The movie Forrest Gump tells the story of a man's life, from his childhood days in Alabama to his later years aboard a shrimp boat. This movie has many sociological ties and presents a limited picture of the culture and society from the 1960's up to the present-day. The movie follows Forrest through his exposure to poverty, racism, government, politics, and mass media, to name a few, and it is told from the first person perspective of the generally impartial Forrest Gump. The themes to be discussed in this paper will deal with those of family violence and child abuse, how the film depicts racism in the 1960's and 1970's, how it deals with gender roles and the counter-culture lifestyles of Forrest's female friend Jenny, and also the film's depiction of the military as an institution.
Born into a rather wealthy and loving family, Forrest himself has no direct ties to a life of poverty or family violence. It is not until Forrest begins school and meets his lifetime friend, Jenny, that he is first truly exposed to a life of poverty and the hardships that can go with this lifestyle. As Korbin points out, Child abuse and neglect have been linked with poverty, (433) and Jenny's family life serves as an example of this link. There is evidence that abuse is existent in her home, particularly in the scene in which Jenny and Forrest flee from Jenny's father, who stumbles drunkenly after them.
[...] As Wang explains, suppressing the history of racial conflict and the depth of racial division, Forrest Gump ultimately misrepresents the struggles and successes of the movement” (99). Still another sociological issue explored in Forrest Gump is that of the roles of men and women in society. Forrest himself seems to depict a classic American view of what defines a man. “Forrest is an All- American football star, a Medal of Honor-winning war hero, a wildly successful entrepreneur, a spiritual leader held in awe and reverence, and a fertile and wise father, thereby also living up to the fantasies of a traditional masculinity” (Byers 431-432). [...]
[...] Jenny is first seen at a young age already demonstrating stereotypical feminine behavior by gently offering Forrest a seat with her on the school bus. The depiction of her home life and the abusive nature of her father help to further develop her feminine motif, as she flees from one suppressive male figure into the life of another male figure, Forrest. The movie does not depict the post-war feminist movement but instead shows Jenny's counterculture escapade through the 1960's and 1970's. [...]
[...] Perhaps the movie does fall silent on many historic sociological issues, but does it have an obligation to speak on these? When seen through the eyes of Forrest, the world seems to become minimalist in nature. Many things in the film have been exaggerated, like Forrest's running speed, while still others remain inconspicuous. Movies such as Forrest Gump are created not only for entertainment, but also for profit. Ignoring controversial issues plays largely to the benefit of the production company. While Forrest Gump does omit many pieces of history, it also provides us with many sociological concepts, and [...]
[...] Another example of a sociological concept that is seen in Forrest Gump is that of racism. Forrest's relative level of intelligence perhaps keeps him value-neutral in the area of racism and also blinds him to the fact that racism even exists. One can argue two points on the portrayal of race in Forrest Gump: one is to say that the movie adequately portrays the conflict of race in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's, and that it also helps to eliminate such racial barriers. [...]
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