329--Week 6 Questions/Comments
- 1 1 Movie as secondary source about the past (What did it get right? What did it get wrong?)
- 2 a Right:
- 3 b Inaccurate/issues:
- 4 2 Film's relationship to current scholarship or to primary sources from the time
- 5 3 Movie as primary source about makers/time/setting/genre
- 6 4 Public reaction/impact
- 7 5 Other movies/questions of style/framing/storyline
- 8 6 Overall
1 Movie as secondary source about the past (What did it get right? What did it get wrong?)
There are a lot of accurate points of this movie from the multiple clothing styles of the different eras to the attitudes of pre-war and post-war Southerners. It is clear during the winter of 1863/64 that things had turned for the worse in the war. While Ashley is home they talk about the last chicken and the last bit of wine and the shortage of fabric, also Ashley explains that the South is on the retreat and he believes they have no hope for victory, which was true after Gettysburg. The men before the war are completely unpractical and have too much "arrogance" as Rhett says. Young, eager Charles Hamilton thinks that the war will be over in a couple of weeks. By the wars end, the film does an excellent job at showing the loss. Not just the poverty and the carpetbaggers and the burning of plantation homes, but that "nearly every home in the county" lost sons and fathers. The men who come back, like Ashley, are forever damaged and weakened mentally, if not also physically, by post-traumatic stress, which was understandable when most were homeless and without income. From the perspective of white planter Southerners, the viewpoints and attitudes and beliefs aren't totally inaccurate, most white people in the South in 1939 still saw felt the tragic loss of a grand and noble civilization that was now "gone with the wind," never mind what former slaves or their children really felt of thought about the time and the war. And no American film to this point had shown the gritty, destructive side of war as seen from the home front like GWTW had. The shortage of medical supplies and the sheer numbers of the injured and dying that Scarlet encounters at in the hospital. --Jackie Reed
As Jackie said, there were a lot of things that the movie did get right, such as one scene where Rhett tells Scarlett that she has to date him because "there is no one else around older than 16 and younger than 60 to show [her] a good time." As we discussed in class, most of the men in the South during the Civil War between those ages were off fighting, and many of them died, posing a problem for the women back at home. ~Katherine Stinson~
The movie does a good job at portraying history to many degrees. Certain scenes really put the viewer into historical perspective, such as the scene that shows the Yankees offering currently freed blacks 40 acres and a mule. The scene in which Ashley explains to Scarlett that using forced prison labor was less ethical than using “darkies” because any forced labor was a moral wrong goes to show that white slave owners who held slaves may have saw themselves as not practicing any form of forced labor. Even Ashley states that there was a major difference between the treatment of chained prisoners and his slaves, as he boasts he treated his slaves much better. James Drury
One of Rhett Butler's first lines in this film is him explaining how the North was better equipped than the South, a reason why they shouldn't have gone into war in the first place. He states that while the North was armed with factories, superior weapons, and coal mines, all the South had were "slaves, cotton, and arrogance." This is a nice summary of the South's economic dependence on the production of cotton, which is of course directly dependent on slave labor. Furthermore, the "arrogance" can be interpreted as their belief in white supremacy and how that may have driven the South to go to war (which the movie eventually proved to be destructive to them). - David F
One interesting portrayal in the movie was that of Bell Whatley. I believe "the business" she ran was supposed to be a madam, the sort of pimp to other prostitutes. This is alluded to when Prissy goes to fetch Rhett Butler after Melanie gives birth to the baby, and he is at a party, above the saloon, at Bell's place. Bell's status as a prostitute is further perpetuated by her treatment in society by the other white ladies, about how she had to travel at night and stay in the carriage, just so she could talk to Melanie, because it just wouldn't be "fitting" otherwise. Despite Bell's status, she is still portrayed as a strong, independent business woman, like Scarlet, but as Rhett says - she has a heart. It is interesting to try and show Bell in such a good light, as the audience is made to feel sympathetic when she is turned away from the hospital, trying to contribute money. Why is Bell depicted in a good light, but the Yankees are depicted as demons? ~Juliann Boyles
I found the depiction of the civil war "hospitals" to be at least mildly accurate. They gave no sense of cleanliness or sterility, and were at times gruesome as Scarlett couldn't handle bearing witness to the amputation sans chloroform. Perhaps there were some instances of nurse touching in the movie which was not allowed in real life, but it did portray one lady writing a letter for an incapacitated man as mentioned in the lecture. Also there was some sense that disease played just as important a role in the death toll as the war wounds. Scarlett's first husband falls to pneumonia, her mother to typhoid, and there were allusions to lice and other diseases in the "hospitals." -Bryan Mull
Post-traumatic stress/depression displayed by the returning Confederate soldiers was at least shown in the movie, though not named. Ashley came back and he was not happy with the destroyed life he came back to. He lost his sense of being a man.-Lauren
Gone with the Wind did a great job with portraying the notion of the romanticized southern history and lifestyle. The nation is on the brink of civil war yet in the movie they are having a grand ole time at the bbq and various balls. As the men are discussing the war, they believe it is more important to be gentlemen who know how to use their words as oppose to discussing potential strategies. Rhett Butler is ostracized for explaining that the North has a better chance of winning the war because they have factories, ship yards, coal mines and other necessary supplies. --Mallory C.
