Exploring Gump and the Popular Movie

With Halloween well on its way (out now actually), I had, of course, intended to write about a horror movie. From my title though, I obviously didn’t push though with this lofty proposition. I’m afraid the prospect of watching The Shining over and over (and I do promise I tried) scouring for sinister semiotics was just too much for this rather wimpy little writer. And so I chose for this week the antithesis of scary: Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. (Although I suppose the number of apparent clichés packed into 142 minutes some people may deem frightening.)

Now I do believe that the majority of the movie-going public do like Forrest Gump. Yet, the bunch who do not are terribly vocal, and apparently seriously offended. Since I have a little time on my hands after scrapping that horror post, I thought I would look into exactly why.

For one thing, I suppose, the entire affair is quite blatantly gimmicky. CGI was a relatively uncharted and rather spectacular realm at the time. Here it is very well employed; even today you can’t quite get over the fact that Lieutenant Dan really does seem to have lost his legs. Impressive also is the way Mr Gump is plonked into various hallmarks of American history of the 20th century, shaking hands with a couple of Presidents along the way. Perhaps this in itself trivialises everything one ought (or really should not) feel proud of.

forrest in war

However, the sweet patriotism and sheer knee-slapping nostalgia that this quick little flight invokes is effective. I guess if ever there was a perfect time to push out a reflective little thing about a memorable century, it would be right near the end of it. As for the significant events in history that are chosen to punctuate the life of Gump, they too are quite expertly selected. Teaching a little Elvis Presley to dance, investing in the mysterious ‘fruit company’, all of these things are now recognised staples of pop culture. (Note particularly pop… as in popular.)

Perhaps this is the root of what bugs many to no end about Forrest Gump. Undoubtedly it is expertly crafted; only the best talent employed… but for what really? A feel-good, ironclad safey of a movie that caters to pretty much everyone under the sun. In other words: crass commercialism in the prettiest package you ever saw.

Here’s the thing though: it really isn’t.

It is undeniable that the backdrop of the film does indeed have a wide appeal, and it is also undeniable that it is a story steeped in a hefty load of sweet sentiment; but these facts frankly are only secondary. The heart of Forrest Gump is undoubtedly the titular hero himself, who stands out spectacularly in relief from one of the most thrilling centuries the world has ever known. This one single man, a fictional fellow and a rather surprising one at that, is something quite beyond our imaginations, probably because one has not and probably will never come across a character quite like Gump.

From Forrest Gump, a simple southern gentleman with a low IQ, we can actually learn very much. He possesses a gentle dignity and determination,an extraordinary strength of character that steers him safely through the rough seas of life. Forrest is confronted many a time with tragedy, but alleviates it with characterstic warmth and always with an astute understanding of the individuals around him. He epitomises actually the very essence of our own fantasies; our own convictions and ideals, and satisfies our inherent urge to be quietly extra-ordinary. Forrest is, in essence, all one really could hope for in a cinematic hero.

I thought I would leave you with the thought of the  fluttering feather, not only a truly fitting symbol for Gump and the life he has led, but an insight also into the power of the image.  The scope of comparison between the feather and Mr Forrest Gump himself is enormous. The two share countless endearing qualities; purity, strength and beauty are only some that come quickly to mind.  However, one must not forget either that a feather aids a bird in flight, just as Forrest Gump has always offered both practical assistance and generosity of spirit to all those he has encountered.

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21 Comments

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  1. Rachel T, Forrest Gump is my favorite movie of all time, I saw a sneak preview in San Manto, CA then opening weekend I took my wife to see it In Alexandria, VA, and then saw it the following weekend with our best friends. I have the DVD, and watch it at least once a year. But for all my love of the movie, I can’t tell you why it is so important to me. But today I read this post, and you summed it up for me, I don’t have to struggle to find the words you did. Thank you, Bill.

