Robert Zemeckis’ FORREST GUMP and American Culture and Memory


I am constantly finding new allusions to the American Realia of Experience from Forrest Gump, for example, the phrase Run, Forrest, Run might allude to Patti Wilson of Run, Patti, Run fame.The entire running episode of handicapped Forrest might also allude to American heroes, like Glenn Cunningham.

Each year the Library of Congress adds 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant films to the National Film Registry. 2011’s selections include four silent films, five documentaries, and such popular features as Forrest Gump.

Robert Zemeckis’ FORREST GUMP and American Culture and Memory

By Kevin A. Stoda

Learning the history of the United States from the 1950s to the present helps students see how trends in various social movements, many of which began in the in the USA, have been affecting the globe in radical ways since before these were born. The social issues or individual concerns discussed in the movie, Forrest Gump, make the movie a good source for introducing culture in a motivating way. Although the issues are in some ways universal, the special American nature of many of the staged settings of the film Forrest Gump help Non-American students understand an even wider range of American feature films in which many similar issues arise. This is important because American cinema has been dominating world cinema in recent decades leading up to this new millennium.

In the movie Forrest Gump, the following events and social movements are looked at in a comical–but sensitive way: The types of movements referred to include (a) student & youth movements, (b) movements for peace or for revolution, (c) movements for women’s rights or for rights of handicapped peoples, as well as (d) civil rights for blacks and for other minority peoples of America. Similar struggles have existed or are continuing to take place in all corners of the globe. Therefore, a focus on these movements as portrayed in this particular American film, Forrest Gump by the Director Robert Zemeckis, can be useful for students, enabling them to learn currently internationally recognized metaphors of life in this post-modern world. Particularly in this film, there are metaphors on life concerning “chocolate”, “birds”, “butterflies” and ‘feathers’. In addition, students slowly acquire the vocabulary and the idioms required to compare or contrast those social movements in America with other movements in many other nations and regions around the world.

GUMP AND HISTORY

Les Williams’ web site[1] shows the following pictures of Forrest meeting two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in the film. Forrest also meets Lyndon Baines Johnson. All three of these presidents suffered rather tragic endings to their presidencies. Kennedy was shot. Lyndon Johnson was forced to not run a second time for president in 1968 after the Vietnam War was called into question by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy—two men who also faced tragic deaths by assassination in 1968—and by a growing number of American citizens. Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign from office in 1968. In short, although Americans are often laughing along with the story of Forrest, the laughter is covering up a lot of historically painful memories.

Other famous people that the mythical Forrest Gumps meet in the film include: Elvis Presley, George Wallace, John Lennon, and Abbey Hoffman. He supposedly teaches Elvis to dance. He helps the new black students at the University of Alabam–even as the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, opposed these student’s entrance in that university in the early 1960s. Gump sits next to John Lennon on a famous talk show, whereby Forrest’s own sharing of his ping pong experience in China supposedly inspires Lennon to write the song “Imagine”. Forrest also meets the leaders of the Black Panthers, the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), Veterans Against the War, and the radical Abbey Hoffman[2] at the Lincoln Memorial, the exact location where Martin Luther King, Jr. had given his I Have a Dream speech a few years earlier.

In 1972, while running for office, George Wallace is shot by a would-be assassin. Lennon is assassinated by an insane admirer some years later in 1980. Abbey Hoffman is forced to go underground for the better part of two decades.

Meanwhile Forrest is part of the secret “ping-pong diplomatic negotiations” between the USA and China in the early 1970s. These negotiations are part of modern China’s history; in contrast, most Americans do not recall “ping pong diplomacy” in their studies of Modern U.S. history. The opening of modern US-China relations dates to these original secret meetings, which took place under the guise of the U.S. national table tennis team’s historic visit to China. These and subsequent negotiations in the early 1970s are identified with the Cold Warrior, Nixon’s, new positive stand towards the former Cold-War Communist enemy. This opening was part of Nixon’s strategy of seeking aid and influence from China in putting pressure on North Vietnam—and thus helping to end the 20-year old involvement by the U.S. military in Vietnam.

Moreover, Forrest’s influence on the King of Rock ‘n Roll and John Lennon were not his only means of influencing modern American pop culture. The mythical Forrest also supposedly influenced American pop culture in other ways. Forrest, the idiot savant, is said to have inspired Americans’ interest in t-shirts with yellow “smiley faces” on them and he helped bumper stickers which stated popular phrases, such “shit happens”. Finally, the mythical Forrest leads the nation into a jogging, running, and health craze in the late 1970s with three cross-country jaunts—as Forrest becomes inward oriented, like the rest of the nation in those post-War years.

MOVEMENTS AND TRENDS

In addition to being part of the aforementioned modern American health movement in the 1970s and influencing cultural icons like Elvis, Forrest often runs into leaders of the peace and civil rights movements. Even metaphorically, through Zemeckis allusions, Forrest can be often associated with different civil rights movements. For example, as a little boy in Greenbo, Alabama, only one little girl, Jennie, offers him a seat on a bus when no one else will. Similarly, in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama one black American, named Rosa Parks, demanded and eventually received a rightful seat on the bus. Later, Forrest gets on a bus with other new recruits when he joins the military. Many Americans on the bus do not offer him a seat. However, his soon-to-be new friend, Bubba, a black man[3]–with an even lower IQ than Forrest, offers him a seat. In short, both Jenny and later Bubba, invite Forrest to take his rightful seat alongside other Americans on two different buses in two unforgettable scenes from the movie.