I believe the southern gender roles are accurately portrayed, most especially in the beginning/first half of the movie. Concerning the elite class, the women are dainty, southern belles who wear big dresses and flaunt fancy, elaborate hats. Marriage was intended for money and land, which is explained when Mr. O'Hara explains to Scarlett that it doesn't matter who you marry just as long as he's southern and thinks the same way. While the women are upstairs napping, the men are downstairs smoking, drinking and talking man business such as war. The movie is pretty stereotypical of what people believed and how they acted at the time. The movie shows how the South was convinced that it would be victorious because the soldiers were defending slavery, cotton, and southern land. The movie truly turned the North into the villain, which was a prevailing belief in the South. The South was not a fan base for Abraham Lincoln. In her journal, Ella explains her despise for Lincoln and in the movie Scarlett tells Rhett at the fundraiser that on that night she would have even danced with Abraham Lincoln. --Mallory C.
It really does portray the romanticized version of the south, most people take a good part of this movie to explain what they know about southern history. The movie did a good job portraying the different challenges women faced when the war started. They were thrown into new and different roles on top of having to do the different tasks they had to before the war. Mallory at that point in the movie when Scarlett tells Rhett that she would have danced with Lincoln she still hates Rhett he is just a way for her to have fun and enjoy herself. She is so miserable not being able to have fun since she is a widow that she will take any opportunity to have a good time. - Kellye Sorber
I found the scene at the hospital although not completely accurate does do a very good job at depicting how gruesome a Civil War hospital was. Many people got horrible injuries many people had to have limbs amputated. The movie also does a great job showing depression and trauma in people after the events of the war especially in men. Mr. Wilks and Scarlett's father are both prominent examples of depression in the movie. - Jonathan Bell
During the reconstruction part of the film Ashley says, "There is no place for me." - Jason Ward
Coming home from the war the men seem emasculated. They are no longer able to care for their dependents and they have lost a war that has left the South devastated. This can be seen in Ashley and Scarlett's father. --Shauser 17:00, 1 October 2008 (MDT)
Just out of curiosity, I know Rhett was against the war (for most of it) but was still a Captain. How many men had the same luxuries Rhett did and how many really shared his opinion? It seemed to me that most of the men were excited to go off and join the war (just think of that scene at Twelve Oaks) but Rhett was against the idea behind it and never had to go fight. Why not? -Kelly Wuyscik
Also, although Scarlet was rather independent for a woman of her time, you still saw the sense of "submissiveness" I guess you could say, that women had towards men. At one point, Rhett looks at Scarlet and says "now blow your nose like a good little girl" and she did as she was told. Women may have had more power than they would have liked, and in some cases enjoyed it like Scarlet, but there was still that sense of dominance that men had over women. Even after Ashley came back and was completely distraught from the war one of Scarlet's first instincts was "Ashley will know what to do." The men were still thought to have had all the answers. -Kelly Wuyscik
I think the characters do a fair job in symbolizing the bigger ideas of gender roles during the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Scarlett and Melly take over their households, raise money for the war, and work as nurses. Scarlett, especially, has to handle all the aspects of caring for her family, friends, and Tara. At the war’s end Melly is perfectly content to go back to being subservient to men, like most women. Scarlett, however, is in the minority who didn’t go back to their normal roles. Though she does remarry, she clearly doesn’t give Mr. Kennedy any control over her, and she pretty much takes over his business and starts up another in lumbering. Despite all that, the movie suggests that even someone as strong as Scarlett wants to be dominated by a man (to a certain degree). She was awfully happy the morning after Rhett threatened to kill her and forcefully carried her up those stairs, after all. For the men, Ashley comes back from the war having to rely on Scarlett and unable to provide for the people he cares about, causing him to feel useless and emasculated. He’s also depressed (at least his words suggest this, though he acts depressed the whole damn movie) at the loss of the Old South he once knew. Mr. Kennedy, as mentioned above, is dominated by Scarlett. Even Mr. O’Hara is rendered ineffective by the war. I think Rhett is the only man to remain “manly” the entire time, but he ain’t no gentleman. In fact, I would say that Rhett and Scarlett also provide a contrast to the Old South image of ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. As Rhett says, “Bad lots, both of us. Selfish and shrewd.” Perhaps it’s appropriate in a movie that depicts the downfall of the Old South for the leads to be cads, but it’s still interesting as the film also glorifies that moonlight and magnolias Southern comfort way of life. --Taylor Brann
One thing that struck me as surprisingly accurate about the movie was the burning of Atlanta. As we discussed in class, many of the fires were actually set by retreating Confederate soldiers - the movie shares this same storyline, maintaining that the Confederates had set fire to their supplies and ammunition, so the Yankees wouldn't get it, a fire which spread and helped create that dramatic scene at the train yard. The only fire showed that was linked to Sherman was the dramatic image of him and his fellow demons marching to the sea in a an actual sea of fire - accompanied by the dramatic narrative of Sherman's plan. ~Juliann Boyles
I have only watched the first half of the film, but one problem I'd like to note so far, is that when Sherman was bombing and taking over Atlanta, everyone was fleeing. There was no notice in the film about everyone except the needed governmental positions were to leave, everyone left beforehand. --Ashley Wilkins