    You also decided to follow my blog “DealingwithCOPD,” I appreciate your interest and your decision. But I would like to impose upon you and ask why. What drew you to my blog and what did I say to get you to follow. Thank you for your time. Again take care

    1. Hi Bill,

      I’m so glad to hear that I’ve been able to help you in this small way. I think it’s often difficult to pin down exactly why we love the movies that we love —in many of my posts, I essentially try to answer this question. So reading your lovely comment has really just made my day!

      It was actually through your fantastic “Movies with Allison” post that I found your blog. You have a sparkling sense of humour, and I look forward to many more of these charming stories.
      As I read more of your story and your struggle against COPD, I was just so struck by your positivity and wonderfully inspiring message.

      Stay strong
      —Rachel

      1. Rachel, I want to take a moment and thank you for your return response. Movies have been an important part of my life as long as I can remember. The 1st movie I remember seeing was Old Yeller, when I lived in Easton Maryland as a child. To this day movies are still important, and it is a tradition that my daughter has taken to her own family. Also I am glad you enjoy me sharing stories about myself and family. Because of the COPD, these stories will be the foundation of my granddaughter really knowing me, these stories will allow me to be part of her life long after I am gone. And probably most importantly my granddaughter will be able to say that “Grandpa says you were the way when you were my age.” Makes me smile even now. Again thank you, and again I hope my stories give you many many reasons to smile. Take care, Bill

    1. I’d certainly love to collab with you guys some time!
      Also wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your recent list of “10 Things In Films That Every Bloke Wants” immensely . Although I am not, in fact, a bloke, I would pretty much leap at the chance of owning any item on that list —and the idea of a trail of oompa-loompas supporting your every point is indeed awesome :)

  2. Alas I am one of those frightful people who Forrest Gump did not resonate with. Not that I don’t understand what people love about it and appreciate that fact. (You summed it up really well.) In fact, I would probably be a fan except for Tom Hanks. I’ve always struggled to see his characters as real people and not as well, Tom Hanks. It’s only lately, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks that I’ve finally started to see him as his character and not as Tom Hanks. Several times I quite felt like he was Walt Disney. Cheers.

    1. I do understand what you mean about Hanks. There are some actors that are so distinctive in the way they walk and talk, and I think Hanks is certainly one of them. Also, growing up with the “Toy Story” movies, every time I hear his voice I cannot help but hear Sheriff Woody :)

    1. Thank you very much for your kind comments! I am so happy to hear that my writing inspires you to write more often. Good luck with your new blog —I look forward to hearing more from you :)

  3. Very nice article! Thanks so much for following my own blog; I deeply appreciate it! =)

    A minor typo–“an simple southern gentleman”–should be corrected to say “a simple southern gentleman,” but other than that, this was an excellent post about a movie that simply isn’t really my cup of tea, even if the film is made well. Take care! =)

    1. Thank you very much —I totally missed that :) And thanks also for dropping by and following along; I’ll certainly be visiting “Projected Realities” from time to time!

  4. Hey Rachel, I am one of the avid admirers of this movie… right from the story itself, to acting to the way it is presented to various small moments of humour. The thing that striked the most to me as well is the comparision of Hanks’ character to a feather… i mean super way of story-telling. What was irritating in the movie, if at all anything, was the character ‘Jenny’ played by Robin Wright… she is shown a very mean and selfish person … when the world throws her in the trash she goes to Gump! Sad!
    But otherwise, very well summmed it up in your article up there…….

    1. Hello Nemish :) Yes, I think many of my friends had the same problem with Jenny. Personally though, I always thought of her as a rather sympathetic character. God knows she led a very troubled life, but never does she take advantage of Forrest’s love. It is only when she is dying that she goes back to Forrest in the hope that he would take care of their son when she is gone. It is because she is faced with no other choice that Jenny ultimately realises where she belongs and goes home. That is what I find sad —that it took her a lifetime to realise this.

  5. Nice reading about you

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Be in touch. Browse through the category sections, I feel you may find something of your interest.

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