Forrest Gump: Critical Analysis Of The Movie
Movie Analysis – Forrest Gump
I: What time period does the movie take place? Include years and genre (ex. Renaissance, Middle Ages, the 20s, etc.). Discuss three pieces of evidence found in your pop culture entertainment that suggest this.
This specific film is based upon various historical elements from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s being a loved film. The years that covered the Vietnam conflict were marked by social turmoil and chaos in the United States. Opposition to the war among the young, continuing efforts to right the wrongs of segregation and racial environmental movement all contributed to a time of mayhem that was clearly reflected in the fashions of the period. Some specific examples include; the mods, the hippies and social protest movement; just to name a few.
The mods were a group of young people in Britain, in the mid-1960s. There was also a group known as the rockers, who were rough and tough, rode motorcycles, and wore black leather jackets. They competed with the mods, who were ‘up for love, self-expression, poetry, and getting stoned.’ The mod fashion statement was ‘elegance, long hair, granny glasses, and Edwardian finery’. In the contest for dominance over the allegiance of young Britons, the mods won, and the importance of the rockers gradually faded away. The center of mod activities was on Carnaby Street and on Portobello Road in London. The Beatles, then rising to fame in the popular music field, adopted mod-influenced clothing and, in turn, helped spread the popularity of the style. One of the ideas described as central to the mood fashion concept was the notion that men, as well as women, were entitled to wear handsome and dashing clothing.
In 1996, another expression of youthful revolt against the values of the adult society was the hippie movement. Majority of this movement involved young people who were mainly from middle-class families. They responded to the call from Timothy Leary, a proponent of the use of the psychedelic drug L.S.D. to “turn on to the scene; tune into what’s happening; and drop out of high school, college, grad-school”. Beginning in California in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, the movement, which became a drug-using subculture, spread across the country. The hippie philosophy stressed love and freedom from the constraints of “straight” society.
To the concern of their elders, and unlike the silent generation, young people of the 1960s demanded to be heard. The beatnik phenomenon may have faded in the 1950s, but 1960s youths became increasingly involved in political movements. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the civil rights proponents, hippies, feminists, and environmentalists made their dissatisfactions known.
II: Where does this movie/tv show/book take place?
This story takes place in a lot of different places with a lot of different historical events. The main setting for the movie is Forrest’s hometown of Greenbow, Alabama. The secondary whereabouts for the movie in Savannah, Georgia. The film also takes place such as; Vietnam, Memphis, California, cross country, and other parts of the world.
III: Explain the plot of the piece in brief.
The movie opens with a falling white feather landing at the feet of Forrest Gump who is sitting at a bus stop located in Savannah, Georgia. Forrest then picks up the feather and puts it in the book Curious George that is found in his suitcase then proceeds to tell his life story to a woman sitting next to him. Throughout the movie, the listeners found at the bus stop change regularly. Each listener shows a different attitude ranging from disbelief and indifference. On Forrest’s first day of school, he meets a girl named Jenny. After breaking off his leg braces, his ability to run at lightning speed gets him into college on a football scholarship. Following his college graduation, he enlists in the army and is sent to Vietnam, where he makes friends with a man named Bubba, who convinces Forrest to go into the shrimping business with him once the war comes to an end. Later on duty, Forrest’s platoon is attacked. Forrest may have rescued many of the men, but Bubba is killed in action. Forrest is then awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism. While Forrest is in recovery due to a bullet shot to his butt, he discovers his talent for Ping-Pong, which gains him popularity, rising him to celebrity status, allowing him to play Ping-Pong competitively against Chinese teams. Later on, at an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. Forrest reunites with Jenny, who has been living the life of a hippie. As Forrest returns home, he endorses a company that makes Ping-Pong paddles that earns him $25k, which he then uses to buy a shrimping boat, fulfilling his promise to Bubba. His commanding officer, Lieutenant Dan from Vietnam also joins him. In the beginning, Forrest has little success. After Hurricane Carmen, he finds his boat to be the only surviving boat in the area. It was then he began to pull in huge amounts of shrimp and uses it to buy an entire fleet of shrimp boats. Lt. Dan invests the money in Apple Computer and Forrest is financially secure for the rest of life. Forrest later returns home to see his sick mother who is potentially seeing her last few days. One random day, Jenny returns to visit Forrest and he proposes to her. Although she declines, she feels obliged to prove her love to him by sleeping with him. She leaves early the next morning. Through impulse, Forrest decides to go for a run and continue to keep running across the country several times, for three and a half years, becoming famous. The present day, Forrest reveals that he is waiting at the bus stop because he received a letter from Jenny who, having seen him run on television, asks him to visit her. Once he is reunited with Jenny, Forrest discovers she has a young son, of whom Forrest is the father. Jenny tells Forrest she is suffering from a virus, which may be HIV. Together the three move back to Greenbow, Alabama. Jenny and Forrest finally get married. The wedding is attended by Lt. Dan, who now has prosthetic legs and a fiancée. Jenny, unfortunately, dies soon after. The films end with Forrest and Lil’ Forrest waiting for the school bus on Lil’ Forrest’s first day of school. Opening the book his son is taking to school, the white feather from the beginning of the movie is seen to fall from within the pages.