Props to alluding to the KKK. But Great and Unbelievable Condemnation to making it seem glorious and righteous! Yeah that's maybe what the bitter white dudes who created it thought but the movie makes it seem so gentile, defending their women from rape. Never mind that slave women had been sexually abused and taken advantage of for years and years before the war and then too, they were in danger during the war. The only thing the film or the book for that matter worries about is the virtue of white Ladies like Scarlet who goes off into the backwoods where poor criminal men (black and white) live and almost gets raped. The movie portrays her attacker as white and her savior as a former slave who had always been treated with respect and who in turn cared highly for his former mistress. This type of justification and wacky self-righteousness was ever present in the 20th century. The South had recently experienced a resurgence of the KKK- and black men who often lynched under the excuse that they had assaulted a white woman (usually if it had any truth at all it was consensual). The movie treads so lightly on the subject (even less than the book) that what was really going on is practically undetectable. It's been a while since my sister had seen the film but even, now I had to explain to her that "illegal raid" was the KKK in action and as characters we are made to feel completely fond of or sympathetic for. --Jackie Reed
- I also noticed the lack of mention about the KKK and after doing some research found this on IMDB, (so veracity may or may not be accurate): Producer David O. Selznick said that he had no desire to remake The Birth of a Nation (1915), telling screenwriter Sidney Howard in 1937, "I do hope you will agree with me on this omission of what might come out as an unintentional advertisement for intolerant societies in these fascist-ridden times..." So maybe this is more telling of the time in which it was made more than anything.--Shauser 17:20, 1 October 2008 (MDT)
This might be nit-picky, but the scenes where Scarlett and Melanie are working as nurses for the wounded soldiers, they are bandaging the soldiers and taking their temperatures. As we discussed in class, female nurses at this time would not be doing things like that; it would have been considered inappropriate, and they would have been doing tasks such as writing letters home for soldiers. ~Katherine Stinson~
In regards to women’s roles, it is apparent that Scarlet takes full advantage of the men being away. She keeps her role even when they return, managing the farm, the mill, the store, and her countless husbands. This example is of a truly one of a kind woman, and I don’t think (from my knowledge on gender roles etc.) that many women welcomed that much more responsibility, or were bold enough to take it into their own hands. -Elle
I have to mention Sherman’s march – sure Sherman wasn’t the nicest, but the Yankees are so villain-ized that it proves how much hatred there really was between the confederates and Yankees. Even from what is considered a southern state, Virginia, I was never taught such a one sided account. One thing that was overlooked that we discussed in class was the Confederates’ path of destruction as well – they tried to eliminate food sources that the Yankees could later stumble upon. -Elle
In the movie's romanticizing of the antebellum South, it appeared to me that the movie completely glossed over whites who were not in the planter class elite. There were no representations of the poor whites, or really any whites who owned less than a score of slaves who were not city dwellers. Also, though there was a mention of some of the O'Hara slaves running off, many slaves chose to remain very loyal to the family despite the South's tenuous hold on slavery. - Bryan Mull
Is Melanie supposed to be absolutely ignorant that Scarlett loves Ashley? She and Scarlett were very close since Charles died and Scarlett moved in with her and her aunt, but part of Scarlett's friendship is just a facade, because she promised her love that she'd look after Melanie. You'd think that it wouldn't take 8 or so years for someone to see Scarlett in Ashley's arms and pick up on something. - Whitney H.
Whitney, Melanie is not ignorant to that fact that Scarlett love Ashley but she is such a good person that she doesn't want to believe in bad things. Melanie chooses to ignore that fact. -- Kellye Sorber
What the deal with Scarlett's cleavage? Every other woman is dressed modestly except for Belle (no coincidence). Once Scarlett returns to Tara and her father, she takes to wearing her pink dress WAY unbuttoned, and after that it seems like the only time you don't see bare chest is when she's in mourning! But when she gets money and all these nice new clothes she does buy some dresses that cover her up more. This all seems quite scandalous to be in a movie in 1939. Someone mentioned "Aviator"--do you remember the cleavage discussion that went on with the board of censors? Yeah. How easy was it to get that much on screen for GWTW? -Whitney H.
As far as censor issues go for this movie, I mostly think language and content was the issue--not cleavage. When comparing the chest size of Hughe's muse Jane Russell and Vivien Leigh it doesn't seem to be as big a deal you know? They weren't pushing the envelope much more than anyone else was back then. And plus, this was a BIG budget movie that was highly publicized and popular before filming even began so censors would not have even had much power over it. Alos keep in mind, they were probably sending things to the Prod. Code Office for approval throughout production. The two censor issues I know of were the lines "I don't give a damn" (got away with it cuz the emphasis was on "give" and not "damn" and the line "maybe you'll get luck and have an miscarriage" which had to be changed to "have an accident."--Jackie Reed
Dr. McClurken mentioned in his lecture that men who returned home after the war stepped back into their patriarchal roles, but Ashley acted so feminine, like he lost all hope of regaining his masculinity. It seemed to me that his wife tried her best to keep both of their spirits afloat as they did their best to survive. Does anyone else think that or do people disagree? -Lauren
When this movie first came out it was pretty much given a rated of X which then was similar to our now a days R. I have grown up watching this with my grandmother and I remember her telling me that when it first came out she was forbidden to go see it by her parents. She would have been around 15 at that time.