Forrest is born doubly handicapped. He is born with a crooked vertebrae (“As crooked as a politician”, according to his doctor.) which needs to be repaired through the application of braces on his legs for several years. Forrest, at a young age, is also measured as having an IQ of about 75. At first, he is not allowed to continue in regular public schools in the 1950s because of laws requiring segregation between disabled and non-disabled students, which were in effect at that time. Through the help of his mother, Forrest overcomes both these disabilities in the film–as do other disabled individuals in America through the efforts of the leaders of various civil rights groups in formerly segregated America. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are important events in this historical period; however, these laws and the disabled equal rights acts of the early 1970s and later years are not specifically touched upon in the film as was the issue of desegregation. Nonetheless, throughout the film, Forrest and later Lt. Dan, are metaphors for this changing attitudes towards minorities and the handicapped.

Meanwhile both Momma and Jenny provide metaphors for other aspects of Americana in the Post WWII era. Jennie also becomes involved in a lot of movements, including negative ones such as the drug movement or the “tune-off, tune out, and turn on” ones. As a young college student, she gets interested in becoming a folk singer. However, before she can make her dream a reality, Jenny gets kicked out of school for posing for a photo with Playboy magazine wearing her women’s university sports teams’ jacket.

After Forrest rescues her from singing Dylan’s anti-war song, “Blowing in the Wind” in a strip tease joint, Jennie runs off to California and later becomes involved in the peace movement. She also is involved with activists in the more radical groups of that era, such as the SDS and the Black Panthers. This all occurs in a decade of the 1960s as the pill and the various social forces revolutionize the living space of women–and empowers women to be more active politically. Nonetheless, until some women broke away from the main male-dominated groups of civil rights-, political-, and student activism and formed their own programs under their own leadership, the role of women in many of the mass movements was watered down. Even as the women’s movement becomes stronger, this male versus female metaphor is alluded to in the many bad relations Jennie had with male figures and leaders she dealt with throughout the film. For example, in Washington D.C. at a Black Panther party meeting with Jenny, Forrest once again finds himself trying to rescue Jenny—this time from her abusive SDS boyfriend from Berkeley. Meanwhile, in America by the mid- to late-1960s, some women have clearly begun breaking-off from their male counterparts and have begun forming their own empowerment organizations.

In summary, in the 1970s disabled Americans receive some of the same desegregationist privileges won the decade earlier by other minorities in the U.S. In turn, only in the late 1960s and 1970s do females and many other formerly discriminated groups begin to receive equal access to sports- and other public education funding which begins to enable many to overcome years of oppression.

METAPHOR: GUMP AND DEBATES ABOUT HISTORY IN AMERICA

Regardless of the country where certain events have taken place, there have always been debates about historical events and how such events should be understood and talked about by subsequent generations. Oliver Stone has been the one Hollywood director who has most-single-handedly opened the debate concerning the “American memories”, which are alluded to or depicted in the Zemeckis’ 1994 film Forrest Gump. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Oliver Stone brought out a series of films on memories of the 1960s and 1970s. He started with Platoon, and over the next decade came Born on The Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, The Doors, JFK, and Nixon.

All of these aforementioned Oliver Stone films had subject matter that is represented visually (as well as through sound) in Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. In this light Forrest Gump, the film, serves as a Hollywood dialogue or response to the critical narration of Oliver Stone’s to the events of the 1960s and 1970s. The events referred to by Oliver Stone have continued to influence American politics along with pop and world culture in the subsequent decades.

Like the hyperbolic butterfly effect, the white feather which floats down on Forrest Gump at one Savanna, Georgia city bus stop in the beginning frames of Zemeckis film, the events of the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s, decades later have an spiraling effect on how Americans conduct foreign policy, homeland security, legislation, educated their children or raise their families. Robert Zemeckis, who produced the three Back to the Future Films, in turn, has seemed to be fascinated with the relationship between the present, past, and future in his films. He is also focused specifically focused on how one individual can make a difference. “How does one change history or how can one single person in the past affect our present significantly?” is what he often seems to be asking throughout Forrest Gump and in his Back to the Future comedies.

On the other hand, we are all somewhat like feathers floating on the winds of history—just Jennie and Forrest both seem to live their lives like feathers in the breeze, often bouncing from one event to another set of events with luck—both good and bad—as their only guide. On the other hand, both Forrest’s mother and Lt. Dan (His lieutenant in the military in Vietnam and later his friend and business partner) seem to believe strongly that God or Destiny has a plan for everyone. However, on his mother’s death bed, when Forrest asks her what her destiny is, “Momma” indicates that it is up to him to find it, himself.

The tone of Robert Zemeckis’ narration of America of the late-1940s through the early 1980s and Reagan’s presidency is lighthearted. Meanwhile, though, very serious subject matter is just underneath the layers of fun and the layers of memories drifting past the audience at relatively high speed. In contrast to Stone, Zemeckis has chosen to rewrite these four decades of history in a very positive–and yet very traditional or conservative tone. In contrast, Stone’s cinematic and hard-hitting narrations, which are based on both fact and fiction, are often somber and lift up the dark side of American history and memory. Stone can thus be seen as the keeper of memories. These are often memories that many Americans no longer want themselves (or their children) to recalls. Some more reactionary critiques even charge that Stones works are almost totally fictional–and not related to reality much at all. On the other hand, Zemeckis’ America in Forrest Gump is more palatable to Americans, especially to conservative Americans who like their history to be viewed less critically and more blatantly patriotically.

In contrast to Oliver Stone, Zemeckis narration is not supposed to be confused much at all to reality and is to be seen as an American as apple pie. Nonetheless, Zemeckis so often makes allusions to Stone’s movies that one cannot help seeing that a debate is being carried out between Forrest Gump and many other Hollywood and independently produced films of the past 25 years. For example, through auditory devices, like in the choosing to play four songs by the music of “The Doors” during the Vietnam sequences, Zemeckis recalls for the viewer or listener Jim Morrison’s band as portrayed in Stone’s film, The Doors. Other visual imagery in Vietnam plays on scenes from stones Platoon[4], Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth. The fictional Lt. Dan appears to be especially quite similar in character to several of those, including Ron Kovic a real figure, portrayed in Stone’s film Born on the Fourth of July and played by Tom Cruise.

