Monthly Columns,  Reviews & Interviews

Witch & Popcorn

Review of Gone With The Wind

Bright Blessings Film Lovers!

Today I am reviewing a blasphemous film that has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. I will say the glamour, unbelievably great acting, magnificent sets, and the fantastic music make this a masterpiece of Hollywood few other films can rival. However, as an adult, I am aware of some ugly truths it laid bare- unintentionally of course- and how it was a sign of bias against both people of color and women in times bygone.

The film had the highest budget that any other had at that time, and if you adjust for inflation, it’s still pretty close to the top cost wise. When it was released, a holiday was declared in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, and it won eight of the thirteen Academy Awards it was nominated for. It helped solidify a young British actresses career, and has charmed people around the world for generations. The film is Gone With The Wind, and here is a trailer you can watch:

 

 

Romantic writers will tell you it’s the story of one woman’s powerful will to survive against seemingly insurmountable odds, and her drive to love to the fullest despite being first discarded by one man, widowed by another, and finally married to the most charming man she’d ever met. The truth is, yes, it’s about one woman’s willpower to survive what white people basically deserved for having slavery in the first place, and it’s also about her unfortunate romance with an abusive man who had enough charm to make the world fall in love with him even though he was a toxic piece of shit who deserved to be at the bottom of a rubbish bin. Yes, I said that. Gone With The Wind is considered by many to be a marvelous romance between Scarlett O’ Hara and Rhett Butler, but in fact Rhett severely mistreated Scarlet, and while she was madly in love with him, she was also stuck being married- when she said she did not like being married- because woman’s options were severely limited in her day.

The film opens just before the Civil War breaks out, and Scarlet declares her love for Ashley who is engaged to the lovely Melanie. He tells her no, so she marries Melanie’s brother, Charles, to try and make Ashley jealous. The men go off to war, and unfortunately, Charles, who was truly smitten for Scarlet and would surely have returned from war and treated her well, dies, so she is a widow. She is sent away by her mother, and scandalously dances with the dashing Rhett Butler while wearing her widow’s mourning dress.

The “Yankees” defeat the city, and Rhett helps Scarlett and Melanie escape to safety. Then, Rhett decides to ditch the ladies halfway home and go to war, and Scarlett heads back home to her parents. She finds her mother has died and her father has gone insane. The estate has been decimated the fields are untended, and only her sisters and parents and a few slaves remain. At that point, Scarlett vows to take care of everybody, and she demonstrates she will. Unfortunately, her father is killed soonafter, and Scarlett is left to work the fields with the few remaining people available. She also can’t pay the taxes that are filed against the estate. In desperation, she convinces Frank, a wealthy man who is engaged to her sister to marry her instead. Now before you say Scarlett is the bitch from hell, in all honesty, it seems everybody is stealing everybody else’s men in this film. Melanie had no idea Scarlett loved Ashley, and Frank dragged his feet in marriage to Scarlett’s sister for years. After Scarlett marries Frank, she helps build up a business with him, heading up the administration herself- ruthlessly,- and makes everybody wealthy- including her sisters, and Ashley, who she gives a good job in her and Frank’s company.

Guess what? Frank dies too in a tragic way you will have to watch and see for yourself! Rhett finally marries Scarlett, and you would think that would be the end of her suffering, wouldn’t you? No such luck. Rhett talks down to her, forces her to wear what is considered a trampy- but absolutely beautiful dress to a party- and he drives off and leaves her there just to be mean to her- after physically abusing her, that is- and he even rapes her. He finally walks out on her because he is so unkind, and the words he has to say about it is that he doesn’t “ Give a damn.” Let’s examine the mistreatment one at a time.

In the 21st century, most women would have told him to fuck off the second she met him- because it was indicated he gave her the creeps the second she saw him. I admit, Clark Gable was downright gorgeous, but the horror in Scarlett’s eyes when she saw him for the first time was undeniable. The clip furthermore shows him leering at her earlier in the scene like a creepy stalker. Watch this clip: 

 

 

 

Next, the scene where he rapes her- but before that, he threatens her. In typical Scarlett form, she tells him off, but he overpowers her:

 

 

Then after their child has died, after all the tragedies Scarlett lived through, Rhett walks out on her even though she begs him not to. She’s still determined to get him back.

 

 

 

The most heartbreaking thing in the film is that Ashley, at one point after marrying Melanie and going off to war, finally admits to Scarlett that he actually loves her- and he married somebody else anyhow!!!!!! GRRRR!!!!!!! He turned out to be pretty much useless, and truthfully, of all the men in Gone With The Wind, Rhett really was the only one who ever did much that was useful for Scarlett. In some ways, Rhett did behave in loving ways, but Rhett Butler admits early on in the movie that he’s downright selfish and many times admits he is not cut out for marriage. Still, it’s difficult to hate the dashing Rhett Butler. One thing he has right is that he admits Scarlett has unbreakable will to love life on her own terms as much as possible- and he admits that makes him adore her.

Of all the relationships Scarlett has in the film, other than those with Mamie and her parents, the best one, surprisingly is with Melanie who “stole” Ashley. Ashley took off for war, leaving Melanie, who he deemed fragile- and implored Scarlett to take care of her. At first, Scarlett does so out of love to Ashley, but she and Melanie really do make a fantastic team. Together, they survive the worst of times, and make the best of good times. Melanie tells Scarlett she admires her spirit and wants to be like her- and Melanie manages, with time to find her own strength, and be powerful and resilient like Scarlett is. Nobody loved Scarlett as much as Melanie did. Nobody.

Scarlett truly loves Rhett and enjoys his sense of humor and charm. She also appreciates the fact he is not intimidated by her. He’s too mean to love her properly, and he is just as selfish as he says he is. If he could have improved his vices and focused on having a good life with Scarlett, theirs would have been a perfect marriage. Rhett Butler was not without good qualities, he just allowed his bad side to define him and ruin his relationships.

