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Gone with the Wind (feminist)



*


Gone with the Wind (1939) starts with an intertitle card that warns you that what you are about to watch “represents the attitudes of the time” and then tells us that we need to “learn from experience” to forge a more just society—“race” itself is not mentioned, being as unmentionable, even in the cause of racial justice, as a woman’s pantalettes were to Scarlett O’Hara (as Rhett Butler observed, “You little hypocrite, you don’t mind me knowing about them—just talking about them.”).


The intertitle card reassures me that the film is “presented uncut and as originally intended”—well, I suppose that if you cut out all the objectionable material in Gone with the Wind you would be left with a few shots of Tara, stately home to the O’Hara dynasty, and perhaps a shot of the odd horse; far from a three-hour+ epic (bodices heaved), it would be about seven minutes long (probably less).


Yet there’s a double-bind in that card—it tells me it’s “original and uncut” but to put a “tobacco warning” before the main presentation, a politico-historical tobacco warning, does change the film. It is “cut”, it isn’t the original—because, if you watch it and you’re an obedient and diligent person, once you read that card the whole context for the film is changed. You no longer watch it as uncritical unconscious entertainment “just how it was”—you watch it consciously, with your consciousness raised, as Marxists might say, on the minatory look-out for the “lamentable” and “unjust” portrayals in the film. It becomes a critical exercise, not entertainment.


It’s ironic, in a way, because Gone with the Wind is not about race or the Old South—it’s a love story at heart, it’s a romance. However, from the way it’s presented you’d think it had been made as some conscious attempt to propagandise for the Old South—in fact, if you watch it properly, without having already decided what it is, you’ll find the film is anti-Southern. This is a very common leftist perversion.


There’s some institution, segregation say, that exists for a practical reason. The left interprets its existence as some deliberate hateful irrational act (of course, they are the deliberate irrational haters); they then institute “reverse discrimination” which actually is brutal and vindictive and nasty.


You see this with ideas, associated with Gone with the Wind, about “minstrel shows” and the like—these are just based on how American blacks are, and rap is just like the old “nigger jigaboo” shows of yesteryear, except the left doesn’t read it as so because it has no sense of functional similarity (what do you think “twerking” is if not an “exaggerated comical negro dance”?).


The left then reads back what was normal black culture as some “cruel white caricature” of blacks—hence contemporary adverts must show white people being degraded at the hands of blacks because that’s justice “that’s what they did to the blacks”. Except they didn’t do that at all.


People liked the nigger jigaboo like you like Kanye West—there is no difference whatsoever, if you appreciate the functional similarity. Doubtless, in 50 years, you will find progressive academics who will talk about how men like Kanye West were degraded for “the white supremacist dollar” and “despite being rich” were subject to cultural marginalisation…


**


Why does the left hate Gone with the Wind? Because it is a leftist film. “What? I do declare but you do talk scandalous!”. However, it’s true: the left shows the least mercy for fellow leftists who fall behind the times, the old-duffer reactionary is often ignored by the left because his views are practically incomprehensible to them—but the social democrat or “splitter” from the left receives no mercy.


Hence nothing is subject to harsher criticism than the leftist fashions of yesteryear—this is very obvious in the “euphemism treadmill”. The fact is that to say “negro” was once the height of politically-correct delicacy and consideration, then in the 1960s it was decided that “negro” was patronising and oppressive and you have to say “black”, and then that became “African-American”.


If you watch current affairs programs from the 1950s and early 1960s, you’ll see that liberals and vain people were very pleased with themselves to say “negro”—just as people a decade later would be pleased to say “black”. But if you say “negro” in 1980, you’ve marked yourself out as beyond the pale—because you didn’t keep up with the revolution (you didn’t keep up appearances, you could say).


So Gone with the Wind is hated because it’s a leftist film—it’s a feminist film, right out. It’s not pro-South, either. You only think that because you haven’t watched it, because some leftist meme lodged in your mind that Gone with the Wind extols “whopping slaves and pickin’ cotton” and says that was all fine and dandy—in fact, the slaves were asking to be whipped…


Here’s the reality: Scarlett O’Hara, the main character, is a feminist character—at the film’s start her father tells her that the Irish have a special relationship to the land and that what really matters is the “red earth of Tara”, their fine plantation estate. At the film’s end, Scarlett, after having worked her way through three marriages, only has Tara—and it’s Tara she swears herself to, and it’s Tara that, throughout the film, she has worked to preserve against all odds (particularly from carpetbaggers during Reconstruction).


