Friday, 26 August 2011

Gone With the Wind (1939)


Better an English girl than a Yankee!

Fascinating Black History Month type movie that perfectly encapsulates - like no other - the ambivalent feelings Whites have about the White supremacism that built their present-day culture. Here there is a constant attempt to whitewash slavery by not presenting it as it really was and, simultaneously, by claiming there was something noble about living high on the hog of Black misery - on land stolen from Indians. This, bizarrely, is presented as a romantic ideal; without political commentary or irony. Hardly surprising then that despite the mass of special features presented here not a single Black person could be found to praise the film - not even from among those featured in it.

The inherent White supremacism of the movie is exacerbated by political correctness that uses words like "pretty" and "civilized" to speak of a culture based on genocide is a cognitively-impaired use of such terms. And yet no White here is shown-up as mentally-ill. Eschewing Margaret Mitchell's overt White supremacism, the movie of her one and only novel tries to evade the issue - and that of secessionism - to avoid offending anyone. There are no "Niggers" or Ku Klux Klan in this movie and so it focuses on a complex love story rather than ethics.

The reason this film works as brilliantly as it does - but only as drama (not history) - is because of superb performances, vivid cinematography, excellent writing, superlative direction - all of which achieve a combination that is well-nigh perfect. White supremacism never seemed so reasonable - as if morality were relative rather than absolute; as if the material benefits of anti-Semitism were being celebrated (SS officers as chivalrous knights) while healthy Jews are worked to death to pay for it all. This expresses the problem for Whites today, how to account for the wealth of the West without reference to slavery and imperialism. Turning it into a love story is no real answer - except for guilt-ridden Whites.

It is hard to feel empathy for a people who, despite so-called "gumption" and lack thereof, are always going to be more successful because of the moral value attached to their skin color by Whites. "Gumption" thus becomes a synonym for an Old Boy Network and/or collective narcissism that obviates the need for a superhuman effort to survive a culture that has gone with the wind. Yet despite Scarlett O’Hara's manipulativeness, immaturity, narcissism and egomania (symptomatic of many Whites) she still holds your attention throughout: A testament to the same qualities in her impersonator, Vivien LEIGH.

Business-wise, this is a rare example of a brilliant film effectively directed by its producer: Forget about Citizen Kane, this is probably the best, most popular film ever made.

Copyright © 2011 Frank TALKER. Permission granted to reproduce and distribute it in any format; provided that mention of the author’s Weblog ( is included: E-mail notification requested. All other rights reserved.

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