Wednesday, 16 May 2007

‘Gone with the Wind’ vs ‘Little Women’: Brief review against slavery and injustice

I cannot stand myself not to write this in my own blog after viewing Gone with the Wind (1939) two nights ago. I dislike the movie and the novel so much; I could not comprehend how the novel became the best-seller ever. Yes, I’ve read reviews of GWTW, and I still could not get it. Yes, GWTW depicted the polar opposites of human quality: selfishness (through Scarlett O’Hara) and every merits a woman can have (Melanie Wilkes). Margaret Mitchell was also very fair to give Scarlett her own quality of resilience and stubbornness that saved her from starvation and the downfall of Atlanta during the Civil War. Scarlett was finally able to realize her love to Melanie (that she had originally despised the most). Yes, the women of GWTW displayed great virtues during the hard time of war. And yes, the people of Atlanta displayed magnificent togetherness and kindness for each other during the war and stood together to rebuild their city again.

But there are major things that made me winch upon GWTW: slavery and racism issue. I understand where Mitchell, a Southerner, came from, and when the novel was written; 1936 (won Pulitzer in 1937) – where racism against black – or, to be politically correct here, Afro-Americans – was still very much apparent in the United States. BUT. The novel depicted Mitchell’s favour to the romanticised South so much, it made me sick. Of course, it was well written, the characters blended well, blablabla… but it still did not hide the fact of the author’s preference to slavery, that it was ‘not all that bad’. Riiight...said someone who was not born a slave, or never became a member of inferior community.

The novel also described the birth of Klu Klux Klan, an idea I abhor so much, I could not help wondering why people still love GWTW up to this day. And this is from an Asian girl talking. What about the Afro-Americans in the United States? Is this novel not an insult for them? I read in Wikipedia that Martin Luther King was not enthralled either of the movie. And I can still remember my first reaction of reading the novel a few years ago; as Scarlett stated that her family never torture slaves, the ‘inferior’ people working for them without payment. Yeah… I cringed then, and I still winch now. Some people said that GWTW was a landmark to show how the US have gone so far now from slavery in the past. Yeah, and they gave the novel a Pulitzer...

Yes, I duly acknowledge here the brilliant work of the GWTW cinematographers, the charming acts of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh, and the beautiful lighting… the lovely red sky over Tara. Yes, I understand that the movie was a great cinematographic achievement, also giving Hattie McDaniel (Mammy) the first Oscar ever presented to an American woman of African descent. Yes, for artistic reasons, GWTW was a superb movie. Not to mention those dresses – notably Scarlett’s first ball gown, her green curtain dress and the red night dress. And yes, it was said that Clark Gable almost boycotted the premiere in Atlanta because McDaniel had to sit in the ‘coloured’ section of the cinema. Horrid separation idea; noble notion by Gable.

But all those stuffs still did not make me like the movie or the novel. I detest the idea of slavery; it is wrong, even though it was very possible that many Southerners during the Civil War did not torture their slaves. Yeah… perhaps. Just perhaps. For to me, a novel should be able to teach us something good. And so far that I’ve learned from GWTW was that slavery was wrong (yeah, I got that idea already for some time…) and that you cannot be a spoiled girl like Scarlett, hoping that your life will somehow turn better because a Clark Gable pulled a Rhett Butler on you. Life does not work that way. Thank God for Abraham Lincoln. What a man he was! Not many giants like that walk around the world anymore… (well, I can add some people like Al Gore, Dalai Lama, Ki Hadjar Dewantara, Mahatma Gandhi, Anand Krishna, etc on the list…but surely we need more).

Now, going back to the title: versus Little Women. What about it?

Well, to me, Little Women (1868) is the symbol of perfection and hope in the Civil War era. I learned of woman’s kindness through Marmee, intelligence, stubbornness and resilience through Jo March, friendship through Jo and Teddy/Laurie Lawrence, and sisterhood through Jo-Meg-Beth-Amy. I learned of sacrifice through Jo cutting her hair to obtain train ticket for Marmee. I learned of a father’s love through Mr. Marsh who still kept writing letters for his family during his war days, defending the idea of freedom of slavery. In short: the novel and movie of Little Women inspired me much.

Yes, there are flaws. Meg wanted to look good in front of her friends (well, most teenagers are like that, still). Jo was oblivious to Teddy’s love and, if I have it my way, I would re-write it to be Jo-Teddy instead of Jo-Bhaer (interestingly, ‘Teddy’ and ‘Bhaer’ have connotations with bear…). Thank God for fan-fictions… 

Yes, there are flaws in Teddy’s proposal to Amy. Flaws in Jo’s stubbornness. But they all learned and grew up in the process. And, to me, that is what a novel should represent. A spirit to move on with life, in the best possible way.

So, my conclusions: Love 'Little Women'. Mediocre rate for 'Gone with the Wind' – despite the beautiful narration etc – best to read it without a 20th and 21st century mind. No for slavery and injustice. Yeah for family values and resilience without sacrificing others.

Plus: Scarlett O'Hara is definitely NOT my heroine. I have to restrain myself from slapping her if I meet her in this modern life. But, Josephine March and Marmee are my heroines of the Civil War era. They were just... superbly amazing.

And where the heck is my Little Women OST? It has not arrived yet!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i LOVED Gone With the Wind, both book and movie and understand where you're coming from but honestly, it's written from a point of view none of us outside of the deep south during this time frame will ever really know about and it has to be taken as a piece of history documenting that times hadn't changed all that much since the war ended. I also loved Little Women and enjoyed it but I forever love GWTW for it's rich characters and it's window into a world that does not exist and never will be. And the sheer struggle! If anything ever bothered me about GWTW is the way everyone thought of women, that is just insane and to read about the way they speak of women with ambition and actual brain is insulting on many levels but i take it for the time being, and smile at the progress.