coldcat's wit

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Gone With the Wind

I have a dream. That one day I will be able to track down this bumper sticker I saw once. It has a picture of a Confederate battle flag crossed out, accompanied by the words "You lost. Get over it." I really want that bumper sticker. A lot of people have had trouble getting over it. That probably explains the continued fascination with 1939's Oscar winner for best picture Gone With the Wind. Now the main story line here revolves around Scarlett. Over the course of the movie she transforms from a woman concerned only about who she might marry into a woman forced to not only fend for herself, but take care of basically everyone else in her life. But there's this undercurrent running through the whole thing, this feeling of sympathy for the south. A prologue compares the south to knights and ladies of the era of chivalry. Title cards constantly refer to the rebellion as gallant. Mournful music swells up when we hear the name Gettysburg. Even more mournful music accompanies the name Sherman. Sure, the movie is very progressive when it comes to feminism, it was written by a woman after all, but it is extremely regressive when it comes to race relations, it was written by a southerner after all. Are we supposed to be sad that the north won? I may be from Michigan, and as such seeing this as a biased observer, but I see nothing good in what the south fought for. At the start of the movie, Scarlett's father tells her that land is the only thing worth fighting for. You know, I can think of something worth fighting for: ending slavery. Somehow I think Margaret Mitchell would disagree. But what is truly astonishing is the way the movie glamorizes the south. Through being a manipulative whore Scarlett winds up owning a lumber yard after the war, and when it comes to finding workers, she chooses convicts over freed blacks. When Ashley complains about the way they are treated by the jailer, Scarlett comments on how he never complained about slave labor before the war. He replies that slaves were never whipped or starved the way the convicts were. Um. Bull Fucking Shit. This movie wants us to believe no slave was ever whipped? Yeah, sure, that's why they kept running away before the war and why they were so happy to be emancipated. In the scenes where our boys in blue were about to reach Atlanta, as Scarlett continued to treat the blacks as property, I just wanted them to say to her, "just wait two hours, bitch. Emancipation's coming, as in my fist emancipating your teeth from your mouth." After the war the anti-emancipation politics fall by the wayside so that the movie can concentrate entirely on Scarlett being a total bitch. She pines for Ashley, who happens to be married to a friend of hers, and goes about marrying three other guys who she doesn't care about at all. When two of them die, they are quickly forgotten. Her third husband, Rhett, she treats like shit the entire time. It's only when Melanie dies, freeing Ashley, and Ashley rejects her anyway, that Scarlett finally wants to treat Rhett with some fraction of respect. And Rhett doesn't give a damn. Haha, bitch. You lose. You know how many times I've been rooting for a literary character to fall victim to domestic violence? Great Expectations, Of Human Bondage, and this. That's it. That's the list. Scarlett, like Mildred Rogers and Miss Havisham, is a conniving slut. Are we supposed to feel sorry for her when Rhett walks out, or feel happy for her when she vows to keep fighting, buoyed by the realization that she still has that old run down plantation? 'Cuz I gotta tell you, I sure as hell don't. Other than Rhett coming to his senses and leaving his heartless whore of a wife, there are some positives in this movie. Some of the scenes are just spectacularly shot, especially the destruction of Atlanta. The acting is also excellent, although Scarlett's "I'll never be hungry again" speech which is so famous was a bit too hammed up for my taste. If it weren't for the Civil War subplot, I would like this movie a lot more. If this movie were just about a bitch getting her comeuppance, it would be great. But then they toss in the pro-south crap the first two hours, and in the end we have to wait close to four hours for somebody to tell Scarlett off. As much as I enjoyed the ending, other nominees for best picture that year were much better. Love Affair, the basis for An Affair to Remember, is truly great. Wizard of Oz is just as spectacular as Gone With the Wind. Of Mice and Men and Ninotchka are two all-time greats written by two of the best writers of the 20th century, John Steinbeck and Billy Wilder respectively. Then we have Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra's follow-up to 1938 best picture winner You Can't Take It with You, is about the little guy fighting the good fight. So in other words, the exact opposite of Gone With the Wind. Mr. Smith should have gone home with the Oscar.

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