IV: Describe current affairs happening at the time of this piece of entertainment (i.e. wars, economics/trade, politics, social movements, etc.).
During the time this movie was based upon, Forrest Gump addressed numerous issues regarding mental disabilities, war effects, and racism. There were many events happening, but two major events that appeared were the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Fearing the repercussions of another country came under communist rule, President Kennedy had authorized more aid to the South Vietnamese government that was struggling against Vietnamese communists, the Vietcong. When President Johnson assumed office following Kennedy’s death, he authorized the dispatch of American ground combat troops to Vietnam to prevent any attack on the American military. Even though it was never declared, the United States was effectively at war in Vietnam even though Congress in 1965. This bitter struggle soon aroused widespread hostility across the nation and triggered violent antiwar demonstrations on many American college campuses. For example, students publicly burned their draft cards, and antiwar demonstrators blocked the entrance to army installations and draft headquarters.
As for the Civil Rights Movement, it became more pressing. As early as 1962, federal troops were used to enroll an African American student at the University of Mississippi. Similar action was taken at the University of Alabama in 1963. To show concern, over 250,000 demonstrators gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in August of 1963 to hear Martin Luther King Jr. proclaim, “I have a dream that one day…”. The assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 shocked the nation, but it did not stop the civil rights movement. In the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, the cause of civil rights became a major force in American life. After a Senate filibuster had been broken, Johnson was able to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most far-reaching civil rights law ever enacted by Congress. Another important law known as the Voting Rights Act in 1965, ensured every American the right to vote and authorized the attorney general to dispatch examiners to register voters. Despite the passage of these laws, riots broke out in American cities during the summers of 1965, 1966 and 1967. These riots erupted because of civil rights legislation alone could not change residential segregation in urban centers. By the mid-1960s, among African Americans unhappy with the nonviolent tactics of Martin Luther King Jr., the new rallying cry became ‘Black Power.’ The most articulate spokesperson for Black Power was Malcolm X or Malcolm Little. He rose from a disadvantaged childhood to a leadership position in the Black Muslim movement. Later, Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam and established his own organization committed to establishing an alliance between African Americans and the nonwhite people of the world. It was in 1963 when black Muslim assassins shot and killed Malcolm X. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the civil rights movement lost its most charismatic leader and his death was mourned worldwide. Rioting happened all over in various cities. Within the same year, Richard M. Nixon was elected president. He tried unsuccessfully to undo the civil rights legislation enacted during the Johnson administration. However, the Supreme Court ordered a quick end to segregation in schools. As Nixon attempted to cover up the Watergate scandal within the White House, he resigned under threat of impeachment on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald R. Ford struggled with a domestic economy that was hit by a quadrupling of oil prices as a result of the Arab oil embargo that followed the Yom Kippur War. Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia, was able to defeat Ford in the presidential election of 1976.
V: Choose two main characters and discuss in detail their clothing throughout the movie, using as many correct terms for clothing as you can. Include fabrics, silhouettes, colors, embellishments, accessories, hairstyles, and makeup. Also, include why you chose to focus on these two particular characters.