So the basic message in Gone with the Wind is “women on top”—woman as the “master of the estate”. Scarlett basically has to take charge at Tara when the war ends because her mother is dead and her father has been driven out of his wits by the combined misfortune of having large parts of his estate burned and having his beloved wife die at the same time—her sisters and the black staff, for their part, are useless. Sure enough, Scarlett does “everything and anything” (including stealing a wealthy husband from her sister, since she doesn’t “love Tara” like Scarlett and wouldn’t use his money to save it).


In this, Scarlett succeeds. She becomes a hard-nosed businesswoman who owns her own lumber mill—and it’s very successful. Along the way, she bosses the man she opportunistically married about along with the man she really loves, the aristocratic and fey Ashley Wilkes. Because women know best. Admittedly, Scarlett is punished for this outrageous behaviour in the end, because she drives her buggy through a vagrant camp and is almost raped—so causing the man she opportunistically married to go and clean it out with the local KKK (he is shot dead in the process, Wilkes is badly injured—and they are nearly all arrested by the Yankees).


Nevertheless, Scarlett is successful in business—Scarlett saves Tara from the egregious taxes placed on the property by those “damn Yankee” carpetbaggers (and their poor white trash accomplices—lawdy!). So throughout Scarlett is this very brazen woman, a total flirt and totally selfish, who somehow succeeds in most male occupations and ends up “master of the house”. This is feminism pure and simple—the whole point about Scarlett O’Hara is that she is not a Southern lady.


***

This is no surprise, because Margaret Mitchell, the woman who authored Gone with the Wind, had a mother who was a suffragette—she could “do it like a dude”, and that’s what Gone with the Wind is all about. In the movie, Scarlett really loves Ashley Wilkes—this rather insipid and wet Southern aristocrat; but he ends up married, very aristocratically, to his cousin Melanie. The whole story is driven by Scarlett’s obsession with Ashley; but then you have, parallel to this obsession, Rhett Butler—this mercenary old dog who is only out for himself and is sceptical about “the Cause” (of Southern chivalry) from the start (the South has no cannon factories, he observes).


Now, Rhett Butler is Machiavellian—he’s just this cool-headed realist, whereas everyone else around him his in love with “honour”, “duty”, “the Cause”, and “being a gentleman”. So Butler is entirely pragmatic—and in the war he becomes a blockade runner, a privateer (because he’s a privateer and a pirate, a total realist). Sure, he joins the Southern army for a bit as the war closes—which is presented as shame that he isn’t in the “real war” but it also gives him access to the Confederate treasury so as to make his post-war fortune (so we always have the suspicion that it was a hard-headed buccaneer-like manoeuvre).


The fact is that Ashley Wilkes and his wife Melanie are the dullest characters in the film—they’re too good to be true, utterly wet and insipid. When Scarlett is caught kissing Ashley towards the film’s end, Melanie pretends not to notice, even though everyone knows about the scandal, and gives Scarlett the benefit of the doubt—indeed, even though throughout the film Scarlett is a selfish whore, who flirts with everyone shamelessly and marries two men for purely utilitarian reasons (to get money and to get back at Ashley when he marries Melanie), Ashley’s wife, Melanie, gives her the benefit of the doubt always (she’s sort of an ultra-Christian archetype, as we shall see later).


Ashley, meanwhile, is basically useless—he doesn’t believe in the war in the first place because war always brings ruin and suffering; after the war, without his estate, upon which he intended to stay “burrowed away” like a Lovecraftian recluse, he’s basically useless in the competitive post-war economy. All he does is lament about his life in a “ruined civilisation” where the “weak will go to the wall”—this seems to include him (Scarlett, meanwhile, just gets on with it and supports his wife and child into the bargain).


Scarlett cheerfully hires underfed and mistreated convicts to work her lumber mill—Ashley wants her to hire “three darkies”, who can do the work of ten white men and will be treated better. But hard-headed Scarlett takes a “Northern approach” and hires convict labour nevertheless. The point made by Ashley is basically Carlylean—the convicts will be whipped and underfed for economic reasons, yet on his estate, back before Reconstruction, the slaves were more like family and would never be treated like that (unlike with cold Northern capitalism).


Despite the nobility displayed by Ashley and Melanie, there’s basically no interest in them because they’re these impossibly milky goody-good people—we’re really interest in Rhett and Scarlett (not a pair of goody-two-shoes).