The way slaves and the union were portrayed in this movie was a big problem for accuracy. Even after the war the slaves have not left Scarlett and they are still submissive to her and working for her which is just not accurate at all. The key black characters in the movie are shown as completely devoted to Scarlett even after she treats them like crap and the war is over. The movie is entirely biased in that the union perspective is never shown and in the small scenes it does show union characters these scenes all portray negative stereotypes. When a movie is so clearly biased it loses a lot of historical credibility. - Jonathan Bell
"Darkies" seems like more of a '30s thing to me. Was it? - Jason Ward
I was actually watching the special features on the DVD, the making of Gone with the Wind, and the reason the lingo is so 1930s is that Producer David Selznik was not allowed to use the term "negro" in the film or allude to any of the harsh realities of slavery - everything was to be romanticized, even the institution of slavery. Speaking of romanticizing the South, I think some of the biggest forms of propaganda were the words that appeared on the screen, narrating the movie, referring to the Old South as the beautiful days of knights and ladies, of gallant cavaliers, of master and slave, a civilization "Gone with the Wind" after the horrid "Invader" and "Juggernaut" Sherman marched through. ~Juliann Boyles
Where was Sharecropping in the film? - Jason Ward
One of Margaret Mitchell's biggest issues with the film had to do with how the filmmakers portrayed the actual plantation houses. Although Tara and Twelve Oaks were plantations, Mitchell felt that the filmmakers made them far too luxurious. She intended both estates to be significantly more modest. Of course, audiences would respond much better to the overblown Greek Revival mansions with double staircases and interiors that rival Napoleon III's apartments at the Louvre. - Sarah Richardson
Aside from the idealization of the Old South, I think one of the biggest inaccuracies in the movie is the issue of slavery. The slaves at Tara and Twelve Oaks aren’t mistreated. Mr. O’Hara even scolds Scarlett for pushing them so hard. Of course, Mammy, Prissy, and Pork don’t run away during or after the war. Big Sam even goes back to Tara because he’s “had enough of those carpetbaggers.” And the O’Hara slaves think of themselves as miles above all that poor white trash riffraff, and they’re also willing to blatantly backtalk and boss around their masters. The worst threat of bodily harm is when Scarlett yells that she’ll whip Prissy for being completely unhelpful when Melly is in labor, but we know she won’t do it. If such a family was that kind toward their slaves, they probably would have been the pariahs of the South. To add on to those inaccuracies, there’s the fact that every black person in the movie is a stereotype: the overbearing mammy, the large gentle giant, the ignorant ninny, and so on. --Taylor Brann
I agree with Lauren on the issue with Ashley’s return to home. He did not step up to his masculinity roles and in a way depended on Scarlett to help him. Scarlett was running the household and keeping people’s hopes up. –Ashley Scutari
An issue I felt was inaccurate was the scene where the African American nanny received a red dress from the captain as a gift. Would Southerners actually do this for their servants? –Ashley Scutari
The house slaves all seemed to be treated a lot nicer than I had expected. They were still slaves, yeah? As for Whitney's point about Scarlett's cleavage, let's think of who the big (no pun intended) actresses were of the time. Mae West and Rita Hayworth. Sex sold back then just as it does now. As Jewel said, "follow me, the blond bombshell deity, I'll sell you neat ideas without big words and a little bit of cleavage to wash it all down." --Cash Nelson
And yes. I just quoted Jewel. --Cash Nelson
2 Film's relationship to current scholarship or to primary sources from the time
George Fitzhugh’s “The Blessings of Slavery” shows how ignorant white southern slave owners can be. The idea that a person is more happy in forced servitude than as a free citizen is ridiculous. Beyond that, it meshes with stories of other slaveholders that were surprised when their slaves ran away – treating slaves well is better than treating them terribly, but they are still slaves. Gone with the Wind falls into this ignorance. Like most film productions where southern whites are slaveholders, the slaves love their masters like family. Mammy, Sissy, etc. (I can’t help but flashback to the Patriot as Mel helps his free black friends plow the field). -Elle
Yes the portrayal of slaves is extremely absurd in this movie in relation to actual scholarship and history. From the readings it is clear that after the war the slaves were freed and left the plantations. The slaves would not come back to the same families they were enslaved by before and when they did show up again their former owners wanted them gone. The movie takes the ideas of patternalism seriously even though it was just a delusion of Southern Whites. - Jonathan Bell
Most of the primary sources we read dealt with both Whites and Blacks dealing with the after math of Emancipation. Whites unsure of what to do with the free labor society thrust upon them and Blacks surprising Whites by packing their grip and leaving. Gone with the Wind barely even mentions it as if they didn't even notice that this monumental change had taken place. It was definitely a White-centric view of the fall of aristocratic South.--Shauser 17:04, 1 October 2008 (MDT)
In Schurz's text, he discusses the fact that a very small minority of people were able to continue having regular lives and move forward after the war. Scarlett and Rhett seem to represent special cases of people, and can't be applied to the rest of the reconstructing south. As to the KKK article, we could give the movie credit for not coming out and saying that the men went to kill the African-Americans, but simply all of the men at the outskirt camp, since the article does discuss the murder of white men and women who were friendly to the abolition cause. The movie does fail in showing abolitionist characters and instead gives us disgustingly sympathetic-to-their-husbands-crimes wives and violent men. --Amanda Russell
3 Movie as primary source about makers/time/setting/genre
So apparently the Civil War only affected white people.... Mammy and Prissy and the other old slave man all stay with Miss Scarlet and her family throughout the whole movie. Not once is there mention of slaves being emancipated, and not once do the slaves mention being free (although we do see Old Sam is living away from them now, since he became a trench digger). Through all that post-war poverty, and being the only blacks left on Tara, they stayed loyal. But of course! They'd always been treated and fed well and loved their white family and would never think of anything but staying. -Whitney H.
