(“New To Me” is a column wherein your intrepid reviewer watches the classics — both mainstream and cult — in an effort to fill in the holes in his pop culture literacy and avoid the garbage that generally defines modern cinema. Related thoughts below. See other entries here.)
Obviously, Gone with the Wind is a Big Fucking Deal. Every critic puts it at the top of their “Best Movies of All Time” list and I get it. It’s the ultimate epic made in a time when they barely knew how to make movies in the first place. And it’s still the highest grossing movie of all time after you adjust for inflation. (Avatar can suck it.) But here’s the thing: watching this movie now is like taking medicine — and not the good grape-flavored kind that makes you want to swallow the whole bottle and maybe see unicorns — you know it’s probably good for you, but it tastes so terrible that you’d kind of rather stay sick.
Essentially, Gone with the Wind is a four-hour romantic comedy with no jokes and two borderline sociopaths for main characters. I mean, these are terrible people. Scarlett O’Hara is a nasty, entitled bitch who seems to exist as the argument for spousal abuse and Rhett Butler is a charming sex offender with a mustache (I know, kind of redundant). I guess there’s supposed to be a love story in there but Rhett’s most effective romantic gesture is the ol’ rape move, which of course causes Scarlett to fall madly in love with him. It’s an interesting tactic but as far as romantic plotlines go, it doesn’t change the fact that these two are some pretty unlovable assholes so it’s hard to care about what happens to them. Hey, but at least there’s casual racism. So that’s nice. Obviously we’ve got “best ever” material right here.
Now I know people dismiss the whole racism thing because “it was another time.” But I’m pretty sure there was no time when slavery was considered the equivalent of a cool career choice for a black person. Of course, the black people in Gone with the Wind are all just depicted as simple-minded caricatures anyway, so I guess that’s supposed to be fine. I mean the housemaid Mammy (and so begat a thousand stereotypes) is more or less an Aunt Jemima bottle come to life and she’s not even the most embarrassing person in the film. The fact that they gave the actress that played her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, making her the first African-American to win an Academy Award, has to be one of the earliest sightings of so-called “white guilt.” And believe me they had every reason to feel guilty.
Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch Gone with the Wind. It’s pretty much required viewing for anyone who considers themselves a movie buff of any depth. It’s definitely an impressive achievement for a 70-year old film. But I get the feeling that more people love this movie because they’re supposed to than because of its actual merit. So, on the one hand, for its historical significance/critical acclaim you’ve got to give this a 9.
But this ain’t history class, Johnny. I’m giving it a …
DYL MAG Score: 6