As a young boy, you tend to see Forrest in knitted shirts that are pulled over the head and polos with collars and buttoned vents at the front. Later in the movie, during his teen years, Forrest wears slim casual trousers also known as chinos that are khaki colored with a small belt and a collared button-down shirt. His shirt being plaid was in a bright blue. For his shoes, you’d see him in a pair of oxfords, brogues and occasionally a sports coat the color of burgundy or blue. Forrest happens to wears the same exact outfit throughout his college career until he is enlisted into the army. While enlisted in the army, you always see Forrest in his uniform. Although it is rare, you will see Forrest in a single-breasted style suit or a continental suit which has a shorter jacket and a closer fit through the torso. Years later after Forrest is dispatched from the army, he continues to wear his plaid button-down shirt and chinos. The only thing that was slightly different was the pants. The chinos were replaced with trousers that grew wider and included some flared pant legs and wide, bell-bottoms. In addition, Jenny gives Forrest the gift of a brand new pair of Nike Cortez. As the movie comes to an end his outfit becomes more modernized.
When Jenny was little her outfits echoed the silhouette of adult women’s style of the 1950s. The dress had a full skirt and fitted bodices. As she got older in her teen years, she continued to wear the same style dress, just more appropriate for her age. These dresses were worn during both the day and evening and were usually the same length, ballerina length. Later in the movie, when Jenny went off to college, you see her in a cute dress pulled over a white turtleneck with white stockings and a pair of ballerina flats. Once Jenny gets kicked out of school, she begins her own beatnik beauty that included leotards, tights and ballet slippers. As Jenny decides to “runaway” she comes returns back as a hippie. In the late ’60s, early ‘70s Jenny is part of the peace groups protesting the war ended, and its main representatives were the hippies. At this time the main fashion features were; miniskirts, straight line, white boots, unisex jeans, bright colors and floral prints. Later on, when she gets into more hardcore drugs you see her in a gold sequence backless top with a pair of time flared jeans with platform heals resembling a fashion disc look. Years later Jenny comes back cleaned up and looking mother like. She is wearing natural fibers in beige and neutral colors with fabrics that are loose-fitting. With that look comes a soft natural hairstyle.
VI: Why do you think the author/director/costume designer chose these garments (accessories, hairstyles, etc.)?
I think the costume designer simply chose these garments to portray the time period the movie took place in. It would be strange if the characters in the movie were wearing clothing from the Renaissance during the time period of the Vietnam War. For those involved in this film, it was extremely important to them that the historical elements were as accurate as possible. Even if they were to be wearing modern day clothing, the garments she chose allows the audience to get a feel of the time period as if they were part of it.
VII: How does each character’s dress affect their actions, behaviors, and identities? Why do you think this is?
The way Forrest dresses throughout the movie varies, but what some viewers may not notice is his plaid shirt. When we see Forrest as a young boy the pattern of his plaid is small. He is coming across innocent and young with much to learn. This first plaid, which is observed in the doctors’ office, is the pattern associated with Gump’s ‘Magic Shoes’ and his first understanding of the world around him. He is sheltered and unsure of what is out there, and this his knowledge, like the size of the print, is small and limited. The next version of this pattern is the shirt that we see Forrest wearing on his first day of school. The pattern is now tainted having more than just the blue that we have seen him in so far. This implies the new elements Gump is adding into his life; Jenny, school, and the presence of exclusion in his life. Through this, the pattern of plaid is more diverse. The next same pattern is used when Forrest loses his braces and first becomes aware of his speed. This point in the film is very important to the storyline because throughout the rest of the film Forrest uses his running as a transition from one phase of his life to the next. The next blue plaid is larger, showing the passage of time. Forrest is now grown up and knows much more about the world then he did, but in a sense is still subject to the same kind of ridicule as before which is why the pattern is echoed from previous shots in this scene. This specific blue is where Forrest is introduced to football, removing him from the environment which he has become comfortable with on the winding road leading to his house which he has been chased down for many years. For some time, there is no plaid because Forrest is in the army. That entire sequence is signified by the constant uniform worn by Gump. The next blue plaid is introduced during Gump’s shrimping days. It’s a relaxed blue plaid with rolled up cuffs. This shows that Forrest is hard at work and fitting into this new part of his lifestyle. The next most prominent plaid is when Forrest begins his run across the states. It’s similar to the varieties of blue that he wears when he is with Jenny, but the big difference is the pattern of the pockets creating a visual opposition to the rest of the pattern. They cross differently showing Forrest’s internal confusion. He’s thinking about Jenny, same pattern, but he is lost on what to do next, so he just starts running. This allows for the next transition in his life. The next appearance of blue is when Forrest is telling his story on the bench and he learns of his son, Lil’ Forrest. The entire sequence of plaid ends with Forrest at the bus stop and he is wearing the iconic plaid blue. It shows the full circle of the Gump Legacy.
