For Gump or Never Gump: A “Forrest Gump” (1994) Korean Rerelease editorial

 For Gump or Never Gump: A “Forrest Gump” (1994) Korean Rerelease editorial

There has been somewhat of a Film rerelease fad in Korea over the last year or so. Considering the total capacity of theater screens in Korea, this is an interesting phenomenon. The movies that get rereleased tend to be those first released in the late 80s or 90s. For example, the first Matrix movie is currently in theater again at the moment. Recently, I went to see “Forrest Gump” (1994) in its rerelease here in Korea. This is some thoughts I had while I wipe down my old man tears.

People are complicated mysterious creatures who tend to be a mess in their own unique manner.
In other words, it is a mess under the hood. This makes it very difficult to perform an inspection the engine to find out what is up. So, what should one do? What do you use to try to find out whether this person is a good match for you? Some use one’s hobbies or tastes in art as a litmus test for personality. Film buffs sometimes use movies for this purpose. Some Star Wars enthusiasts say that they see no long term future with those who have no interest in Star Wars or even dislike that film franchise. “Yes Star Wars vs. No Star Wars!” Can you divide people into two categories? One’s general taste in such stuff like movies is complicated and not always a great indicator of compatibility. There are too many variables and degrees to those variables. However, a “yes or no” system may work depending on the variable. The Star Wars franchise may not be a good one. What movie I do think is a good criteria to divide humanity into two groups is the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994) starring Tom Hanks; The world as “For Gump and Never Gump” people.

Forest Gump as a Fable
You know the story of the “Forrest Gump” (1994). You have a mentally challenge white male going through the traumatic historical events of post WW2 America and influencing those events in his own manner. In addition, the movie is his journey of finding love which ultimately he does even those it lasts for a fleeting moment. “Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you are going to get!” That is life after all!

That is the simple reading of “Forrest Gump” (1994). There are layers underneath that are not actually too difficult to see. First, the movie is a process of reinterpreting recent American history and elevating it to the level of myth/fable. Thus, the pain of the past is stripped away and the past becomes history. If you go a bit deeper, you see that “Forrest Gump” (1994) has a specific perspective to how the aforementioned deed will be accomplished. This is displayed via the character of Forrest Gump: All American, Medal of Honor recipient, International Ping Pong star, owner of “Bubba Gump Shrimp”, and Guru. Did I miss something? Anyway, he is shown to be many things. However, who is Forrest Gump really?

Forest Gump as a Conservative Fable
Forrest Gump is the larger than life version of the “Salt of the Earth” American conservative ideal. He works hard. He serves his country. He defends his woman. He stands beside his friends. He keeps his word. See something that is repeated here? These are “actions” rather than entitlements. Stupid is as stupid does.” Forrest Gump is handicapped. People who are not Gump would demand to be treated on equal terms. Gump, on the other, “acts” by fulfilling all the requirements and duties of an average Joe to the best degree. Don’t also forget this involves respecting social hierarchy. Just think of what Forrest Gump accomplished and how he ended up where he ended up. Most of what he did were the results of responding the social expectations.

He went to school because he was told to.
He ran because Jenny, his girl, told him to. Run, Forrest! Run!”
He played Football because he was told to.
He volunteered for the Army because it was suggested to him.
He went into the shrimping business because of an obligation he had to Bubba, his best friend.

As Mrs. Gump said You have to do the best with what God gave you.” Forrest obliged.

If you think about it, the only time he didn’t follow what he was required to do was when he acted like a hero to save Bubba. This action went against the orders of both Lieutenant Dan and Jenny. However, this was for the greater good of the community. Conservatives do not want robots. Rather, they want responsible CITIZENS! So, Forrest was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ultimately, by this approach of action, duty, and responsible autonomy, Forrest Gump elevates himself to be the ideal version of the average Joe. More accurately, by embodying the values close to the hard of conservative Middle Americans, he is accepted as one.

Back to basics
If you go further, Forrest Gump’s mental disability has more meaning than the obvious storytelling obstacle for the protagonist to overcome. First, it is the rejection of dogmatic intellectualism. The limited of IQ of Forrest Gump means that he will never be an “intellectual” on either side of the ideological spectrum. This also means that he is free from the hypocrisy and pretentiousness shown by intellectuals. This is an aspect that divides the conservative camp since the conservative side is not without its own breed of intellectuals. Forrest Gump is a straight shooter and what you see is what you get. This also means that he is a physical laborer rather than a mental one. This means that his actions are governed by “common sense”; Common sense being “practical knowledge” generate by execution in the real world which is in contrast with conceptual knowledge that intellectuals tend to wallow in.

A layer below, there is a sense of going back to the basics or core of conservatives involved with Forrest Gump’s mental disability. Just by the weight of time, a community accumulates a lot of behavioral baggage that were temporary reactions to situations but were passed on even when they were no longer relevant. You know what I am talking about! Forrest Gump’s mental disability, by its use in the story, makes it possible to strip away all these baggage to show who conservatives are when they are reverted into their default pure form. And Forrest Gump nothing but a pure soul.