Three husbands, and still fending for herself through it all, Scarlett demonstrates she isn’t defeated- but her goal is not to be a wealthy divorced woman- which I would think after all the bs from men, she would want! Her goal is to get that man back. Every goal she has had centered around men. Rhett really told her once that he was the only “man over 16 and under 60 to show her a good time.” Not that her options for men were limited- but she had to have a man to survive because of how society was. In another place and another time, Scarlett O’ Hara would have taken the world by storm, but she was relegated to being a second-class citizen because she was a woman.

One thing it is only fair to mention. Rhett was driven mad by the fact that Scarlett always held a place in her heart for Ashley. It is difficult to accept the person you love loved somebody before they were with you. However, although there was always a part of Scarlett’s heart open to Ashley, she was true to Rhett despite his cruelty. It’s heartbreaking to watch the relationship crumble due to Rhett’s issues, and even more difficult to watch Scarlett pledge to get him to come back home to her. The complex relationships and character development in the film by the talented actors adds depth and fascination. They are all SO believable. How can it be that it was only a film?

Echoing that was the real story of the Hollywood career of the woman who played as Mamie, Hattie McDaniel. Originally refused attendance at the Academy Awards, the Producer, Selznick convinced them to allow her to sit at the BACK of the room- and no other non-white cast members were allowed…

Beyond that she angered African Americans by playing characters like Mamie in Gone With The Wind because it was said she was helping support stereotypes of African Americans. She responded she was earning $700 per week playing as a maid, but would earn $7 a week BEING a maid, so she did not see why she should feel bad. Speaking of pay- the disparity between cast members in Gone With The Wind was striking. Clark Gable earned about $125, 000 for his role as Rhett Butler, but Vivien Leigh earned about $100,000 less and she was in more scenes. Furthermore, she detested the intimacy scenes with Clark Gable, because he smoked and drank heavily, and nobody cared about how bad he smelled.

In the Me Too era, few actresses would tolerate putting their mouth on, let alone getting in the face of someone who came to work smelling badly. This habit would cost Gable greatly. He was just under 60 years old when a heart attack killed him.

Back to Hattie McDaniel- she may have been criticized b y the public, but she kicked ass for African American rights. She was one of the wealthy African Americans who bought mansions in West Adams Heights in Pasadena, California. Some of the white homeowners wanted them banned- however, people like McDaniel would not leave. Why should they? Well, the whites stated a 1902 ordinance banned nonwhites, however, the judge threw the case out of court, saying “It is time that members of the Negro race are accorded, without reservations or evasions, the full rights guaranteed them under the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Judges have been avoiding the real issue too long”.

The repeal of Roe Vs. Wade reminds us that the fight for minority rights isn’t over, but due to fighting by generations of people, it is a better world than it was in post- Civil War America, and it is a better world than it was when Gone With The Wind was released. Watching this film and reading about what Hattie McDaniel and other people of color went through not even a century ago reminds me of how unequal the world is for women, people of color, and other minorities. I don’t know what will fix things, and I don’t even know what to ask people to do. I just know we have to keep fighting.

Yes, Gone With The Wind was beautifully made, but there are things in it that remind us of the fact that women and people of color are just two groups who are treated as less than people who have the privilege and power. A Facebook post going around is asking women to burn everything to the ground- and maybe that’s the answer? Maybe like the South had to be reduced to nothing and reconstructed, American in general has to be? I don’t know how to begin. Just be aware, and at least vote even if you are like me and you don’t know what else to do. Please.

One woman I was speaking with expressed exasperation because she said she is sick of “people today applying today’s standards to another time.” Well, I’m not. Standards then were as unacceptable then as they would be today, and just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean it is okay. Women still earn less money than men, and people of color are still pushed out of opportunities because of their skin color, so it’s not all in the past, unfortunately.

Knowing what I know now, I am not sure I can enjoy Gone With The Wind like I did before. Doing this review made me sick to my stomach. I know that Mamie and Rhett and Scarlett were not real people, but they represented reality, and they went through things real people did. Like men of that time, Rhett could abuse his wife all he wanted. Like white wealthy people, Scarlett and her family could have slaves. Like real black people in that day, slavery was the reality for Mamie. I hate all of that. However, I have to admit, this film was every bit as gorgeous as people say it is. It earned all those awards, and to this day, it is a top favorite.

So watch it because it’s beautiful, and learn the ugly realities people lived with back in those days. As for me, I did love Scarlett O’ Hara, but I’d have written her as somebody who literally told men to go to hell- and a woman who told THEM she didn’t give a damn. Still, she did the best she could being a woman back in those days, and as for women like Mamie- their options were even more limited.

Happy Viewing and Blessed Be!

 

**

About the Author:

Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.

A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.

Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!

Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.

All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, and is still studying for Third Degree, making it to Second Degree thus far.

She is a gifted tarot reader, spellworker, teacher, and was even a resident Witch at a Westerville place dubbed The Parlor for a time.

Aside from her magical practice, she is a crocheter, beader, painter, and a good cook. She has been a clown and children’s entertainer, a Nursing Home Activities Professional, a Cavern Tour Guide, a Retail Cashier, and a reader in local shops. Her college degree is a BA in English Writing. She tried her hand at both singing and playing bagpipes, and…well…let’s just say her gifts lie elsewhere! She loves gardening, reading, antiques, time with friends and soul kin, and lots and lots of glorious color bedecking her small home!

On the encouragement of a loved one several years back, she searched for a publication to write for, and is right at home at PaganPagesOrg.

She is currently residing in Central Ohio with her husband, and furbabies.

Saoirse can be contacted at [email protected].