08 August 2011

23. Gone With the Wind

How do you make a movie whose main character is so vain, so self-centered, so bad? How do you make someone the object of desire when they seem on the surface undesirable?

Scarlett O'Hara seems palatable to me only in that the way she lived her life was a reflection of the time period the movie was shot in, not set in. To put it another way, Scarlett's actions reflected women of the 1930's much more than they reflected those of the 1860's, so audiences could relate to the general spirit of her character much more so than the details of the plot and her specific actions in it.

To wit: after intermission, we see a woman at work. She returns to Tara, her plantation, to tend the garden. She marries a man she doesn't love, starts a lumber company. She hustles men to get money for taxes.

In her "by any means necessary" spirit, particularly as it relates to sex and money, she was a proto-typical flapper. She loved men and she loved money, and she would have them at any cost, but always on her own terms. And she wasn't afraid to get dirty, literally or figuratively, to have them.

All of this is to say that I had very little sympathy for Scarlett O'Hara throughout the entire movie, from her problems with money to her pining for some men at the expense of others. But I write this as a man in the beginnings of the 21st century. For women in the middle of the 20th century, sympathy must have been in abundance, which is one of many reasons why this film was such a success when it was released, and why it has endured.


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