The addressing of racial issues in Gone With The Wind was equally infuriating and heartbreaking. The thought that kept rushing through my head during the scenes with Mammy, Pris and Pork was it's similarity to 1915's Birth Of A Nation, which cost $110,000 to make and grossed $3 million in the US and $10 million worldwide. Gone With The Wind, to date, has grossed nearly $200 million dollars, after taking just under $4 million to produce. While BOAN was released 24 years previous to GWTW, it is clear that this racism is still prevalent and, as the above numbers show, commercially viable. In both films, the black characters were satirical caricatures of the southern slave population and were often seen not only as members of an inferior race but sometimes even as nothing more than loyal dogs. Human Beings or Man's Best Friend? Unfortunately, this was clearly the southern attitude towards the black population. I suppose this racism is a great history lesson for those curious about race relations during the antebellum, in-war and post-war years, but it makes both films vastly uncomfortable viewing. --Cash Nelson
What I found interesting is that none of the slave characters ever talked about their own families (if they had them) or relatives or even other slaves. Is this a matter of people in this period not wanting to hear about real slavery (people who worked outside of the house), or was it just a lack of caring? --Amanda Russell
I was watching TCM a few weeks ago and they did a 15 minute feature on Hattie McDaniel, the actress who played Mamie. Before and after Gone With The Wind McDaniel was type cast into motherly, domestic roles hundreds of times. McDaniel was respected in Hollywood (for what it was/is worth) and won an academy award for best supporting actress for her role as Mamie. Her roles as a domestic caretaker often caricatured blacks by being boisterous and plainspoken. Those portrayals helped make black characters appear lovable and benign, while simultaneously implying that they were subservient and not to be taken seriously. McDaniel and other black actresses were criticized for taking roles which allegedly validated or at least perpetuated the servile status of blacks. McDaniel said “I’d rather play a maid for $700 a week than be one for $7”. I think this movie is as strong a primary source as it is a secondary source, for it reveals the complexity of race relations in this country in the late 1930s. On one hand, blacks had acting jobs, so that is progress from the era of blackface. On the other hand, those acting roles depicted blacks as servants with no desire to advance. McDaniel’s own comment conveys a certain contentment with being a stock character, which sent the message that she was content with being a second class citizen. What did it say to blacks at the time that one of their most beloved actresses was not willing to rock the boat? – Jason Ward
-Definitely have to agree with Jason here. I was thinking about the movie Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and it deals with the tension between Blacks actors either playing a stereotyped Black role or making no money at all. It is a sign on what time this film was created in that most actors had no choice and their wasn't really much room for being morally virtouos in choosing roles.--Shauser 17:13, 1 October 2008 (MDT)
I can't take this movie as a secondary source at all. No one apparrently ever does work in the south. Every slave is apparintly seen as a "sambo" never tired, never worrying about punishment. They have absolutly no quarrels with being slaves at any point and seem to love their masters. The things I did notice to be kinda right were the southern mens attitude toward war. GWTW depicts the importance of military school to southern men. but none of the men seem to even go to school and life always comes off as a party down in the south. The problem with the movie is that its writen with a romatic (Art form not love) veiw on life. This does depicts the movie from the eyes of a sotherner. --Matt DeMarr
I agree with Jason that this movie is probably one of the best for use as a primary source that we've seen so far in class. This is most evident in the scenes involving the slaves. Though as previously mentioned the characters are no longer blackface clad white actors, they are still playing the same character types as before. The men are all dim-witted and lazy. Particularly striking were the scenes of the one male slave chasing the rooster around in the mud as he mumbles to himself and the "quitting time" scene near the beginning of the film. I assume these were meant to be humorous scenes, of course at the expense of the slaves. Then there is Prissy and Mammy. Though both are female, neither character is portrayed in any way which may allude to an attractiveness, nor any other discernible feminine qualities. This was especially evident when the black actresses shared screen time with any of the white actresses. Prissy was relentlessly childlike and helpless, accented by her squeaky voice and cowardly demeanor. Mammy was the sassy, though obedient, servant with no concerns of her own. Essentially this movie is a time capsule to prevailing racist views in 1939.-Bryan Mull
The portrayals of the black slaves [later servants] was incredibly painful to watch at times. The idea of a content "sambo" character typical of those working around Tara is clearly accurate to what we have discussed white slave owners having convinced themselves to be typical, but equally distant from reality. We know that slave owners were thus genuinely surprised when freed slaves up and left their plantations, since they couldn't believe their slaves had not been content working for them. The primary source implication of this is that readers and viewers of Gone With The Wind could use this material to RE-convince themselves of that absurd idea. The film may therefore contribute to whites of the late 30s and 40s having a misunderstanding of the discontentment leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. - JT Newcomb
Kind of going with JT's comment, and I may be completely off base here, but to me it seemed as if the filmmakers were making a mockery of the slaves in the movie. I mean, poor Pork seemed to have been an idiot during most of the movie and I honestly wanted to slap Prissy's character. I feel as if that was completely unfair and I think it shows a sort of influence of '30s attitudes towards blacks. -Kelly Wuyscik
I agree with Whitney on finding it weird that the slaves were loyal to the family. The younger girl Prissy though did show some signs of being equal with Scarlette when Scarlette sent Prissy to fetch the doctor; she made a face behind Scarlette’s back. Did most slaves actually flee the South when the Union troops invaded? –Ashley Scutari
4 Public reaction/impact
