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To Screen-L colleagues: We forward these notes rather late in the cycle,
aware of their departure from the common points of view about the movie in
question---
        We are astonished at how credulous so many film and culture folk are,
 and how hungry for rescue. How quick to feel betrayed by masterful allegory!
 That so many took FG so literally,  that so many should fear it!   In
contrast, we looked for the message in the revis- ionist vas-you-dere (Gump
was There) special-effects techno- medium, and in the rapid repetition of
voiceover narration as dialogue (a repetitive, reassuring confirmation of
Gump's tale that mocks our belief in it) .
        The closest thing to Gump, for us, is Jonathan Swift (yes, ~1700 AD,
 Gulliver's Travels etc) and his polite, persistent, even-handed roasting of
society on all sides.  At FG, we thought we'd *die laughing* at its
dumb-faced nagging ironies. We loved it. We all went twice. But for some
reason, our group was the only one going under the seats in helpless
laughing, rollicking despair, hilarious grief.   FG: a tribute to simplicity
and/or stupidity??  Hardly!  Regressive, conservative? Ya, like Lenny Bruce!
 (LB: "All humor arises from the conservative impulse.")   Sentimental?? Yo',
like Ionesco and Beckett!  Painful? Truly.
     That the Right would cleave it to their bosoms as some sort of tribute
to their entrenchment is the biggest parody of all. Gump a patriotic movie?
Quite the reverse, we say.
      Part of our group's context was: we saw FG late, months *after* having
read the reviews and heard the putdowns, but before the movie became a phenom
in its surprising end-of-year second wind at the box office: we are intrigued
by how liberals and conservatives both claimed (or were assigned to) FG, and
how neatly Forrest slices and dices them all.  Forrest Gump -- Beloved by the
Right; Sancti- fying the virtues of RonBushRushNewt; A paean to stupidity;  A
retreat from postmodern technologies; A call for renewal of 60's values; A
sentimental bath, etc etc.
      Didn't Forrest's repetitive, disingenuous "For some reason......"
strike you? ("For some reason, someone went and shot that handsome young
President.."   "For some reason, someone killed Dr King...." "For some
reason... Jenny didn't appreciate her pa's affection.")
       For some reason, not one post on Screen-L has raised FG's few small
virtues and many broad offenses as a disability film, FG's many exploitations
of disability images, Lieut Dan's self-hate and the various objectionable
'overcoming' messages (which are always called 'heartwarming').
      For some reason, Jenny never did quite seem to know what love is. And
for some reason, not one among hundreds of Screen-L posts has discussed FG as
the story of Jenny's incest, with its exquisite, carefully observed array of
awful realistic sequelae: promiscuity, substance abuse, confusion,
depression, dissociation, and the inability to protect herself from HIV.  (We
hear that the Republicans gloat on her troubles as righteous punishment for
her hippie promiscuity and doping. Some call that blaming the victim, others
call it De Nile.)
       It seems plain to us why FG and Pulp Fiction have been in such
competition.  They are *twins* in the unconcious, both skilfully tilting the
floor under whatever (Left/Right, Art/Trash, Romance/ Despair) our society
uses to outline its boundaries. The first draws us in with a box of candy
proffered, its surface tale of love and loyalty told in a comical drawl.  The
second, with promises of venal pleasures, dumb S/M humor amid all that brain
tissue (the unconscious citizen voyeur, hopingfearing to see JFK's grey
matter all over Jackie and the inside of the car? Will we ever get it clean
again?)  For some reason, people do find it hard to look away
(PF/NBK/Zapruder), now don't we?
        These qualities in FG do not make it a masterpiece, or a film for all
time. Nevertheless, we remain intrigued by public and critical resistance to
a fuller view of it.
 
Jean Jameson, Bet MacArthur, Ray Ishigata, Byron Brown   Late Culture Project
     Arts Analysis Inst    Cambridge MA