****


The whole “joke” in Gone with the Wind is that Scarlett and Rhett are made for each other (observe that their names both end in the double “tt”, just to show that is so—possibly a conscious choice by Mitchell). They’re both totally mercenary and realistic—Machiavellian—and don’t care about social respectability and honour and all that stuff really.


As Butler says when he “buys” Scarlett for a dance in Atlanta (while she is meant to be in mourning, so causing her chaperones to faint in shock), “People with courage can live without a reputation”. “Oh, you do talk scandalous,” says Scarlett. But that’s basically the point—people only care about “honour” and “respectability” and being “good” because they’re too cowardly to do what they really want (so presented as “goodness”—“But have ye really tested yerself before the Lord—or be ye a whited sepulchre?” as a Scotch preacher might say…).


Butler, being an objective man, recognises that he and Scarlett are entirely alike from the first—they’re both selfish and just do whatever is practically necessary to get what they want, “ideals” be damned. The only difference is that Scarlett is a hypocrite who pretends that she conforms with Southern norms—in reality, she’s more “Northern”; she moves with the times in Reconstruction and works with Yankees and carpetbaggers to get rich, while the old Southern gentry gossip about her (“doing deals with the people who tortured us”).


Scarlett is totally materialistic, thinks money is the most important thing in the world—and is determined “never to be poor again” after she has to work in the fields. Hence the sign in her store: “The war is over—don’t ask for credit” (no special favours for Yankees or Southerners at Scarlett’s store, it’s strictly business).


So, far from the film being a defence of the Old South—of Carlyle’s visions of a paternalistic society founded on religion and blood and honour where everyone knows their place and even the lowest are protected from capitalist predation—the film defends Machiavellian pragmatism. Rhett recognises that the South cannot win against modern industry from the first and that it is deluded by romantic ideas about “gentlemanly conduct” and “honour”—that bother him not one wit.


Now, Mitchell forgot that “opposites attract”—Scarlett and Rhett are the same; and that’s why they shouldn’t really be in love—Scarlett should be in love with Ashley, because he has higher ideals. The truth is that women can’t write men—Rhett Butler, despite being seen as a masculine archetype by many, is actually a woman. He’s a very sexual beast (off to the whorehouse all the time) who doesn’t care about “honour, religion, and blood” and only has an interest in improving his personal power and wealth.


He’s a Machiavellian or Nietzschean figure—his realism is “Luciferian” in that it reveals the unacceptable truth behind religious bluster (“we don’t have cannon factories, just honour—wars aren’t won by honour, they’re won by cannon,” as he observes in the film’s opening scenes).


So Rhett Butler behaves like a woman—he’s this mercenary, disloyal, selfish narcissist who is obsessed by sex. The “real man” is Ashley Wilkes—because he understands blood, sacrifice, and honour. But, for a woman, he’s a drip in the end—and the audience can’t really understand why Scarlett is so obsessed by Ashley, who is so wet and anaemic. Towards the film’s end, Butler threatens to crush her skull with his big hairy hands and then sweeps her upstairs for a bout of what is today referred to as “marital rape”—which Scarlett thoroughly enjoys, to judge by her perky demeanour the next morning.


Contemporary feminists will tsk-tsk and write articles like ‘Was that scene in Gone with the Wind really marital rape?’and yet it takes a woman to conceive such a scene, a man wouldn’t “go there” naturally; and that’s because men are the romantic, the religious, the chivalrous sex—it’s women who go in for this “brute force” angle, and the more feminised society becomes the more talk of rape there is (precisely because there’s a lack of it, and because the female imagination “goes there” more than not).


Again, what starts as a feminist film where a woman gets what she wants, saving the day with her business acumen and being “raped”, becomes “total evil” within a generation—because the revolutionary conceptualisation sweeps on, being feminine, being based on fashion.


Ultimately, Gone with the Wind isn’t as good as Pride and Prejudice, its direct antecedent in a way, because Mitchell was already too “liberated”—Austen could write Darcy as an ideal mate without too much projection, but Mitchell, being more independent, projected too much femininity into Butler and made him too much like a woman.


Darcy is the ultimate feminine mate because he has total social respectability and large amounts of resources, being a top aristocrat—but he’s known to be a bit surly and difficult, possibly “dangerous”. So he combines both the threat of rape and the ability to provision—in modernity, the two are rarely combined (you’re either an anaemic salaryman or a thug). Butler is more “pure rape”; he doesn’t have the social cachet, because he’s more feminine—the Butler-O’Hara romance is a romance between two women, really.


