Pop Culture Blind Spot: Gone With The Wind

It only took my nearly 80 years to watch, but I finally dug into Gone With the Wind.

My knowledge of Gone with the Wind: Set during the Civil War(?). Clark Gable hits up Scarlett O’Hara. Hattie McDaniel made history by winning an Oscar. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” V LONG MOVIE.
Netflix description: Director Victor Fleming’s 1939 epic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name stars Vivien Leigh as self-absorbed, headstrong Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern Belle who meets her match in Rhett Butler just as the Civil War breaks out.

Maybe I’m just having a brain fart, but could’ve sworn the actress’ name was Scarlett O’Hara and Vivien Leigh was just another actress. Oops.

I’ve gathered my snacks, I’m hunkering down. Here we go.

There’s an Overture! And I’m skipping it! If there’s any bit where I can cut down on this 4 hour movie, I will.

In the credits (because it’s 1939 and the credits are at the beginning of the movie, you folks who run out to leave the parking lot early), there are men under the category of “Scarlett’s Beaux” and that’s an IMDb credit I’d gladly take.

Update: Her Beaux are ginger gentleman callers who look like the Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman meets Alexander Hamilton

And Scarlett is refusing to listen to her maid/Hattie McDaniel. This is going to be a problem.

Do you ever watch old movies like this and think, “All these people are probably dead, right?” No? Just me? Cool cool cool.

“Has been trifling with you?” Scarlett’s Pa asks her.

Scar and her Pa were just walking outside near a lake and now they’re in front of a green screen and it is hilarious. God bless the early days of film.

Ok Mammy is mumbling to herself after giving orders to the other staff members and she’s officially my favorite.

Wait Scarlett’s parents are calling each other “Mr. O’Hara and Mrs. O’Hara”… was this a thing?

“You can’t show your bosom before 3:00!” Mammy telling spoiled bitch Scarlett about picking an appropriate dress

I don’t have a subtitles option with the way I’m watching this, so I legit had to pull up the script. Vivien is speaking real fast, and oddly, it’s harder to read Mammy’s lines than hearing her say it.

“He looks as if, as if he knows what I looked like He looks as if, as if he knows what I looked like  without my shimmy.” Scarlett on Rhett seeing her for the first time

Scarlett’s Beaux should actually be changed to “Scarlett’s Bitches”. They’re fawning all over her like she’s The Bachelorette.

But this Bachelorette is into a dude named Ashley, who’s into another chick, so it’s not looking good for Scar. She confronts him and he’s all, “Get a grip, I can’t marry you,” and she reacts very maturely:

The women get to take a nap in the middle of a party??? This is a custom I can get on board with.

Everyone is celebrating after hearing that President Lincoln called on soldiers to kick off the war. Legit hugging and whooping as if their team just won the Super Bowl.

Charles Hamilton goes and proposes to Scarlett because he’s all hopped up on the war excitement, and because she’s still reeling from that library slap, she accepts. In the course of about 5 minutes, they get married, he goes to war, and she gets a letter saying that he didn’t die “a hero” in battle, but rather got a bout of pneumonia followed by measles. Yikes.

A widowed Scarlett runs into Rhett at some Confederate party/fundraiser. First bad sign: a solider is going around asking women for their jewelry to fund the war. Then an auction is held for men to bid money to dance with a woman of their choice. Rhett offers up $150 in gold to dance with Scarlett, still in her black dress of mourning. This is the most foreign thing I’ve ever watching.

Rhett continues to be headstrong against a needy Scarlett, and the result is this famous scene, that I’ve actually heard of before!

The Battle of Gettysburg happens and the list of everyone who’s been injured or killed is released in the South. And naturally, a band plays some upbeat music like the string quartet on the Titanic.

Should’ve Cut For Time: A slave follows a chicken with an axe, and in the next scene, a dead, cooked,chicken is on the table for Christmas dinner. 

Ashley’s back from the war and Scarlett professes her love for him again and kisses him – despite the fact He’s Just Not Into You AND she’s BFFs with his wife now. Ugh.

Scarlett is helping out in the infirmary, which is surprising seeing as how the only prevalent characteristic she’s shown is selfishness.

This Miss Pitty lady needs to get a handle on herself.