Conversely, throughout Zemeckis film, Forrest meets all sort of people who meet tragic ends. Despite this cknowledgement to tragedy in America’s story, in the end the fictional (both Winston Groom’s and Zemeckis’) Forrest Gump has a very upbeat view of history. This is true, even after Forrest’s wife of the 1980s, Jennie has died of AIDs. Meanwhile, Stone’s heroes seldom are portrayed as having positive endings to their lives. Jim Morrison dies, Nixon resigns, and JFK’s Lloyd Garrison loses his big court case and his family. All of the main protagonists in Platoon either die or go home quite sullen and jaded from their Vietnam experiences. Finally, the main character in Heaven and Earth, Le Ly Hayslip, watches as her ex-husband, a former special operations leader in Vietnam, commits suicide after being unable to reintegrate into post-VietnamWar America with his new family.

On the other hand, Hayslip, a Vietnamese women who has resettled in America after the war, remains a strong and positive character resolved to make a better life. Similarly, Ron Kovik seems to be an exception to the other tragic narrations of Stones. This is especially easy to note in that Kovic, played by Cruise, states at the end of the film that he is finally feeling more welcome at home in post-Vietnam War America.

The main point to remember from this comparison of Zemeckis and Stone’s approach to American memory is that Stones portrayals are more often based on true tales of Americans lives and experiences; whereas, Forrest Gump seems to be simply a vehicle—albeit an important literary device or a metaphor–for an America. This is especially so in the post-Civil Rights South of Alabama. This is a South that was in the midst of growing up or coming of age in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s—as it finally shed its Jim Crow and hidebound peculiar traditions, which had kept it separate culturally from most of the rest of the nation.

Zemeckis’ Forrest is unapologetic about the American experience while Stone’s narrations reveal deep wounds. For Forrest, the world is an exciting and fascinating adventure. His mother described this sort of positive world view, by using the metaphor: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what’s inside until you bight into it.” This is a gung-ho or “go-get ‘em” approach based on certain American paradigms or Americanisms. Such a world-view supports a search for the American Dream by and for all. On the other hand, Stone’s pictures are not as anti-septic and reveal the real deeper darknesses and dirtiness (along with occasional glimpses of joy and sunshine) that make up and lurk between and among the American experiences.

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[1] See Les William’s site at http://members.cox.net/gumpisms/gumptop.html

[2] Hoffman is wearing his famous red, white and blue shirt, at a peace demonstration in Washington, D.C.

[3] In contrast, in the book, Forrest Gump by Winston Groom, on which the film’s story is based, Bubba is not black and Forrest remains somewhat consistently racist—a la poor white trash—throughout the narration.

[4] At least one scene from Vietnam seems to allude to Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now.

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About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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42 Responses to Robert Zemeckis’ FORREST GUMP and American Culture and Memory

  1. eslkevin says:

    100 Years…100 Cheers: America’s Most Inspiring Movies is a list of the most inspiring films as determined by the American Film Institute. It is part of the AFI 100 Years… series, which has been compiling lists of the greatest films of all time in various categories since 1998. It was unveiled on a three-hour prime time special on CBS television on June 14, 2006.

    The announcement of the series was made on November 16, 2005, and a ballot of 300 films was released to a jury of over 1,500 cinematography leaders.

    FORREST GUMP IS #37

  2. eslkevin says:

    The first of the AFI 100 Years… series of cinematic milestones, AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies is a list of the 100 best American movies, as determined by the American Film Institute from a poll of more than 1,500 artists and leaders in the film industry who chose from a list of 400 nominated movies. The 100-best list was unveiled in 1998.

    It was released in video in two versions: a 145-minute version, which aired on CBS, and a 460-minute version, which aired as a 10-part series on TNT. It was hosted by Jodie Foster, Richard Gere, Sally Field and narrated by James Woods. However, the following note is found on the AFI website, “NOTE: Due to licensing restrictions, the telecasts of the AFI 100…100 Series are not available for distribution or purchase on DVD or VHS.” This apparent discrepancy may result from unclear use of the phrase “…released in video…”, implying that the performance may be available for public purchase. AFI seems to clearly indicate this is not possible.

    FORREST GUMP IS #71 on this list

    An updated version of the list, billed as a 10th Anniversary edition, aired on CBS on June 20, 2007, and was hosted by Morgan Freeman.

  3. eslkevin says:

    http://eslkevin.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/when-the-10-things-you-learned-in-kindergarten-are-not-enough/

    This is a complimentary story on teaching culture overseas and should be seen in context of what Americans are taught by popular culture about national history and values.

  4. eslkevin says:

    We’ve been waiting for a sequel for 5 more years since the article came out

    http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Forrest-Gump-Gets-A-Sequel-4626.html

  5. eslkevin says:

    http://eslkevin.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/mother-nature-in-all-her-glory/

    I’d like to write another Forrest Gump movie and see it encase nature in all its glory as well as the wars in iraq and Afghanistan.

