Forrest Gump: Lynchpin of History

forrest gump.jpg

There’s an odd little subset of American film that
celebrates the accidental hero, the person who accomplishes wonderful things without
intending to — without even trying, in fact.
Forrest Gump is one such character.

Like Dorothy Gale in The
Wizard of Oz
or Chauncey Gardiner in Being
There
, Forrest is an innocent, inherently good, and effortlessly wise. There’s no place like home. Spring is the time for planting.  Stupid is as stupid does. 

Dorothy’s tornado-borne farmhouse frees the Munchkins from
witchy tyranny. Chauncey earns the
admiration of the country’s political and business elite. And Forrest’s influence is even more
far-reaching: He inspires Elvis
Presley’s iconic dance style, starts national crazes for jogging, ping pong and
smiley faces, encounters luminaries from Bear Bryant to Abbie Hoffman to Dick
Cavett. 

Through it all, and unlike most other cinematic main
characters, Forrest remains essentially unchanged. During his travels, both over land and
across decades, he stays in one emotional place, a very optimistic one, even as
he bears witness to the Vietnam War, Hurricane Carmen and the AIDS
epidemic. Perhaps the film’s point is
that there isn’t anything wrong with him to begin with. He doesn’t need to grow as a human being,
because — substandard intelligence notwithstanding — he’s already noble, loving,
hardworking and pure.

The film charmed audiences, along with plenty of critics;
Roger Ebert called Forrest and Jenny’s eventual partnership a “dream of
reconciliation for our society.”
Others were less enthralled.  Owen
Gleiberman
of Entertainment Weekly found the movie “glib, shallow, and
monotonous.”

Make your own assessment, and relive some of the events of
the last half century tonight when Forrest Gump airs at 8PM | 7C. For a full schedule of the movie this month, click here.

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