Mitchell was progressive—she has a vision of an independent woman, but even a progressive has to admit that romance requires restriction. There’s no romance in a society where anybody can sleep with anybody else with zero repercussions. There’s romance in a hierarchical and restrictive society where, as in Romeo and Juliet, people are killed for sleeping with the wrong people (or are forced to kill themselves).


We live in a very unromantic time because there is no sanction for almost any sexual act—except, as a measure of decline, with pre-pubescent children. Otherwise, anything goes and there’s no comeback and nothing at stake—hence if you want romance, you always have to go back to the Old South or Medieval times to when there was something at stake; and you have to do that even as a suffragette—because, in fact, that society is attractive to you.


*****


So Scarlett O’Hara is basically a Yankee? Yes—absolutely, the film is about how the Old South can’t last and has to give way to practical mercenary people like Rhett and Scarlett, people who don’t believe in anything except money. After all, the O’Haras are Irish—with a special relationship with the land—so they’re “the victims”. Mitchell wasn’t Irish, her father was Scottish—but, even in the 1930s, the Irish were already romantic progressive victims almost akin to the blacks; so Scarlett’s “relationship to the land” at Tara is also about “the old country” and the desire for independence from Britain (an idea explored in the 1990s sequel, written long after Mitchell was dead, with an Irish nationalist slant).


In a further “OnlyFans” moment, the character Belle Watling is key to the film—she’s the madame of an Atlanta brothel frequented by Rhett and she pulls our heroes out of a bad fix when the Yankees want to arrest them for being in a KKK raid. During the war, Watling tries to be a nurse at the Confederate hospital in Atlanta—but she is rejected, her “nursing” skills being unwanted. She then tries to give the hospital money—but the old spinsters and church-ladies refuse it. Belle’s contribution is only accepted by Melanie—the entirely sickly-sweet perfect Christian lady; just as it’s Melanie who allows an auction of women to dance with to go ahead in Atlanta (so giving Rhett a chance to “buy” Scarlett).


When Watling hides the KKK group that includes Ashley in her brothel, Melanie again pays tribute to her and, in a doorstep conversation, says she’d be proud to greet Belle in the daytime on the street (censorious opinion be damned).


Today, Melanie Wilkes would be the kind of Christian to allow a drag queen story hour at her local church playgroup—because that’s what a real Christian does. I don’t think Christians have always been this way—I think this “total acceptance” Christian, as instantiated in Melanie Wilkes, was fairly novel at the time. But she’s just the same, as presented, as today’s “real Christian” who would accept asylum seekers, whores, child molesters and, basically, anyone.


It’s a sentimental point in this story, this alliance between “total virtue” and “total debauch”—because it’s a political point. Real Christians embrace the trans—or the madame at the local brothel. We’ll leave out the question of how far that is implicit in Christianity, but I get the impression it wasn’t so as typically understood by, for example, the Right Reverend Ian Paisley; and that this is “true Christianity” as understood by the daughter of a suffragette—which amounts to “have no standards”, accept everyone with no conditions whatsoever; people generally thought to be socially negative will really save you (poetic justice).


Similarly, the black folk in Gone with the Wind are often depicted, in a “woke” way, as more collected, cool-headed, and wise than the white folk. When Atlanta is under siege, the whites are in uproar and panic—meanwhile, the black slaves calmly march to the front to dig trenches with total Christian resignation as to their fate.


Further, the character “Mammie” is more wise and has greater acuity as to people’s intentions (or should that be folk’s) than the white characters—the “wise old negro” archetype that continues to this day. And it’s “Big Sam” who saves Scarlett from rape—it’s the whites you have to watch out for! contrary to stereotype. Sure, the accents adopted and the poor English might be seen as “derogatory”—but, overall, the blacks in Gone with the Wind, like the blacks in any contemporary woke product, are too good to be true.


And that’s why it’s hated—because it’s yesterday’s sentimental feminist propaganda, it’s yesterday’s attempt to patronise “the darkies”. At one point, Scarlett’s father pulls her aside and tells her not to be so harsh with the servants especially with the darkies (he adds, sotto voce). This is the great joke—it is that very attitude, especially with the darkies, spoken by a plantation owner, that means there’s an intertitle card at the film’s start today, because it seems to be talking too harshly, especially about the darkies. In other words, we need to practice our noblesse oblige better, us owners of “Tara”—and that involves manners and fashions, and those have changed since Margaret Mitchell’s day (and so her work, once perfectly progressive and decorous, has become “pure evil”).


Well, as Rhett Butler might himself say, “You little hypocrite, you don’t mind me knowing about them—just talking about them!”.





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