  6. eslkevin says:

    Blockbusting history: Forrest Gump as a powerful medium of American cultural memory

    Sabine Moller

    Article first published online: 18 JAN 2012

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2451.2011.01794.x

    © UNESCO 2012

    Her review is very good, too: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2451.2011.01794.x/full

  7. eslkevin says:

    National Crisis, Subversive Stupidity, and the Disintegration of Cultural Memory in Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump

    Martin, Charles. “National Crisis, Subversive Stupidity, and the Disintegration of Cultural Memory in Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, San Antonio, TX, . 2013-05-03

    Abstract: The humor in Robert Zemeckis’s 1994 film Forrest Gump generates primarily from the comical intrusion of the film’s title character, a man of self-confessed limited intelligence and understanding, into moments of national crisis in recent American political and cultural history: in particular, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the protests that opposed that war. The core of the extended joke is a special visual effect which involves archival footage doctored to include the image of the rural simpleton innocently misconstruing the crisis around him. Gump witnesses Governor Wallace make his stand against the integration of the University of Alabama; he attends the March on Washington; he shakes the hands of President Kennedy before blandly narrating his death. The laughter generates from his simple stupidity: his lack of understanding of these crises and his resulting inappropriate response generated by his incomprehension. We also laugh at the dissonance his presence creates and the anarchic assault on history his stupidity perpetrates.

    To this point, scholars and critics have necessarily and appropriately focused upon the obvious violence the film in general and its visual effects in particular perform on political and cultural consciousness by reconstructing memory to condemn liberal politics. I will move the discussion beyond the political implications of the film and concentrate instead on the function the figure of the idiot in American humor and the figure’s implementation here to recalculate and frustrate the idea of historical record. History, of course, is a system of knowledge. The iconic documentary footage Forrest Gump employs has served as a visual mnemonic, a cinematic shorthand for our cultural understanding of the social change that marked the sixties. On the other hand, stupidity, its implications of incomprehension and intellectual impotence represents knowledge’s empty and troubling opposite. The presence of a figure that represents an absence of knowledge and volition in a historical record, such as archived film, not only alters the recorded memory of the event, it establishes limitations on knowledge and memory, throwing into question the capacity to know history or to be sure of memory at all.

    Although my paper will particularly concern the special visual effects in Forrest Gump, I will also consider Gump’s cinema ancestors, particularly the montage of staged and archived footage that opens Hal Roach’s Blockheads, in which World War I soldier Stan Laurel follows orders and guards the same trench for twenty years after armistice. In this antecedent and others, the visual dissonance of the idiot in the moment of historical crisis leaves the audiences in proverbial stitches and memory in disrepair.

    from: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/4/1/7/8/6/p417865_index.html

  8. eslkevin says:

    http://tylero29.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/forrest-gump-an-analysis/

    Forrest Gump: An Analysis

    Forrest Gump follows a southern gentleman through his life of heroism, happiness, and loss. Beginning with the main character, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), sitting on a bench at a bus stop, nothing seems to become clear to the audience. It is not until Forrest begins to speak to strangers while he is on the bench, do things come more into perspective for the viewers. The film begins with Forrest telling his life story to one person and throughout the movie, as buses arrive and depart, Forrest cycles through about four strangers to whom he tells his story – and all of this began with one box of chocolates. Despite his IQ of 75, Forrest just appeared to be a social person to those who listened to his story. Throughout the movie, Forrest is able to tell these strangers about his time at the University of Alabama in which he played football, his time in the military and, ultimately in the Vietnam War, and his time as a shrimping company CEO. This film, as it takes its viewers through the modern history of the United States, touches on such subjects as race relations between blacks and whites and southern culture. Although the movie did include race relations and a depiction of southern culture, it revolved mostly around the modern history of the United States; leaving the race relation and southern culture scenes to fill in the gaps of the story, although fairly accurately.

    Race relations in the story of Forrest Gump are quite subtle. Forrest is from the fictional town of Greenbow, Alabama. Taking place in the south, the movie focuses on such issues as desegregation, but depicts blacks in two different ways. There is the way that the movie portrayed blacks in today’s society, and the way that it portrayed the race in history. The first person that Forrest talks to is a black nurse. She is depicted as any regular person, no matter what race. Her reactions to a stranger talking to her as she tries to read a magazine on a bus stop bench are justified and would be seen with any person. However, it is at the time of 1994 that blacks are not depicted any differently from any other race – as is the accurate portrayal of society in 1994. However, this changes as Forrest tells his life story and the viewers are taken back in time.

    I noticed that on Forrest’s first day of school, there were no black children on the bus. Other than being an accurate portrayal (as this was taking place in the 1950s), it paved the way for the remainder of the movie. Race was not a huge subject in the movie, as the main character treated all races equally. The first involvement of race relations within the film, took place as Forrest was going to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1963. The film included the day that the University desegregated and allowed for two black students to enroll in summer classes. The film takes a comedic approach towards this historic event. Forrest sees a group of people that appeared to be protesting. He asks one of the group members what is happening and he replies by telling Forrest that “coons” (a derogatory name for the black population) are trying to get into the University. Forrest replies by asking if he meant raccoons and is met with the reply, “No, niggers!” To further emphasize Forrest’s relation to any and all races, Forrest notices one of the black students had dropped her book and he gladly returns it to her in front of the hostile, white, crowd.

    As this is one of the main scenes that touches on race relations, the film includes multiple aspects. According to the movie, even the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, tried to keep the black students from enrolling. As this is historically accurate, history goes on to tell us that the Alabama US National Guard had to be sent by President Kennedy to stop the Governor’s protest. The movie incorporates this battle of wills by including black and white film of the Governor speaking to the people of Alabama and referring to the United States as a military dictatorship.