Will you marry me?
The movie “Forrest Gump” (1994) is not just about dear Forrest. There is Lieutenant Dan and Bubba but the character that is really important to my thoughts is Jenny. Poor Jenny! If Forrest is the new conservative ideal, what is Jenny? It is not that easy to pinpoint what Jenny is meant to represent. She is neither a representation of an ideal nor a conservative. You could say she is meant to represent “Progressives” or “Hippies” but that wouldn’t be accurate. The depiction of the character in the movie is too fuzzy and romanticized to narrow her down to a specific political attitude. We are being shown Jenny via the perceptions of “helplessly in love” Forrest after all. I would say that Jenny is a representation of the vague grouping of people that do not consider themselves conservatives but are not serious intellectual ideologues.

While the actual amount of screen time allocated to Jenny is not considerable, the movie consistently shows the contrast between the character arcs of Forrest and Jenny. Forrest is on the high road that keeps going up while Jenny is on the low road that has no end. She is always running away from home and running toward some unseen place. In contrast, Forrest always had a home. While he was away from his home, it was never because he was running away from home. It was because he had to do a deed. This is even true when he was literally running around America for more than 3 years. But why is this? What is the movie’s purpose of contrasting these two characters on opposite trajectories?

In most cases, this is to emphasize the choices made by the protagonist who is on the “good” side. However, I do not feel this is the case for Forrest and Jenny. The movie and Forrest never really judges Jenny’s choices harshly. She constantly rejects Forrest. Whenever she is in need, she looks up Forrest. In many ways, she strings him along. Some have mentioned that the kid at the end may not be Forrest’s real son. If you think about it, there is no evidence to repute that hypothesis. There is only Jenny's word. Who knows how much that is worth? If it was another movie, Jenny's character would have come off more harshly. By showing Jenny through the romantic and naïve eyes of Forrest, the movie shows that it has great sympathies and forgiveness towards the character of Jenny. Why is this? Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.” There seems to be a stronger connect between the two characters within the story other than what a mere plot device would require. There is a sense of an unbreakable destiny between the two entities that should not be tarnished.

I'm not a smart man. But I *know* what love is.
The time spent with Forrest and Jenny comes off as a “proposal” statement. And I do not just mean Forrest saying to Jenny: Will you marry me? I’d make a good husband, Jenny.” In fact, the movie is a constant cycle of proposals and rejections. Every time Forrest encounters Jenny, it is displayed as a process of Forrest, via actions, proposing and Jenny rejecting his proposal. “You don't know what love is.” Stepping back from the characters and looking at who they represent, the characters interactions ends up being an extension of a hand by the part of conservatives towards non-conservatives.

They are saying we don’t really understand you.
Not sure why we are so different and want different things.
But we’re willing to act for you.
We are willing to protect and provide for you.
Just accept us also.

In many cases, non-conservatives reject this proposal or string it along delaying giving an answer indeterminately. Jenny’s “You don't know what love is” is a statement non-conservatives make as they proclaim their moral superiority by virtue of emphasizing emotions which they claim conservatives lack. Forrest’s remarks rebut this claim. “I'm not a smart man. But I *know* what love is.” After the proposal and rejection is done, the cycle continues.

Rejecting the hand
When viewing the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994) as a fable meant as a conservatives’ outreach to non-conservatives, a person’s reaction to the movie takes on a meaning behind mere taste in movies. Yes, personal tastes exist and have an impact on what kind of movies one enjoys. At the same time, how we think and what we think about does affect our reactions drastically also. This is conducted on a subconscious level whether or not we notice and debate it on a conscious level. I have laid out what ends up being about. While many may not have noticed “Forrest Gump” (1994) extending out its conservative hand, it is not buried deep underneath the surface of the movie also. I bet your subconscious did notice the proposal laid out by the movie and reacted. This reaction then would have boiled up as your surface reaction towards the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994).

Thus, the audience of “Forrest Gump” (1994) can be divided into two groups depending on whether one totally rejected the hand being extended or not. You could LOVE the movie. You could like it very much. You could think it is good or okay. You could even have not enjoyed it too much but think it passable. If you had any of these responses, you can be filed under “did not totally reject” side of the discussion: For Gump! You didn’t have a instant gut feeling to demean, undermine, or ridicule the movie and, as an extension, the proposal being made by the movie. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a conservative or not. You are either willing to make the proposal just like the movie or to consider accepting the proposal. Everyone on the “did not totally reject” side has the possibility of working with each other. Then, there is the other side.

Taste does affect one’s enjoyment of a piece of art like “Forrest Gump” (1994). However, taste is less relevant in this discussion. Something not being one’s cup of tea doesn’t evoke a strong negative gut reaction to a movie. Sometimes, a simply incompetent movie may make one mad because it wasted one’s time and money. This is not applicable to “Forrest Gump” (1994) as it’s across the board made with a high level of craft. The direction, acting, script, art design, cinematography, and etc. are all top notch in terms craft. This degree of quality does not ensure one will enjoy a movie. It only means that one will not hate the movie. Thus, the folks on the “reject the movie” or “Never Gump” side are really acting out a subconscious conflict between the proposal made by the movie and themselves. They are not only rejecting the extended hand but are personally insulted that a hand was even shown. This makes them want to retaliate. The result is that the “Never Gump” side is insulted and incensed while the “For Gump” side is hurt and defensive. The two sides cannot not mix with a conflict.

“Forrest Gump” (1994) is a movie that not only win multiple major academy awards but also classifies people into two categories: according to compatibility: For Gump and Never Gump! Never mix the two. 


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