Top 10 reasons to love Gone with the Wind
Let’s get this out of the way first. Gone with the Wind is a revolting film. It’s gratuitously racist, it’s dripping with damp and unpleasant institutional sexism, and pretty much everybody in it is despicable. Even Miss Ellen doesn’t say “please”. It’s also four hours long, and atrociously melodramatic. There is literally no excuse for loving Gone with the Wind, and yet, I am literally about to write down ten. I could write fifty. Because I do love it. I love it from the very minute it starts, with its offensive, nasty, beautifully scrolling script about “Knight and Lady Fair, Master and Slave”. I love it from the very first fiddle-dee-dee. I love it right to the heartbreak of it. I love Gone with the Wind in spite of you, and me, and the whole silly world going to pieces around us.
(Better people than me have written about a) the racism b) the sexism and c) enjoying problematic things. Seek them out. Be enlightened. And then come back and read this shameless list.)
#10 – The Fiddle-dee-dee
Has there ever been a better dismissive phrase? Apart from Mammy’s “mm-hmm-hmm”, almost certainly not. Also, it trips off the tongue something delightful, particularly if you affect that gorgeously-faked Southern accent. Fiddle-dee-dee.
#9 – The Dresses
Do a thing for me. Do this thing for me, and you will not regret it. Go now, and watch the bit at Twelve Oaks, and look at those damn dresses. Look at the taffeta. Look at the frills. Look at their tiny waists. Look at Scarlett’s unseemly bosom. Look at how they swish. They are the fanciest outfits in the whole fancy, fancy world, and by God I want one.
[Best outfit contenders: Scarlett’s astonishing crimson feathers at Ashley’s party; Bonnie Blue’s riding habit; Scarlett’s apple-green ballgown]
#8 – The Wisdom of Mammy, Especially W/R/T Naps
“Well brought-up girls take naps at parties.” This ought to be standard. It’s like a sleepover, only for adults, in the day, in between eating barbecue and dancing. Naps for all!
#7 – The Bitchiness
Everybody in this movie hates each other. Apart from the people who are temporarily in love. Never has a film been made in which so many people hate so many others for so little reason. This is because most of the people in the novel are basically children. Gone with the Wind is what happens if you let people in the throes of adolescence do things like go to war, get married, be widows and so on. Note particularly the entire Melanie-Scarlett drama.
(Fig. 1: “Melanie Wilkes, I hate you, I hate you, I hate your baby!”).
So much dramz. So many feelz. (See also: Number 5)
#6 – The Insane And Constant Sexual Tension
There is more sexual tension in this film’s little finger than in all the porn ever made in all the world. Slapping! Kissing! Not kissing! Kissing the wrong people! Kissing the right people! Kissing your best friend’s husband! Kissing your wife’s best friend! Kissing! Not kissing! “You should be kissed, and often, by someone who knows how.” Swoon. Swoon. Anyway, you either love the sexual tension because you are fifteen, or you love it because it is so outrageously overdone that you might as well be fifteen.
#5 – The Audacity
If you can keep your heart still when Rhett Butler attempts to buy Scarlett O’Hara for a hundred and fifty dollars (in gold), you are a stronger person than I. It might be sexism. But by god, it’s sexy sexism. It also highlights pretty effectively how godawful the conventions of the time were, which is unexpected. Oh, Rhett. With your “weakness for lost causes”, and your excellent moustache.
#4 – The Eyebrows, The Moustaches, and Other Facial Hair
As the Deep South was a golden age for racism, the thirties were a golden age for actors with expressive facial hair. Has anyone, ever, had better eyebrows than Vivien Leigh? Has anyone, ever, had a better moustache than Clark Gable? Maybe, but I don’t care. Everyone in this film has good facial hair. Maybe bitchiness grows eyebrows, like fertiliser.
#3 – The Things To Read And The Music
Watching Gone with the Wind requires quite a lot of reading. Rather than show all that tedious war, war, war exposition, Gone with the Wind writes it in swirly script and gets on with the real business, of bitchy women kissing each other’s husbands and saintly women being as saintly as can be. All overlaid with big, even swirlier music. How can you not love a movie that starts with an “overture”? How can you not love a movie with an “entr’acte”?
#2 – The Heartbreak
You can’t watch this film without knowing the ending. It even says in the little Star Wars-y writey bit at the beginning: this is the story of a world that is ending. And it’s a good thing, too. And yet. And yet. Every single bit of this film is guaranteed to break your heart, and everyone’s heart. Everything is awful, all the way through, and everyone you love is going to die, or rape you, or leave you. Tomorrow might be another day, but judging by all the days up to this point, it’s going to be a pretty grim one. Everybody gets a comeuppance, and it’s all so gorgeously awful.
#1 – The Silliness
Scarlett says, right at the beginning, “Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”. And it’s so very true. They act so silly. And made worse by the fact that it’s the women in this film who are the strong ones; it’s the women you remember. Yeah, yeah, Rhett, Ashley but what’s an Ashley Wilkes to a Mammy or a Mellie or even a Belle Watling? What’s a Rhett Butler, really, to a Scarlett O’Hara? One of them gives up, and is also a rapist. The other one (rape victim) sticks to Tara. That’s the conflict at the heart of Gone with the Wind: it’s a sexist film about women who don’t act in traditionally female ways. Which is a bit of a headf*ck, if we’re honest. But what a glorious, miserable, beautiful headf*ck it is, draped in taffeta, swathed in the bitchiest bitchiness, and riddled with inexcusable racism. A glorious, glorious headf*ck.