Eric Kohn doesn’t have to try and convince me that Forrest Gump blows — I’ve been pissing on the legacy of this Robert Zemeckis-Tom Hanks film from the get-go.
Best passage: “There’s a reason Forrest Gump became a beacon to an antiquated Republican Party when it came out in the run-up to the 1994 midterm elections: it preaches conservatism in its bones, whether its creators intended it that way or not.
“Through the lens of Hanks’ lovable naif, who somehow stumbles through every monumental moment in American history and emerges unscathed, Forrest Gump reads as a repudiation to any nuanced assessment of the country. It celebrates family values and obedience to the system over anyone who clashes with it. Every whiff of rebellion is suspect.
“This no-nothing white man becomes a war hero and a wealthy man simply by chugging along, participating in a country that dictates his every move. He never comprehends racism or the complexities of Vietnam; the movie portrays political activism and hippy culture as a giant cartoon beyond Forrest’s understanding, while presenting his apolitical stance as the height of all virtue.
“Viewed in retrospect, Forrest Gump whitewashes and dumbs down American history at every turn.”
From “How Do Those Chocolates Taste Now?“, posted on 7.10.14:
Yesterday afternoon N.Y. Post film critic Lou Lumenick posted a tribute piece about Robert Zemeckis‘s Forrest Gump, which opened 20 years and four days ago (i.e., 7.6.94). Millions of moviegoers fell in love with this delusional film about a kindly, aw-shucks simpleton who leads a charmed life. We all know it wound up with six Oscars and made a mountain of money, etc.
But in my mind Gump‘s most noteworthy achievement is that it showed how myopic Americans (particularly American males) were about themselves. They really love (or loved) the idea of half-sweethearting and half-dipshitting their way through life. Gump is also one of the most lying, full-of-shit films ever made when it came to portraying the tempests of the 1960s.
Here’s how I put it way back in October 2008, although I was drawing at the time from an L.A. Times Syndicate piece about the Gump backlash that I wrote just after it opened:
“I have a still-lingering resentment of Forrest Gump which I and many others disliked from the get-go for the way it kept saying ‘keep your head down’, for its celebration of clueless serendipity and simpleton-ism, and particularly for the propagandistic way it portrayed ’60s-era counter-culture types and in fact that whole convulsive period.
“Every secondary hippie or protestor character in that film was a selfish, loutish, intemperate asshole, and every man and woman in the military was modest, decent and considerate.
These and other aspects convinced me that the film was basically reactionary Republican horseshit. Zemeckis has long been presumed to be in the politically “independent” (read: Republican) column. And don’t forget the portrayal of the bitter and dispirited Lieutenant Dan by Gary Sinise, one of the most ardent right-wing guys in Hollywood circles.
“No offense to screenwriter Eric Roth, who’s a good fellow and a brilliant writer.”
In response to my ’08 riff an HE reader named “hcat” said the following: ‘I have the same problem with Gump. While it flows well and is quite funny throughout, I hate the way it continually rewards Forrest for his stupidity and punishes Jenny for her exploration.
‘What especially irks me is the fact that it criticizes the counter-culture and the hippies, but cues up their music every time they need a quick nostalgia hit. Gump is a country boy and the soundtrack should have been wall to wall Oak Ridge Boys. But that way I can’t imagine it being anywhere near the hit it was.'”