    It was not until the film depicted the Black Panther movement, was race relation touched upon for a second time. In this scene, Forrest’s love interest from when he was a boy, Jenny, knew someone who was part of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a group that sympathized with the Black Panther movement. This person she knew was white and this element showed that whites did help blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. The scene consists mostly of a member of the Black Panthers yelling at Forrest, who is in his military uniform. The Black Panther member is explaining, but still yelling, to Forrest what the Black Panthers are all about. He informs Forrest of the injustice that blacks are going through such as the raping of black women by white men and the unjustified treatment that white society is giving towards the black race. The only reason that the Black Panthers allow Forrest into their meeting is because Forrest was unknowingly roped into speaking out against the Vietnam War and the Black Panthers sympathized with anyone who was against the war. Their conclusion was that they were against any sort of war in which black soldiers are sent to die. One of those black soldiers was Forrest’s best friend in the military, Bubba Blue.

    Other than those race depictions, the movie did not include many other depictions except for some subtle instances. When Forrest was introducing Bubba to the audience, he explained that Bubba’s mother works in someone else’s kitchen and cooks for them. This explanation was paired with a visual aid of seeing Bubba’s grandmother, and great grandmother entering the dining room of a rich wealthy family and serving them food. When Forrest goes to talk to Bubba’s mother, it is herself and her many children in an old house – perhaps what was once a house for the social elite, but had succumbed to aging and lack of attention. The only kind of race reversal happened when Forrest was able to give some of his shrimping money to Bubba’s mother and instead of herself cooking for others, the movie cuts away to her being served by a white woman. Another subtle, yet significant, depiction of the black race was a scene in which Forrest is a part of what appears to be either a Baptist or Pentecostal choir. The scene, although only lasting about half a minute, shows the church filled with all black people except for Forrest, swaying, singing, dancing, and clapping to a holy hymn. Not as significantly, however, it appeared that Forrest’s mother had black workers in her house, but only seemed to treat them as if they were white.

    Taking place in Alabama, Forrest Gump would have trouble existing without depicting the south. The southern culture is one of the first aspects of the movie that the audience is introduced to, is the southern culture. In Forrest Gump, the south is portrayed as accurately as anyone could have portrayed it. The stereotypical southern accents, the confederate flag license plates (seen on the truck that chases Forrest one day after high school), and the small community feel that the fictional place of Greenbow held. One of the first instances of the southern culture characterizing Forrest was the mention of his name. Forrest, at the beginning of his narrative, explains that he was named after the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, General Nathan Forrest. However, the fact that he says his mother named him that to remind him that we do things that make no sense, is contradictory to the southern culture and ideology.

    At this time, the south was changing racially, socially, and structurally, as stated by a review done by Kevin Stoda (http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/forrest-gump/user-reviews/Robert+Zemeckis%E2%80%99+FORREST+GUMP+and+American+Culture+and+Memory-NQDOUMOVVL4BNGMUNN2YV3OBNI.html). It seemed as it Forrest was oblivious to the change and so was the audience. Forrest did not need to go through any sort of maturation in order to see any part of his life from the same perspective as his neighbors. Even though the movie was filmed in South Carolina, it still had that Alabama feel to it. Forrest, throughout his life, lives in a plantation home that had been in his family’s possession for generations. This is a common occurrence in the south. Seeing plantation homes that have been in a family for multiple decades is nothing unusual. The plantation home that Forrest and his mother lived in was just the beginning of the stereotypical look of the south. All the roads in this small town in Alabama were dirt roads and it appeared as if there was no commercialized area for miles. Field dotted the land and, as is seen today, those fields were used for American football.

    Forrest’s interaction with American football was not a large portion of the movie, but as were most of the times in his life, it was very significant. Forrest went to the University of Alabama, an institution that has a very rich football history. He played for their football team and that essence of the importance of football came through the film. That southern football mentality found its way into the film – only to depict the south more and more accurately.

    It seemed that Forrest’s love interest, Jenny, was the stereotypical southern “white trash.” She was poor and grew up on a tobacco and corn farm. She lived in a run-down house and had a sexually abusive father who suffered from alcoholism. Her life seemed bleak and it only seemed become even bleaker, as she was taken from her abusive father to live with her grandmother. From that short cut-away of Jenny getting out of the police car and walking up to her grandmother’s trailer home, the southern stereotype of poor and uneducated inhabitants, reared its ugly head once again.

    In contrast to what one might believe, the element of religion was not a large factor in this movie. Other than Forrest being in the choir at the Baptist church, there was not much mention of religion. While they were children, however, Jenny and Forrest prayed to God to make Jenny a bird so that she could leave her abusive father. There was no real mention of religion from Forrest’s mother other than when she told him that if God wanted everyone to be the same, that they would look like Forrest. This is a surprising factor to omit, especially when southern culture is very embedded by religion. However, it is good to understand that it is not a large part of everyone in the south.

    It seemed that Forrest’s mother was the stereotypical southern lady. She appeared to be well educated and carried herself like a sophisticated woman. Wearing hats and dresses and taking care of Forrest as a single mother, Mrs. Gump did what she could to provide with Forrest. Since Forrest’s father was never in his life and was always on “vacation,” it was up to Mrs. Gump to provide. Instead of doing manual labor, she ran a business that was similar to a bread and breakfast. It seemed that at this time in modern history, it was quite orthodox for a woman to run an inn and take on the role of the caretaker of a plantation house.

    Forrest Gump, a personal favorite, had a couple of examples of race relations between blacks and whites and also included subtle hints of southern culture within its 2-hour duration. As stated previously, race relations and southern culture were not the focus of the film. Instead, the focus was on the modern history of the United States – some of which included race relations and southern culture, but not always. There are some critics and historians who bash this movie for inaccurate portrayals, but from the perspective of the southern depiction and black depiction, it was correct. For what the producers and director decided to include in the movie, the depictions were very accurate. Nonetheless, having been inducted into the Library of Congress Film Registry, Forrest Gump must have done something well.

