When I think of Hollywood movies, there are two classics that come to mind: Casablanca and Gone With the Wind. Both films, epic in scope, are love stories that take place during tumultuous historical times: World War II and the Civil War respectively. But Gone With the Wind, filmed in breathtaking technicolor, still reigns supreme when it comes to epic romance. Other films have tried to usurp the throne and while some have come close (here’s looking at you Titanic), none can quite match the melodramatic grandeur of Gone With the Wind.
Now, I fully acknowledge that Gone With the Wind has its problems. It is a product of it’s time, a story in rose-tinted nostalgia, that often glosses over the more horrible hallmarks of the the Deep South and the Reconstruction Era, namely racism. Many people have tried cancelling Gone With the Wind, and while I fully understand their point, I am firmly against censorship and believe that it is important to have discussions about problematic films and novels. We can still enjoy media while simultaneously recognize the flaws and learn from them.
Gone With the Wind started out as a novel written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936. Over a decade in the writing, Mitchell aimed to tell the story of the South she became acquainted with through folklore. What she created was a romance that provided the blue print for others to follow. The 1939 film starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable catapulted the already popular novel into the pop culture stratosphere.
Wind’s protagonist, Scarlett O’Hara, is both admirable in her audacity and frustrating in her selfishness. This dichotomy keeps the plot interesting as we follow Scarlett through the fall and subsequent reconstruction of the southern way of life. Scarlett is a character that no YA author would dare have as their protagonist. She’s beautiful, often times unlikeable, mean, cruel, and willing to do what it takes, even “lie, cheat, steal, and kill,” to get what she wants. And yet, Scarlett has the ability to love: she loves her home plantation of Tara. She loves her parents, Ashley Wilkes, and of course, Rhett Butler (although, this revelation comes a little to late for poor Scarlett). But Scarlett’s more undesirable characteristics often overrule her softer tendencies.
This complexity is what makes me love Scarlett. She is also thrilling to watch and read about, even when I am shouting out her for the decisions she makes. And, when she interacts with Rhett Butler, a man as equally as selfish and ruthless as Scarlett, you can practically see the sparks fly.
In many ways, Scarlett is a woman ahead of her time. She didn’t much care for the roles forced upon women and often operated in male dominated zones. She’s punished for it, of course, but you can’t keep a good woman down. Scarlett’s most admirable characteristic is her strength. Even when she loses everything at the end, she still believes that there is hope, that “tomorrow is another day.”
There is so much to say about Gone With the Wind, but it is a story that needs to be experienced on both the page and screen. If you have not read the book or the movie, I highly recommend.