physically drags Bella around when she tries to walk somewhere on her own, forbids her from seeing a friend he disapproves of, and even removes the engine from her car just so she can't go see said friend.  He withholds physical intimacy and bullies her into marrying him against her will. When they finally do sleep together, he can't control his strength and ends up covering Bella in bruises, which she lovingly refers to as "decorations".  This is scary, scary, stuff still being fed to young girls.  Here we are in 2011 and little girls are STILL being taught that rape and abuse equals love and protection.

In the case of Gone With the Wind, I'm trying my best to keep it in historical context because I know that in the 1860s that was considered appropriate and ideal behavior.  But it's not now, and I'm just afraid that people who love this movie don't see how scary and dangerous the relationship between Rhett and Scarlett is.  It may be historically accurate, but it is not romantic and it is not something to be idealized or emulated.

Since that's my biggest issue with the movie, I'm actually going to end my review here.  Nothing positive will come of me continuing to rant; I'm just upsetting myself.  :(

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the movie is entirely unaware of how scary and dangerous their relationship is. It's passionate in the true sense of the word: full of extreme emotion, but not necessarily positive emotion. Though there would have been some romantic allure to it at the time, it's not idealized either. Rhett and Scarlett clearly have a dysfunctional relationship by any standards, which inevitably ends in ruins. I think they would have wound up together if the story meant to paint them as "ideal." Instead, I think they are meant to be cast as the romantic version of jumping from a plane without a chute: intense, thrilling, even glamorous in a certain way at moments... but ultimately foolish and tragic. We aren't mean to be like them - just to watch.