“… Even though it isn’t much of an animal, I did have a even though it isn’t much of an animal, I did have a  lot of trouble stealing it.” LOL Rhett gives no fucks

The war is still happening, Scarlett and one of the slaves are left at the house, she delivered Mellie’s baby, and Rhett continues to be Scar’s saving grace.

Annddd then he tells her he’s going off to join the rest of the men to fight in the war. But not before telling her he’s in love with her, saying, “Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us.  Selfish and shrewd.” Yeah. Duh.

Scarlett, her slave, the baby, and the horse go back to Scarlett’s parents’ home and turns out her mom died from typhoid, and her dad is in shambles.

“As God as my witness….as God as my witness they’re As God as my witness….as God as my witness they’re  not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this  and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again.  No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal,  cheat, or kill, as God as my witness, I’ll never be  hungry again.” A dramatic monologue by Scarlett in a bloodied field.

::Intermission + Entr’Acte::

LOL at the ladies bitching about having to pick cotton.

WELL, Scarlett just shot a soldier attempting to steal from their house straight in the face. As Chris Hardwick likes to say, “POINTS!” This is ridiculous, now it’s turned into Sunshine Clearners and Scar and her sister need to dispose of this body without anyone noticing.

The war is over, and there’s a montage of everyone reacting to the news. Scarlett? She’s still pining for Ashley, saying, “Ashely will be coming home. We’ll plant more Ashely will be coming home. We’ll plant more  cotton. Cotton ought to go sky-high next year.” *dislike*

Scar legit told Ashley that Melanie can’t have any more children in an attempt for him to leave her for him. What is wrong with you?? Oh and then he kisses her? Everyone needs to check themselves.

Scarlett’s dad dies so now she needs money to keep the plantation running. Natch, she goes to Rhett???

Scarlett’s dress is the inspo for Carol Burnett’s curtain rod dress, right?

Scarlett continues to be the worst by tricking her younger sister’s fiance Frank (who just happens to be rich) into marrying her. Frank and Ashley start a business together, ??

Rhett comes home with a v drunk Ashley and no Frank in sight – because he tells Scar Frank’s out on some road shot dead in the head. Hello? That’s how you tell her? Also she didn’t ask where her husband’s whereabouts were, because ugh Scarlett.

“Don’t drink alone, Scarlett. People always find out. Don’t drink alone, Scarlett. People always find out.  And it ruins reputation.” Rhett, what do you know, man?!

It’s basically Frank’s funeral, and Rhett casually proposes to Scarlett, who says yes. Here’s the thing – I’m finding Rhett’s conceit endearing, but Scarlett’s selfishness annoying. This is what the patriarchy wants you to think. I’m annoyed with myself, TBH.

RHETT: “What are you thinking about, Scarlett?”

SCARLETT: “I’m thinking about how rich we are.” About sums it up.

Ok so all of a sudden Scarlett gives birth to a baby girl… the time jumps are questionable, yet this movie is still 11 hours long??

Scarlett tells Rhett she doesn’t want any more children (half because she still loves Ashley, half because she doesn’t want to lose her figure). He gets mad and busts open the bedroom door with his swift kick. Maybe a little too agrressive, but OK.

Bonnie has a stroller with a fake horse in the front and reins to make it look like she’s –

Scarlett and Ashley have a lingering hug and Melanie’s sister sees their intimate moment, and because she never liked Scarlett, spreads the nasty rumor around town. Rhett later forces Scarlett to go to Ashley’s surprise birthday party but then at the door leaves her to go in alone. What a dick move. I care for no one in this film. Except for Mammy. I like Mammy.

“I’ve always thought a good lashing with a buggy I’ve always thought a good lashing with a buggy whip would benefit you immensely.” Rhett, WHAT?

“Well, cheer up. Maybe you’ll have an accident. Well, cheer up. Maybe you’ll have an accident.” RHETT, WHAT??? SCARLETT TELLS HIM SHE’S PREGNANT, ADMITS THEY BOTH DON’T WANT IT, HE SAYS THAT LINE THEN THROWS HER DOWN THE STAIRS?!?! WHAT IS THIS MOVIE

(also, it’s horrible, but I immediately thought of this Melissa McCarthy SNL sketch)

GUYS BONNIE JUST DIED BC SHE DISOBEYED HER PARENTS BY ATTEMPTING TO JUMP A FENCE WITH HER PONY (which Rhett shot and killed).

