Forest Gump (Zemeckis) is the story of the journey of a young man, right from his life as a young boy to manhood. The movie travels through history – from Elvis to Vietnam War. Represents various social and political issues but through the eyes of a beholder who was indifferent and non-judgmental. This paper tries to raise a few of the social and political issues upheld by the movie in the 60s and the 70s.
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The movie begins with Forest, the protagonist, a ten year boy with below average IQ studying in a school. The usual story was the “weird guy” had no friends except one – Jenny. Forest grew up to be a boy who had a few special talents – he could run and was good with numbers – which earns him his way through college. Forest then signs up for the Vietnam War when Jenny, his best friend, who had become a hippie which was a countercultural group in the USA. They were the young generation who wanted to break the shackles of the conservatism of the post-second world war society. The movie showed mass gathering of hippies who gathered together to hail the American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. It showed a counterculture that, in one hand, revolted against the violence and killing of US soldiers in one hand, and in the other hand, they got addicted to drugs. The movie represented and era – 1960s to 70s – when the counterculture was at its peak, there was remnant experimentation with music, culture, social norms and so on. This group showed a desire to break –free and they spoke against war in Vietnam, civil rights (sexual, color, and gender based). The movie showed it all through Forest, who even though was not a direct associate with the trend, was involved due to his best friend’s direct involvement.
The main protagonist of the movie is Forest Gump, whose life has been shown in the movie and the villain is Gump himself. He is the hero in virtue of being the main character. He also shows heroic attitude when he faces the war in Vietnam and saves his friends in the warfront. He behaves heroically when he gives away the share of Bubba (a friend from Vietnam) the share of his family even when the friend is no more. He acts heroically when he has to marry Jenny or save her from distress. But in some way, he is the villain too in the movie. Gump represents the American who is unaware and disinterested. He believes in nothing, except for his mother’s Southern aphorisms, neither does he stands for anything. Even though Gump plays football and Ping-Pong, he shows no interest in sports. He holds no individual political views even after meeting three presidents. He has no monetary or physical needs or does he has ambition. What is even more disturbing is that he does gallant things not deliberately, but as an accident. He fails to stand for anything and all that happens in the movie is by stroke of dumb luck. Thus, Gump villainously shatters our conventional view of a hero.
Forest Gump moves away from many conventional stereotyping of race, generation, gender, and culture. Like Gump, the movie does not stand for anything. The movie does not represent Bubba as the epitome of “black masculinity” as most literature shows. It does show the mass movement for civil rights, or gender equality or Vietnam. Though it showed all the events, it did not take a stand. And more disturbing is the fact that it did not take a side as if the movie was a mere documentation of the facts. Like the main character, Forest Gump, the movie too is devoid of any anxiety or deliberation or reflections. It is an empty book. The neutrality of the movie regarding social issues –civil right, race, color, gender – and politics is disturbing. What is it that the movie wants to show – its divine grace to be stupid? Or does it show that one has to be stupid to be successful? Forest Gump is thus full of questions and no answers.
Forest Gump. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. 1994.