Some of its critics say that "Forrest Gump" is little more than a right
fable whose message is "Vote Republican." Yes, Forrest is the embodiment
"traditional values," a simpleton who worships God, honors his mother,
what he's told, and never asks questions. Good old Forrest succeeds in
by embracing the values of mainstream society while Jenny, the girl he
loves with a blind passion, pursues the fancy-free lifestyles in vogue at
each time period portrayed: In the 1960s, she joins the counterculture,
strumming a guitar, smoking dope, dropping acid, and protesting the war in
Vietnam in which Forrest courageously fights. In the 70s, while Forrest
a successful businessman, Jenny is a fast living, sexually promiscuous
member of the disco set.
Forrest represents America, or, rather, the America that right wing propagandists want everyone to believe is the true America. Do what you're told, never talk back, and you'll be successful and happy. Jenny, on the other hand, epitomizes rebellion and the rejection of the unthinking way of life that the government would prefer we pursue. Forrest is good. Jenny is bad. Forrest further strengthens his image of goodness by always, always, ALWAYS taking Jenny back whenever her latest flirtations fail to fulfill her. Like Jesus, Forrest loves Jenny unconditionally, never questioning her lack of faithfulness. Yes, this film says, America forgives all of you long-haired, dope smoking, draft-dodging sex perverts, or we will if you agree to shape up, and fast. For Jenny, however, it was too late. Once she settled down into a respectable middle-class life, her past caught up with her.
Of course, some people see the above interpretation as hogwash. They maintain that "Forrest Gump" is simply a fable promoting such tried and true values as honoring your parents and your God. It's the story of innocence uncorrupted by a greedy, frequently hateful and dishonest world. No matter how evil the times, goodness can prevail.
I must say I can relate to the criticisms; they have validity. But so do the arguments of those who champion the film. It is with the latter group that I side, and Tom Hanks, more than anything else, is the reason. Not since James Stewart has an actor so believably portrayed kindness and decency. Hanks makes this film work, and his performance can even help you overlook the often awkward special-effects (the scene in which Forrest appears on "The Dick Cavett Show" with John Lennon failed to convince). I think Morgan Freeman deserved the Oscar that year for "The Shawshank Redemption," but of all the people who took home Oscars for "Forrest Gump," no one earned theirs more than Hanks. I can't imagine another actor (a living one, anyway) taking on this character and pulling it off as splendidly as he did.
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