  9. eslkevin says:

    http://eslkevin.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/many-people-including-the-pritchett-brothers-dont-watch-movies-carefully-example-of-forrest-gump/

    Of course, there are black-comedic elements in the creation of and releasing of–as well as in the treatment of cultural memory in Zemecki’s movie, FORREST GUMP. Forrest’s mother got the low-IQed Forrest into school by going to bed with the school’s principal. Forrest is on the porch while the lovemaking goes on and as the principal sneaks out the front door, the principal laud’s Forrest’s mom for her support of his education at all costs.

    Too many reviewers recall this and other black comedic episodes in FG. Likewise, Jenny (later the new Mrs. Gump) has to offer her body to get a chance to sing music in a show. Forrest revels at Jenny’s musical talents while the audience knows the truth. Many women have to prostitute themselves to become stars.–KAS

  10. eslkevin says:

    Democracy Now! returns to Chicago, site of the largest NATO summit in the organization’s six-decade history, where nearly 50 veterans discarded their war medals by hurling them down the street in the direction of the NATO summit. We hear the soldiers’ voices as they return their medals one by one from the stage. “I’m here to return my Global War on Terror Service Medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan,” said Jason Hurd, a former combat medic who spent 10 years in the U.S. Army. “I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe.” Scott Kimball, an Iraq war veteran, adds: “For all the servicemembers and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone!” Click here to see the other parts of the 2013 Memorial Day Special: 2, 3, 4, 5.

    AMY GOODMAN: Today we bring you a Memorial Day special, “Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars.” That was the demand of veterans who gathered in Chicago in May of 2012, just a year ago, at the site of the largest NATO summit in the organization’s six-decade history. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as women from Afghans for Peace, led a peace march of thousands to the summit gates. Iraq Veterans Against the War then held a ceremony where more than 40 veterans hurled their war medals toward the gates of the NATO summit.