The book was a bestseller, the movie was an instant classic, but Why? Nostalgia. Americans love the way things used to be even if they never were that way. The only positive representation we got of the South was before the war, and the only representation of the antebellum South was the wealthiest 0.2% of it. The middle 90% of the movie depicted a South that had spiraled into decay, poverty, and criminality at the hands of Yankee invaders and carpetbaggers. The end of the movie brings us full circle as Scarlett says “Tara, I’ll go home and think of someway to get him [Rhett] back, after all, tomorrow is another day!”. To me, Rhett is obviously a metaphor for the antebellum South (of course, he was too benevolent and objective to represent the old South truthfully, but nonetheless that was the intent of his character). What this closing line insinuates is that the way to fix all of these problems caused by the damn Yankees is to just go back to the way things were. The public sees this film and says “Oh wow, before the Civil War the South was fun and pretty and awesome, even the slaves decided when it was quittin’ time! But how depressing was the rest of the movie, too much heartbreak! Scarlett is going back to Tara, can we come?!?!?!”. The problem was “Tara” only existed to a few hundred thousand people, and actually didn’t even exist like the movie would have us believe. There are MANY other examples throughout the film that regard the South sympathetically…- Jason Ward
How this movie enables the public to sympathize with the South:
- The raid on the carpetbagger settlement, and the subsequent duping of the Yankee officers. By doing this the film maker’s show the Southerner’s as patriots defending their homeland, while also fooling the dumb Northerners.
- The film gives the South a complete pass on slavery. Yes, slavery was depicted in the film for 30 seconds, but shows NO cruelty towards blacks. Even in the integrated street scene during the reconstruction segment of the film there was no hostility/ resentment towards blacks.
- The movie perpetuates the warped belief of paternalism buy having all the blacks who had worked on Tara before the war, stay with the O’ Hara’s throughout the film. Big Sam even came to Scarlett’s rescue. Former slaves would not have done any of this.
- Mamie seems to be well respected by the family, and interacts with them on equal footing. Furthermore, Rhett gives Mamie a red dress. This tells the audience that domestic slaves were treated well, even lavishly.
- The Civil War was portrayed as The War of Northern Aggression. This helps the audience see the evils done by the Union Army, while the South plays the role of victim.
- Rhett is the consummate distinguished Southern gentleman without a bad bone in his body. He was pragmatic and diplomatic in is speeches towards the North. Rhett was so moralistic and level- headed that any cause or ideology could be justified and defended by such an upstanding character. -Jason Ward
Adjusted for inflation, this film would out-gross Titanic by a long shot. This film has had an impact, subtle or not, on every film made about the South since its release. While the South is heavily romanticized, we (the public with a Northern slant) still look down on it as we do with every other culture we romanticize. In his landmark book Orientalism, Edward Said argued that by romanticizing "Oriental" (Middle Eastern and Asian) culture, Western nations justified their imperial and colonial initiatives. Gone With the Wind may appear to be a pro-Southern film, but it is actually a manifestation that very justification. Outside of the former Confederacy (I'm leaving my arguments about Virginia as still being part of the South at the door), audiences viewed and continue to view this film with a Northern influence. The perpetuation of this romantic stereotype serves to justify the North's "conquering" of the South. - Sarah Richardson
This doesn’t 100 percent fit in this section but it is relevant. The actress who played Mammy, Hattie McDaniel, was forced to sit in a segregated section at the Oscars when she won the award for best supporting actress. This corroborates the racism that is so present in the film and supports our use of it as a primary source about it’s time. – Wesley Weeks
The scene at the end of the first half of the movie serves as a pretty good allegory to the survival spirit of the Depression, where Scarlet shakes her fist against a blood red sky, crying "As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!" I think this determination, as well as Scarlet's eventually overcoming of all of these obstacles, presented a character that much of the original audience could relate to. People of the 1930s wanted to believe with hard work and determination, they too could accomplish the American dream. ~Juliann Boyles
5 Other movies/questions of style/framing/storyline
"Gone With the Wind" is beautifully filmed and edited. The use of color, music and other forms of mise en scene are spectacular, which a whole other class period could be devoted to for discussion. One of the scenes that stood out to me was when one of the soldiers comes back from battle and exclaims "It's over, the war is over, we surrendered!" Immediately after this, the spectrum of reactions from the south is expressed in only a matter of seconds through a couple of lines (these lines are of course paraphrased to the best of my memory): "Why did we ever go to war?" (feeling of reluctance and regret), "Oh (insert name of husband) is coming home!" (relief that a loved one made it alive), "We surrendered?!?!" (shock of losing the war). - David F
I have to say - the first half.... LONG and BORING. The second half - on the edge of my seat at times. I had to leave for a club meeting (for literally 5 minutes) and it was hard to pry myself away. I must say NOT what I expected. Also, I totally called the deaths of Bonnie (foreshadowing) and Melanie (classic Little Women-like Beth character). -Elle
One more thing - symbolism... I felt that Scarlet's love for Ashley (which tragically ended at the end at his wife's death, when Scarlet finally really gets a clue and realizes Ashley has loved his wife all along) was symbolic for the death of the south. Not a very uplifting ending. -Elle
Very nice insights, Elle. I was just wondering the likelihood of someone like Scarlett's character truly existing during the Civil War. Her extremely demanding personality gave me no choice but to stereotype all white women in the south during that time; but, I still feel that nobody that hysterical could really be based off a real person(s). I know a lot of it probably has to do with dramatic effect, but generalizing off of Elle's interpretation of Scarlett's love for Ashley symbolizing the death of the south, is Scarlett's personality representative of the arrogance of the South and how that lead to severe psychological repercussions? - David F.