Jenny had a tough life from the very beginning of the movie all the way to the end. As a child, she was physically abused as well as sexually abused which is implied with her dirty ripped clothes. Majority of children during that time period inevitably displayed the same style trends seen for adults. Jenny is first seen as a beautiful young girl, with a pretty face, nice long hair and wearing a charming white dress. She comes across as an appealing and delicate girl. As she gets older she becomes a beautiful young woman. Here she wears a simple day to day dress in soft colors such as blue or yellow that depicts her cheerful, happy and innocent personality. Jenny has almost remained the same during her teens but later in the movie, Jenny is pulled from her college and this seems to start the descent into the life of drugs, alcohol, and prostitution, indirectly characterized as unthoughtful, unreliable and trouble to herself as well as Forrest. At this time, you see her in a fashion disc look. Jenny then falls into many popular movements throughout the ’70s and ’80s like the hippy movement which continues with the wild partying and drug addiction. Her hippie lifestyle shows her carefree side of life, which is most likely a coping mechanism to her traumatic experiences. Towards the end she appears to have cleaned herself up, she has short hair like a housewife and a steady job working at a diner. At this point, she realizes what she wants, but most importantly what she needs to keep her life on track.
VIII: Do you think the clothing in the movie/tv show/book seems historically accurate? Explain why or why not.
Like noted before, for those involved in this film, it was extremely important to them that the historical elements were as accurate as possible. To be able to say the clothing was historically accurate is, of course, hard to say because I did not live in that time period, but as I did my research, I think the movie seems pretty accurate. The notion of using dress to proclaim ideology or membership in a specific group did not originate in the 1960s. Throughout the history of dress, some individuals have chosen to wear clothing that identifies them as members of a particular group. Others have deliberately avoided fashionable dress from the rest of society in religious or ideological beliefs, or in politics. In the mid-20th century, the subcultural dress was especially notable in the zoot suit in the *** book
IX: Would you suggest additional/different garments for this particular piece of entertainment? What works, what doesn’t?
Because the majority of the movie was around the hippie time period, I wouldn’t change anything about the way Jenny dressed. I think it was portrayed very well between her garments and her behavior. As for Forrest, his outfits matched his personality very well but did not portray the time period of men as much as I liked. Don’t get me wrong, the outfits he was assigned to portrayed his personality quite well, but he pretty much had one outfit on throughout the whole movie. I say this, but the time of the hippie movement, he was overseas so he wasn’t able to be a part of it. And even coming back from the war, as a soldier it was only right to wear your uniform out of respect.
X: Are there any other pieces of clothing or accessories in the piece that are worthy of mentioning, due either to their being very different from the main characters’ or due to them being worn by a specific person or group of people?
Throughout the movie, the audience tends to focus on the main characters, Jenny and Forrest but pays rare attention to who and what is surrounding them. Forrest’s mother is a great example. At the beginning of the movie, you see Mrs. Gump in a small-brimmed hat that is seen in the late 1950s. During this time hats were consistently small and fit the head closely. In addition, Mrs. Gump wore white gloves made from cotton and nylon along with her handbag that has small handles.
- Bauer, P. (2017, June 20). Forrest Gump. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Forrest-Gump#ref337703
- Forrest Gump. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109830/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl
- Forrest Gump and its Historical Value. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://studylib.net/doc/9489228/forrest-gump-and-its-historical-value
- Jenny Curran. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://forrestgumpcinemastudies.weebly.com/jenny-curran.html
- Tortora, P. G., & Marcketti, S. B. (2015). Survey of historic costume. New York: Fairchild Books.