    ASH WOOLSON: No NATO, no war!
    VETERANS: No NATO, no war!
    ASH WOOLSON: We don’t work for you no more!
    VETERANS: We don’t work for you no more!
    ASH WOOLSON: N-A-T-O!
    VETERANS: N-A-T-O!
    ASH WOOLSON: We don’t kill for you no more!
    VETERANS: We don’t kill for you no more!
    ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed. Listen to us, hear us, and think: was any of this worth it?
    CROWD: No!
    ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do these medals thank us for a job well done?
    CROWD: No!
    ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do they mask lies, corruption, and abuse of young men and women who swore to defend their country?
    CROWD: Yes!
    ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: We tear off this mask. Hear us.
    IRIS FELICIANO: My name is Iris Feliciano. I served in the Marine Corps. And in January of 2002, I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And I want to tell the folks behind us, in these enclosed walls, where they build more policies based on lies and fear, that we no longer stand for them. We no longer stand for their lies, their failed policies and these unjust wars. Bring our troops home and end the war now. They can have these back.
    PETE SULLIVAN: My name is Pete Sullivan. I served in the Army National Guard for 12 years. And all I have to say is that this is not something that I’m proud of.
    ERICA SLONE: My name is Erica Slone. I’m from Ohio. I served in the Air Force from 2002 to 2008. I’m an Iraq veteran. In the military is where I learned what integrity meant, and I believe I served with integrity. And at this point in my life, if I want to continue to live with integrity, I must get rid of these.
    GREG MILLER: My name is Greg Miller. I’m a veteran of the United States Army infantry with service in Iraq 2009. The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, servicemembers, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you. But that didn’t work on me, so I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my National Defense Medal, because they’re both lies.
    JERRY: My name is Jerry. I’m from New York City. I served in the Army from 2005 to 2009. I fought in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I, today, am giving back my Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, because I realized that after a while that it was just nothing but an idea made by a bunch of politicians, money-hungry politicians in Washington who will do nothing and have a complete disregard for human life and will do anything in their power to just make more money in the end. Now, if it’s just an idea, then therefore it was just an idea that sparked two wars that I had to fight in. And I don’t want any part of it anymore. And I choose human life over war, militarism and imperialism.
    SCOTT KIMBALL: My name is Scott Kimball. I’m an Iraq war vet. And I’m turning in these medals today for the people of Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the servicemembers and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone!
    CHRISTOPHER MAY: My name is Christopher May. I left the Army as a conscientious objector. We were told that these medals represented, you know, democracy and justice and hope and change for the world. These medals represent a failure on behalf of the leaders of NATO to accurately represent the will of their own people. It represents a failure on the leaders of NATO to do what’s right by the disenfranchised people of this world. Instead of helping them, they take advantage of them, and they’re making things worse. I will not be a part of that anymore. These medals don’t mean anything to me, and they can have them back.
    TY: Hello. My name is Ty, and thank you all for coming out. I’m letting go and releasing this medal because love is the most powerful force that we can employ as human beings on this planet, and we cannot love holding weapons.
    ASH WOOLSON: My name is Ash Woolson. I was a sergeant. I was in Iraq in ’03, and what I saw there crushed me. I don’t want us to suffer this again, and I don’t want our children to suffer this again, and so I’m giving these back!
    MAGGIE MARTIN: My name is Maggie Martin. I was a sergeant in the Army. I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal.
    JAYSON MISSOULA: My name is Jayson Missoula. I graduated high school in 2002. And thinking that we had to protect our borders, I wound up first enlisting in the Coast Guard. I spent four years on active duty. And in my time, I started to feel guilty, because my friends were going on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in other branches, and I was doing things as an 18-year-old, being led by men 10 years older than me, that the Secret Service recently got in trouble for. So then I get out, I go to college for a semester, and feeling guilty for spending time partying in the Caribbean and having to see humans—Haitians, Dominicans—floating in the water and wondering why they’re there, why are they leaving, and starting to ask these questions. All right, so then I go into the National Guard, sign up for a one-year contract, which they allowed me. They sent me to New Mexico to the desert for one month and then Vermont for two weeks. And after that, I was an infantryman, and then I was sent over to Iraq, and I spent just under six months driving a truck, playing god, after two weeks of infantry training. And we fortunately were redeployed home early. And since then, I’ve used my GI Bill to study political science and American studies, and it’s helped me humanize people all around the world, because one of the first friends I made is Palestinian, and I spent the summer in West Bank. For the first time, I learned a little bit what it feels like to be on the receiving end, when I was tear-gassed in a little village just south of Ramallah, Bil’in, I believe. But so, I apologize. One of my favorite new poets says, “Affirm life. Affirm life. Affirm life.” That’s absolutely what we have to do. And the only medal I’m going to keep is the Humanitarian Service one I got for being in New Orleans, because that’s the only thing that we should be doing as humans.
    DAVID VAN DAM: I’m David Van Dam. I was in the U.S. Navy. I’m a GI resister. I got a other-than-honorable discharge. And I want to say that their policies are other than honorable. And I’m honorable, and all the GI resisters that refuse to fight in unjust wars are honorable. This is in solidarity for all GI resisters of unjust wars!
    MARK STRUDAS: My name is Mark Strudas. I’m from Chesterton, Indiana. I just want to say thank you for being understanding, inviting and wonderful—even these guys in black and blue. This is a Good Conduct Medal. Ha!
    JACOB CRAWFORD: I’m Jacob Crawford. I went to Iraq and Afghanistan. And when they gave me these medals, I knew they were meaningless. I only regret not starting to speak up about how silly the war is sooner. I’m giving these back. Free Bradley Manning!
    JASON HURD: My name is Jason Hurd. I spent 10 years in the United States Army as a combat medic. I deployed to Baghdad in 2004. I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan. I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe. I am proud to stand on this stage with my fellow veterans and my Afghan sisters. These were lies. I’m giving them back.
    CHRIS MOBERG: My name is Chris Moberg. I was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And out of love and respect, out of the Iraqi people and the people of Afghanistan, I’m going to return these representations of hate and destruction back where they came from.
    JACOB FLOM: My name is Jacob Flom. I was in the Air Force from ’03 to ’07. And it’s—I joined the military so I could pay to go to college, because the working class fights the ruling class’s wars. But I’m not fighting for imperialism anymore. I’m fighting against imperialism. And this is dedicated—this is dedicated to all the courageous people who are under attack by the FBI, Carlos Montes and the Anti-War 23.
    RAYMOND KNAEBLE: My name’s Raymond Knaeble, and I’m here to return my medals. NATO, the U.S.A. government and Israel need to be held accountable for the war crimes, genocide, torture and drone attacks. I’m returning my medals! They can have them!
    STEVEN LUNN: My name is Steven Lunn [phon.]. I’m a two-time Iraq combat veteran. This medal I’m dedicating to the children of Iraq that no longer have fathers and mothers.
    SHAWNA FOSTER: My name is Shawna, and I was a nuclear biological chemical specialist for a war that didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. So I deserted. I’m one of 40,000 people that left the United States Armed Forces because this is a lie!
    STEVE ACHESON: My name is Steve Acheson. I’m from Campbellsport, Wisconsin. I was a forward observer in the United States Army for just under five years. I deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005. And I’m giving back my medals for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. May they be able to forgive us for what we’ve done to them. May we begin to heal, and may we live in peace from here until eternity.
    PHIL: My name’s Phil. I’m from Atlanta. And the reason why I’m throwing my medal back is because we are the global 99 percent, and we refuse to be silent, from Egypt back here to Chicago!
    MICHAEL THURMAN: Hello. My name is Michael Thurman. I was a conscientious objector from the United States Air Force. I’m returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my military coins on behalf of Private First Class Bradley Manning, who sacrificed everything to show us the truth about these wars.