What a demeaning image of a southern white lady, and how awful to have to play that role and reinforce this stereotype! Scarlett is purely selfish, immature, whiny, vain, stubborn, hysterical, greedy...the list goes on. Uggh! And how she is in the beginning turning from one guy to another, entirely insincere and loving attention. She marries to help herself and spite other men, and it takes until the loving, perfect Melanie dies for her to realize that Ashley was right when he said that he loved his wife and not her, and to realize that Rhett also loved her, like he always said he did. And I don't even need to go into her spending habits. Frankly, I couldn't give a damn what she did without Rhett, either. To sum it up, as Elle said, "God, she's pathetic." -Whitney H.
How is Rhett supposed to have become and stayed a millionaire? -Whitney H.
Agreeing with Whitney, the effects of witnessing Scarlett going through her cluttered romantic thoughts and her various cases of whiny rants was at some points mind numbing, but at least she was determined to succeed. James D.
I beg to differ on several of the above comments. First off, I LOVE AND WILL FOREVER LOVE THIS STORY!!!!!! The film is amazing in so many ways in its own right but the story Margaret Mitchell invented is beautiful. The characters are each tragically flawed in just the perfect way to make you love them, but mostly hate them and yet keeps you wanting to read it. I went as Scarlet in the red "look your part" dress in 2nd grade, so yeah, I am an undying fan. Scarlet is all of those horrible things but Rhett is a lot of them too. He just admits to them instead of trying to adhere to the hypocrisy of that society until Bonnie comes along. And the movie is ridiculously sad at the end, giving you zero time to breath in between Rhett's devastation over Scarlet's miscarriage (a word that they were not allowed to say in 1939 Code Hollywood), to Bonnie's death and then Melanie's death and then the final blow of Rhett leaving Scarlet at the precise moment she has her freakin' epiphany. But I love all these characters, even Scarlet- because Melanie (even though she deludes herself into thinking that Scarlet is not in love with Ashley) does see the good qualities of Scarlet, her sense of loyalty and the constant protection she provides to her family. It all seems selfish and she whines to some about having to do it, but in the end she goes back to Tara, the place that gives her strength because it is apart of her identity as the daughter of an Irish man, as a Southerner, as passionate person who demands control over her own life and destiny and will prevail "as God as her witness" even under all the tragedies of the world. It is actually an inspiring character, because she does change in the end (though you can debate that point) for the better. She gains a bit of insight and learns to love those she has taken for granted, and let go of others she had no right to love in the first place (got over her silly girlhood crush basically). I could quote this TIMELESS FILM all night long so I'll stop before I do.--Jackie Reed
After Rhett gets drunk and sweeps Scarlett off her feet to presumably have "marital relations" with her, when we see her the next morning in her bed, was she smiling because she received multiple orgasms or was she happy for some other reasons? Can it be assume that since Rhett likes to hang around harlots and "bad women" like Belle, that he knows how to be an impeccable lover?-Lauren
- Hah Lauren, me and my roommate laughed at this scene, I came to the same conclusion you did. I hope Dr. M highlights this one, just for the sheer awkwardness of it all. -Shannon
Again, Mae West and Rita Hayworth. Just saying. --Cash Nelson
Was it really that common of a practice to take group naps in other people's homes? In the movie it seemed like a common occurrence during parties. -- Mallory C.
I was struck by the symbolism of the cut away shot at the end. Scarlett standing like the statue of liberty/ lady justice against a blood red sky while the voice over narration says, "After all, tomorrow is another day". To me this is the South saying, "We stand here full of pride, having spilled our blood, and we will rise again"...or a less threatening interpretation- "You may have spilled our blood and destroyed our land, but you have not broken our spirit". Either way the viewer is left with the image that the South is triumphant. - Jason Ward
I must say I was curious about whether the slaves in this movie were actually played by African Americans and from what I read they were. This surprised me because some of the slaves have pretty big roles and at this time African Americans were still very much segregated against. - Christine W.
Jackie, way to go standing up for what you believe in! But... why were you watching this movie in 2nd grade...? -Whitney H.