While visiting Bonnie at her … wake (? Rhett locked himself in her room), Melanie faints and while she’s dying, Scarlett finally realizes that Ashley only really loved Melanie, and not her. Bitch, come on now. It took for Melanie to die for her to get that rolls eyes forever

Well Scarlett isn’t having the best luck right now. She had a miscarriage, her daughter died, her BFF died, the man she’d been in love with for years is broken because his wife died, and Rhett ups and leaves with the iconic line 

Crying at the steps of her empty mansion, an audio montage of the important people in her life reminding her about the Tara Plantation where she grew up, and she has an epiphany that she’ll not give up on life and instead go back home, because “tomorrow is another day”.

Well, I really didn’t think it would end with the two main characters together and in love. I thought this was a true ride into the sunset situation, but the 2018 feminist in me is kinda glad it didn’t? Maybe this is just the beginning of her new life as a non-selfish human now that she’s lost pretty much everything in her life.

Except for her plantation, of course.

 

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Books That Should Be Banned Because I Hate Them

It’s Banned Books Week – the time every year when the academic and bookworm communities team up and tell meddlesome parent associations that they can suck it. And of course, they can and should: banning books is not cool. It usually happens because parents pressure schools and libraries to get rid of things they don’t want their kids to see. That would be fine if it was because these books were truly awful, like A Child’s Guide To Excluding Other Religions or Racism 4 Kidz. But that’s usually not the case.

Here’s the thing, though. If books can be banned simply because folks don’t want their kids exposed to the greater world, I think it’s only fair that the rest of us should get to arbitrarily have books banned too – because we hated them. I was in the AP/Honors track in high school, and in our particular school that meant that just about all we read were “the classics.” Now, don’t get me wrong, those dead white men can write. But some of those books were so dull and dusty that – even though I can see their value from an educational perspective – I wouldn’t mind banning them … because I hated them. Welcome to a very special edition of C+S Book Club, in which we become an anti-book club.

Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

In this book, we high school juniors learned about Africa from the perspective that really matters — this one white guy who is dead (see what I mean?). I couldn’t even get through the Wikipedia entry on this to refresh my memory, because even that was too boring. But the point is, a bunch of European dudes went through the Congo River on a boat getting obsessed with each other. There were definitely heads on sticks and some kind of a “native” rebellion and a melodramatic death scene. YAWN.

The Once And Future King by T.H. White

This was part of our summer reading before Freshman year of high school – and let me tell you, there’s no better way to stifle a lifelong love of reading than to assign seven books, including a 700-page Arthurian fantasy, to be read over the course of two months (read: the last two weeks before vacation ends), so that the kids don’t even have time to read of their own volition. But hey, high school is when you start to learn a lot about yourself — and this is when I learned that apparently, I hate Arthurian fantasy. The copy on the Barnes and Noble website says that this is a tale “of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war.”

You know what else is that kind of tale of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war? Harry Potter, which – fun fact! – did not ruin my fourteenth summer.

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It’s important for kids to understand that life in a Soviet gulag was tedious as hell, but even as a 15-year-old, I could have figured it out without having to read Ivan Denisovich’s boring day in prison develop in real time. When I discovered my study sheet from my AP English exam, I had subtitled this book something like “(more like 100 years in the life of me).”

I learned 1000% more about prison life by watching Orange Is The New Black, so maybe that can replace this 200-page snoozefest in the high school curriculum.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Unfair grudge? Maybe.  I’m shooting for reading 50 books this year, and Gone With The Wind, with its 1000-page count and twerpy protagonist, singlehandedly threw off my timeline. I know of people who read this in high school, but we didn’t because a white guy didn’t write it* (Margaret Mitchell is a white lady). Still, I figured I should see what the fuss was about.

