Since school and work take up most of my time, it’s hard to pin down the time and energy to see movies these days. There are a few standbys that I have loved since I was little – Gone With the Wind probably tops that list. I took my boyfriend and his thirteen year old daughter to see it when it was in theaters for its 75th anniversary recently. The first time I saw it I was ten, and I watched it with my Grandma. I wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara more than I had ever wanted to be anything in my short life. Her bravery, her wits, and her almost otherworldly beauty just thrilled me. I watched that movie so many times growing up that I remember when the meaning of certain parts actually sank in for the first time. When Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs to her bedroom and she wakes up giddy the next morning? When I was ten I didn’t really get it. As a teenager I thought it was dirty but didn’t really get it. As an adult I was a little outraged that this beloved movie of mine was glamorizing a man forcing himself on a woman – regardless of marital status or the love between them or whatever. Now I just remind myself that there isn’t really any battle to be fought there. 1939 was a long time ago.
I read the sequel as a teen and just loved it. I read the book Gone With the Wind around the same time and loved it just as much. It was so wonderful to see these characters as Mitchell wrote them. To go through so much more than they were able to show in the movie and get all these details, large and small, that made every character more real and more sympathetic.
I remember the first time I watched the movie, my Grandma shushed me and said, “Pay attention. This is where she makes her speech”. And Scarlett stands up against that red sky, with her fist full of red earth held over her head and says, “…If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. I’ll never be hungry again! No, nor any of my kin!” It still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes.
When we walked out of the theater with my boyfriend’s daughter, I asked what they thought. They both HATED Scarlett. They thought she was cruel and manipulative and just a terrible human being. I was so shocked to hear them say that, but then I realized that I’ve had twenty years to get to know Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve read the book more times, seen the movie more times, and watched more making of documentaries than a person should, really. Yes, she was mean and manipulative. She lied, she took advantage, and did business with bad people. But she did it to survive and to make sure everyone around her survived. Everyone talks about how selfless Melanie was, but there is very little difference between her and Scarlett. Scarlett simply had the physical strength and the guts that Melanie lacked.
Even after all these years, Gone With the Wind and Scarlett still inspire me.