FF88 - Forrest Gump

Intro by John Roderick

Forrest Gump. It has come to this! I am not going to argue whether this is a war film. Let's take it as read! I am not even going to use this intro as a chance to dump on Baby Boomers because I am confident that history will handle that task and there is no point in us piling on. No! What amazes me about this film, this Forrest Gump, is how big a movie it was. Like American Beauty, this movie inexplicably took the world by storm. Why are the middlebrow people of the world so susceptible to this trash? What collective need is fulfilled by languishing in this miasma of toxic sentimentality? Well, let's interrogate it!

Here we have a film where a disability was played for laughs. Gump's slowness is meant to stand in for our simpler natures, untrammelled and untroubled by irony or sex or remorse or really any kind of human empathy beyond confused sadness that everyone isn't happy. It is a Vietnam story, tragic in the way we prefer our Vietnam stories, which is to say: Small-scale and personal. We are fine watching some boys slug it out, even fine ruing the senselessness of it all, but for the love of God: Don't make us think about what we did and what it means!

Please, can we just take a dumb giggle-ride through a Newsweek highlights-timeline of the Boomer-half century and conclude that it was just troubling enough to make us deep and soulful without convicting us of mind-crimes and the rape of the world? Dammit, I was trying not to slam the Boomers, but I can't help it! This movie marks the true turning point in their evolution where they finally renounced the counterculture and regained their innocence in the form of the true antihero: Schrimp-millionaire and early Apple-investor The Gumpster, the Gump-Meister, the Gumpinator!

It is appalling really, this Clinton-era revisionism, as if after two decades of gross reveling in the reflected cool of Hendrix and Abbie Hoffman while force-feeding the rest of us the hot-dog-eating-contest of 1960s self-aggrandizement and ad-nauseam-nostalgia masked as virtue-hectoring set to a never-ending loop of Jefferson Airplane and slow motion helicopters the Boomers sat atop their pile of laissez-faire Michael Milken dollars and drug-war-financed Arizona planned communities and gloated that all along they knew the Hippie element within them were contemptible dirtbags and it was actually Free Enterprise and Global Trade that were the realm of the Saints. Who better than Tom Hanks, eternal boy, Bosom Buddy, to reprise his role in Big, and assuage the last faint bleats of the dying conscience of a nation? The only thing this movie didn't do is have Forrest sign a contract with America and date Fawn Hall.

I said I wasn't going to argue, but: "Who cares?" Is Forrest Gump a war movie? I don't know, man! I guess so! There is war in it and war reverberates throughout it, and even though it is a little late to the 1980s cinematic refight Vietnam party, it refought Vietnam on behalf of an American people who still couldn't figure out what happened there or whether we won or lost. Well, let me tell you: We lost, and we also lost the supposed culture wars where we overturned the hegemony of the Greatest Generation and replaced it with sexual freedom and drug experimentation and peace and love and environmentalism and communitarianism and agrarianism and anti-Industrialization and global peace. What the Boomers brought us instead in the fullness of time was a focus on low interest rates and the dismantling of the social safety net and neoconservative endless boundless war. Cue: Jefferson Starship! Today on Friendly Fire: "Life is not a god-damn box of chocolates!" as we explore Forrest Gump.

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