I still don’t get it. People are obsessed with this book. I usually am able to view books as  a product of their time, but GWTW really tested my patience. Rhett and Scarlett and the gang being racist? Totally unsurprising, and it would be unrealistic if they weren’t. But Mitchell portrayed all of the Black characters as simplistic, childlike dumb-dumbs who, even after emancipation, truly needed the guidance and protection of the good white people. Guys. The “mammy” is literally called Mammy. Mind you, this was written in 1936, not during the Civil War era.

There’s also a truly cringey “no means yes” rape scene (it’s totally fine, they were married and Scarlett wanted it UGH).

Finally, the book is only so long because the author takes about 200 pages to describe scenarios like “Scarlett goes to a barbeque and learns that this guy is engaged.”

If schools want to teach a civil-war era novel that also has inspired a feature film (because you can fill like a week of class days watching the movie), let’s go with Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years A Slave. Please.

* We did read To Kill A Mockingbird and Black Boy, so there’s two. Oh! And Wuthering Heights.

Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

Okay, I don’t really want this banned, and I didn’t hate it. But is there some way to short-list who gets to read it? I’m thinking about those earnest high school boys who think they’re deeper than everyone else, were born in the wrong era, and probably have Bob Dylan posters tacked up in their rooms. Give them one dose of Catcher and they become positively insufferable, because it reinforces their idea that they’re the only one who’s not a “phony” (except ol’ Phoebe, etc). Honestly, a great book, but teens who think they know everything don’t need more ammo. Let’s assign them Franny and Zooey instead, until they’re old enough to have a balanced perspective on the Holden Caulfield character.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, But Only For Some People

A few years ago I went on a huge Lost Generation reading kick, and I’m still so fascinated by the era they lived in, the style of writing, all of it. However, like Catcher In The Rye, some kids don’t  have the perspective to read these critically. I don’t really want these on the banned list. These are exactly the kind of books I want kids reading, even if some kids don’t understand it at an adult level. It’s just that from my own high school and college days, I remember a lot of people reading these books and feeling so much admiration and awe for the very people who were being criticized in them. It’s like watching Mean Girls and coming away with the message “man, those Plastics really were the coolest kids out there, weren’t they?”

I guess I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t read Catcher In The Rye or books about high society written by the Lost Generation. I’m just saying we should teach them to read critically or, barring that, teach them to shut the heck up.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Story time: we read this book in Honors English my Freshman year. I enjoyed it, but sometimes didn’t do awesome at the pop reading quizzes we had because I was more into binge reading on weekends than reading two chapters a night or whatever. When it got time to write the essay at the end of the unit, I killed it. A friend’s computer was broken, so I offered to type hers up too – not fixing the little mistakes I found because that would be dishonest and I was almost compulsively honorable at that stage of life.

When we got the graded papers back, I was ready to see the big fat A at the top of my page – and saw a 65%. WHAT. THE. HELL. 65% was a grade I’d only heard about before, from other people, unfortunate people whose lives weren’t like mine. My friend, whose paper I knew wasn’t as good, had like a 97%. All throughout my paper the teacher had scribbled snide little comments like “your words??” (next to the word “enamored” which is not even a weird word for a 14-year-old to know). So I went to the teacher to see what was up, and she scheduled a meeting with my parents and a vice principal because she thought it was plagiarized. The school was on a plagiarism witch hunt because some kids had been kicked out for it the year before. She claims she marked my paper down 30 points but that can’t even be right, because it was still 2 points less than my friend’s error-ridden paper. She obviously just failed it because she didn’t think I was smart enough to turn in something so good.

Anyway. I got the grade restored, in part because the vice principal vouched that she’d see me pour over Dickens when I was a third grader stuck at my brothers’ basketball games, and in part because my partial rough draft was still in my notebook, complete with crossouts and doodles. Only by the grace of God had I not written something embarrassing like “Mrs. Pacey Witter” or “Jack Dawson 4 lyfe” in the margins.

Point is: I liked this book initially, but thanks to that teacher (Mrs. Hammerton, Honors English, Aquinas Institute 2000, what’s up?) – well, if you can just have books banned willy-nilly because they give you uncomfy feelings, then I’d like to do that here, please.


 

I enjoyed just about everything I had to read in school: from Greek drama to ancient myths to Shakespeare to 19th century romanticism. But there were still those books that I just could not get into. How about you all – any books you wouldn’t lose sleep over the banning of, because you hated them so much?