If everything had been taken from Tara, how were the father and 2 houseservants surviving? Were they eating only radishes? I know this is nit-picky, but honestly, could they have survived on those radishes? If so, would there had been any radishes left? I've only watched the first 1/2 at this point, so its possible it is explained later... but that really bothers me. --Ashley Wilkins
Nothing is explained, but somehow they do manage enough food to even feed returning soldiers too, though much to selfish Scarlet's dismay.--Jackie Reed
One thing that bothered me throughout the movie was Mr. O'Hara - a red blooded, straight from the motherland, whiskey loving Irish man. I know at this time, the Irish were viewed as vermin, little better than the blacks - would an Irish man, of pure blood, likely own a plantation of Tara's size? - Juliann Boyles
Remember this is fiction it was not meant to be looked at critically. Do we judge other works of fiction with the same characteristics? -- Kellye Sorber
Firstly, we ought to judge anything and everything critically. Secondly, we ought to judge any movie that has had as profound an impact on the understanding of our history as Gone With The Wind has. Entire generations think that this is what the South was like. Heritage is one of the most important characteristics of a Southerner, this movie is such a part of Americana that not only has the film shaped Southerners' understandings of their heritage, the film itself has become part of their heritage. -Jason Ward.
Would the House maid of Scarlet really be able to talk to her the way that she does? I feel like there would be some consiquences for talking back and being pretty sassy.--- Matt DeMarr
In a lot of war movies, before the war breaks out, the would- be participants are giddy about going to war. I can see how the convictions of most Southerners gave them the resolve to fight, but were they itching to fight? - Jason Ward
Why was John Wilkes a Character's name in this film? It is an overt reference to John Wilkes Booth, was this not taboo in the 1930s? Lincoln has become an American God, and if a movie had a character by the name of John Wilkes today he would most assuredly be a villain, but not in Gone With The Wind. What has been the historiography of John Wilkes Booth? - Jason Ward
I think Clark Gable would have made a great Tom Dewey. - Jason Ward
Overall I think the film, while fairly historically accurate, is heavily viewed through the lens of the fall of southern aristocracy. It is about the struggles of the rich southerner more so than the south in its entirety. This film and book were probably a form of escapism for people during the Great Depression. What better way to forget your woes than to see the romanticized south with a beautiful, feisty leading lady and a dashing, swoon-worthy leading man?--Shauser 17:28, 1 October 2008 (MDT)
This movie is beautifully shot and really has stood the test of time in that regard. However, watching Scarlett be annoying and conniving and bratty in nearly every way for most of the film really takes away from it. I think that she could be made into a "Gossip Girl" character and fit in just fine. The movie is still great and beautiful, but I definitely don't have the patience for a delicate, pampered southern belle. -- Amanda Russell
I agree with Amanda I really couldn't stand Scarlett either. I found her character really unbelievable even for a "Southern belle" and I had a hard time believing the other characters interactions with her. It all just seemed really fake. - Christine W. Overall, the little bit of history in this movie is fairly accurate. I find it a hard movie to critic because there is so little in the storyline that comes from history. This movie was clearly meant to be entertaining. - Christine W.
If nap time was a part of gatherings in polite society (BBQ at Twelve Oaks), I'll go to war to bring that back. - JT
Too bad the men weren't the ones napping, JT. - Kelly Wuyscik
I know Scarlett O'Hara is a polarizing character, but wow! My own feelings about her are somewhat conflicted, but I have to stand up for her. While she certainly fits the stereotype of the flirtatious, moonlight and magnolia Southern belle in the opening scenes of the film, she quickly develops into a hardworking, dynamic woman willing to do whatever it takes to protect her home. Scarlett is conniving, but she is also a successful businesswoman in a time when women of her social group were expected to raise (to a certain extent) children and join sewing societies (as Melanie and others do in the novel). Rhett Butler is just as amoral. Ashley Wilkes is a pathetic remnant of a past that never really existed. Melanie Wilkes, while kind and moral, is a flat character whose main purpose is to serve as Scarlett's foil, making her (Scarlett's) actions seem less harsh. Scarlett is subject to the censure of her own society (and to some extent our own) because she doesn't conform to the proper female ideal. - Sarah Richardson
I was really struck by how little of the movie covered the antebellum South. I saw the movie once in my childhood and all I remembered, and all anyone talks about, is the beginning of the movie that focuses on “the old South.” For a nearly four-hour movie, that part makes up so little. – Wesley Weeks
I’ve seen Gone with the Wind plenty of times (what self-respecting classic film fan hasn’t?), but only when the mood struck me. I thought it was going to be a chore to see it this weekend because I didn’t think I was in the mood to watch it. When I finally forced myself to sit down for a viewing, it took me about one minute to get sucked in. Apparently, I’m always in the mood for Gone with the Wind. It truly is a classic. And for good reason! Just think, how many famous quotes come from this movie alone? Scarlett pumping her fist into the air, clearly on a soundstage with fake scenery, shouting, “Even if I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” By all rights that scene (and many others in the movie) should be completely, utterly cheesy, but it’s not. What a movie! Still, nothing can convince me to watch the sequel with Timothy Dalton. Just no. As a little aside, if I recall correctly had Margaret Mitchell decided to be in the movie, she would’ve picked Prissy to play! --Taylor Brann
There's a sequel? What is it called? - Whitney H.