Hollywood’s Heroes are all “Gone with the Wind”
The classic, epic tale of romance and heartache puts the quintessential “American Hero” on display.
I just recently watched the five (or so)-hour classic “Gone with the Wind”, and I found myself greatly depressed by the end. This movie won 10 Academy Awards® and from a technical standpoint it deserved every one of them. The “best movie ever made”, in the words of the filmmakers who crafted it and audiences who loved it, and I myself couldn’t help enjoying the imagery, the beauty and the scope of such a film, made in the 1930’s. By Hollywood’s standards it’s a legend; and, by the standard of some families, since the worst it ever shows is kissing, it’s “clean”. But I disagree. For all its gravitas and grandeur, “Gone with the Wind” puts on display something that has been a black mark on cinema for decades – the character of the American hero.
In the film Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is no hero, and he doesn’t pretend to be: he’s arrogant, selfish and self-indulging. This is somehow laudable and admirable; someone who knows they’re of ill repute and doesn’t care. And then, he meets Miss Scarlet O’Hara (Vivian Leigh), the prettiest most flirtatious Southern Belle in all of Georgia – or maybe even the entire Confederacy! But she is equally selfish, and in love with an already married man.
Throughout the film, she throws away every chance of happiness, every opportunity to grow – because she’s living in a fantasy world of romantic yearning. She throws herself about, out of jealousy, and destroys her reputation. Then, once she marries the rich scoundrel and drunkard Rhett, who ironically truly loves her and tries his best to change in order to make her love him, she continues pining after the other man, bringing a potentially happy marriage to ruins. He leaves her, an impending divorce is evidently near, and what does Scarlet do? She cries, and claims that she does love him, but only after finding out that the other man never loved her in the way she wanted. But it’s no use. She feels remorse and regret, but only because of the consequences of a life driven by passion and decadence. And the movie closes on the falsely optimistic note, “I’ll find someway to bring him back. Tomorrow is another day!” Fade to black…
But those of you who have seen the film know this; and you probably want me to get on with it. My point is this – the American hero has for too long been the scaly-wag, the pirate, the outlaw, the faithless wife or husband – the anti-hero. In almost every film from “Casablanca” to the recent James Bond franchise addition “Casino Royale”, from “Indiana Jones” to “Inception” we are told forcibly to root for the rogue, the criminal, the reprobate. Now, screenwriters, such as Robert McKee and Syd Field, can claim all they like that a hero “doesn’t have to be sympathetic only empathetic”, meaning they don’t have to be good they just need to be relatable – human – but the simple truth is that a hero must be a hero not a villain! The hero can have moral conflict, but in order to be a hero they must rise above it! A hero demonstrates virtue: honor, justice, integrity, love, selflessness, bravery, steadfastness, dignity, and compassion. Not that a hero need be perfect, after all, the only perfect man in history was Jesus Christ, however He is the very incarnation of heroism, not in the Hollywood sense, but He is who our heroes should be modeled after. They can, and often must, be flawed to tell a compelling story, but we have to draw the line somewhere! They can grow, learn, and fight for what’s right and true.
The American people have had a widespread infatuation with villains. Today’s audiences would laugh at the qualities I mentioned before. “Come on!” they would heckle, “no one’s like that nowadays! Get off your white horse!” But, maybe a true hero is just what that same audience needs to see. Maybe they need to woken out of their stupor, the fantasies world’s they live in where bad is good and virtue is villainous! They, like Scarlet, will end up destroying themselves, chasing after pleasure, and imitating movie icons instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can’t just say “fiddle-dee-dee” and move on, ask yourself who your heroes are!
But the American hero won’t change until the American nation does. While we sit, complacently letting Hollywood define virtue, (that is un-define it,) we will continue see Scarlet O’Hara’s and Rhett Butlers and the others who followed in their footsteps on the silver screen. Until the public repents and reforms, the American hero is a lost cause. And yet, as James Stewart said in the classic, dramatic ending to Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in a truly heroic Senate filibuster:
“I guess this is just another lost cause Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes – Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason anyone ever fights for them – because of just one plain, simple rule: ‘love thy neighbor’! And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine. And I loved you for, just as my father did! And you know that you fight for the lost causes, harder than you fight for any other. Yes, you even die for them! …You think I’m licked? You all think I’m licked. Well I’m not licked! And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place! Somebody will listen to me!”
I think we could all use a few more men like Mr. Smith, before heroism is gone with the wind!
Reviewed by: Isaac R. Arthur, filmmaker and student at Blue Banner Media
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