    GREG BROSEUS: My name is Greg Broseus. I’m from Columbus, Ohio. I now reside in the beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois, that today is not quite as beautiful, because NATO is here. And I’m here to return my medals, because I cannot stand in solidarity and peace with my brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan as long as I wear them.
    SABRINA WALLER: My name is Sabrina Waller. I’m a United States Navy veteran. I deployed under NATO orders to Kosovo in ’99. I’m also a mother of an 11-year-old. For over 10 years of his life, we’ve been waging war. And the only fight that I want to participate in is the fight to ensure that my son and his generation never have to fight another war.
    MATT: My name is Matt [inaudible]. I served in the U.S. Army in 2004 in Iraq. I’m returning my medals today because, under the guise of freedom and democracy, I stole the humanity of the Iraqi people and lost mine. We are on the right side of history!
    MATT HOWARD: My name is Matt Howard. I served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006 and in Iraq twice. I’m turning in my campaign service—Iraq Campaign Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service and Expeditionary Medals for all my brothers and sisters affected with traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    BRYAN REINHOLDT: My name is Bryan Reinholdt. I’m from Kentucky. I’m a former sergeant of the U.S. Army. Former sergeant of the U.S. Army, proud member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. And I’m taking these things off—all of them—encourage you to refuse to.
    MARK: I’m Mark. I haven’t been too convinced of anything the last seven years, except for the fact that I’ve been hurting. And I have three daughters: Anell, Leah and Nora. And I’m convinced, looking out across this, this crowd of peace-loving people, that my daughters are going to have peace.
    ZACH LAPORTE: Hi. My name is Zach LaPorte, and I’m an Iraq war veteran from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thank you. I’m giving back my medals today because I feel like I was duped into an illegal war that was sold to me on the guise that I was going to be liberating the Iraqi people, when instead of liberating the people, I was liberating their oil fields.
    RACHEL McNEILL: My name’s Rachel McNeill. I served in the military for almost eight years as a sergeant. And i’m returning this medal today because it’s time to restore America’s honor and renounce this war on terror.
    JACOB GEORGE: My name is Jacob George. I’m from the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. I’m a three-tour veteran of the Afghan war, paratrooper and sergeant. And I have one word for this Global War on Terrorism decoration, and that is “shame.”
    SCOTT OLSEN: My name is Scott Olsen. I have with me today—today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. They made me feel like I was doing the right thing. And I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.
    JOSHUA: I’m Joshua. I’m a member of IVAW, and I’m from Chicago. And honestly, friends, I’m here to tell you that I blame myself first. I should have done my homework, should have realized the lies before I participated in them. So this symbolic act, this throwing of the medal, is for all those people out there who are wondering why we’re doing it. Do your homework.
    RICHARD STRODER: My name is Richard Stroder [phon.], and I’m from Auburn, Alabama. And I’m here to say that war is a racket!
    TODD DENNIS: My name is Todd Dennis. I served in the United States Navy. I have PTSD. I’m returning my Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal because it was given to me, according to my letter, because of hard work and dedication and setting the example. I was a hard worker because I buried my PTSD and overworked myself in the military. And I’m throwing this back and invoking my right to heal.
    MICHAEL APPLEGATE: My name is Michael Applegate. I was in the United States Navy from 1998 to 2006. And I’m returning my medal today because I want to live by my conscience rather than being a prisoner of it.
    NATE: My name’s Nate. I served in the U.S. Navy from ’99 to 2003 and participated in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was wrong to sign myself up for that. I apologize to the Iraqi and Afghani people for destroying your countries.
    JOSHUA SHEPHERD: My name is Joshua Shepherd. I spent six years in the United States Navy. These are not mine. They never were. They’re instruments of control from this government. I will not continue to trade my humanity for false heroism.
    BROCK McINTOSH: My name is Brock McIntosh. I was in the Army National Guard and served in Afghanistan from November ’08 to August ’09. Two months ago, I visited the monument at Ground Zero for my first time with two Afghans. A tragic monument. I’m going to toss this medal today for the 33,000 civilians who have died in Afghanistan that won’t have a monument built for them. And this is for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.
    JOHN ANDERSON: My name is John Anderson. I did two deployments to Iraq. And all of this destruction was not necessary. And now, we will bring it to an end, because another world is possible. We are unstoppable!
    CROWD: Another world is possible!
    JOHN ANDERSON: We are unstoppable!
    CROWD: Another world is possible!
    GRAHAM CLUMPNER: I’m Graham Clumpner. I’m an Army veteran. I spent a good amount of time in Afghanistan. And I just want everybody to look around, take a second and look around, look next to you right now. I’m talking to the police officers. I’m talking about everybody out here. There are thousands of people out here for something important. We’re hearing. We’re having a conversation for the first time in a long time—for many of us, for the first time. And I want to say that all of us, in some way or another, are trying to serve this great land that we live in, but it’s only great because of what we do with it. And sometimes we make mistakes. And the way we change that is we admit our mistakes and we take responsibility for our mistakes, and we change and we become better, and we do it together. So I’m returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal, because I don’t fight wars on adjectives.
    VINCE EMANUELE: My name is Vince Emanuele, and I served with the United States Marine Corps. First and foremost, this is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Second of all, this is for our real forefathers. I’m talking about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I’m talking about the Black Panthers. I’m talking about the civil rights movement. I’m talking about unions. I’m talking about our socialist brothers and sisters, our communist brothers and sisters, our anarchist brothers and sisters, and our ecology brothers and sisters. That’s who our real forefathers are. And lastly—and lastly and most importantly, our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.
    CHUCK WINANT: My name is Chuck Winant. I’m here on behalf of six good Americans who really wanted to be here but they couldn’t be. They couldn’t be, because when they came to the U.S. border, they’d be immediately arrested. And the crime they’d be arrested for was refusing to continue to participate in the crimes against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. And these good Americans, who are exiled now from this country, who deserve amnesty, are Private Christian Kjar of the U.S. Marine Corps; Private Kim Rivera, Army, Combat Action Badge, refused redeployment to Iraq; Corporal Jeremy Brockway, U.S. Marine Corps, Combat Action Badge, refused redeployment to Iraq; Specialist Jules Tindungan, Combat Infantry Badge, paratrooper, refused redeployment to Afghanistan; Sergeant Corey Glass, Army, refused redeployment to Iraq; and Sergeant Chris Vassey, paratrooper, CIB, refused redeployment to Afghanistan. I have their awards in my pocket, and I’m throwing them back, mad as hell!
    AARON HUGHES: My name is Aaron Hughes. I served in the Illinois Army National Guard from 2000 and 2006. This medal right here is for Anthony Wagner. He died last year. This medal right here is for the one-third of the women in the military that are sexually assaulted by their peers. We talk about standing up for our sisters—we talk about standing up for our sisters in Afghanistan, and we can’t even take care of our sisters here. And this medal right here is because I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all of you. I’m sorry.
    ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: My name is Alejandro Villatoro, sergeant. I went to—took part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan 2011. Believe me, I was a soldier. I was a squared-away soldier, and I really believed in this mission. And I learned the Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. But after my experience, I realized that there is no integrity. Integrity: do what’s legally and morally right. And we failed. So there is no honor in these wars. There’s just shame.
    AMY GOODMAN: Veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, hurling their war medals towards the gates of the NATO summit in Chicago. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we bring you this Memorial Day special, “Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars.”

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/27/memorial_day_special_us_veterans_of

  11. eslkevin says:

    Reblogged this on Eslkevin's Blog and commented:

    It is sad that there never has been a second Forrest Gump movie by Zemekis.

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