Gone With The Wind – The UnPopular Opinion

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THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


There have been some very disappointing Oscar winners over the century of Academy Awards ceremonies. While I was tempted to write this column on why Nomadland is such an overrated movie, I decided to take it back to the granddaddy of all Best Picture abominations: Gone With The Wind. An epic, four-hour historical romance set against the backdrop of the South during the American Civil War, Gone With The Wind wants you to fall in love with Scarlet and Rhett while ignoring the literal whitewashing of history before your very eyes. It is a film so misguided and ignorant that odds are that if you have seen it, you likely only remember one or two iconic scenes and have nary a recollection of the rest. Gone With The Wind is quite literally not worth giving a damn.

Gone With The Wind is the definition of a studio movie. While I admire the craft that went into making a film of this scale, especially in 1939, it simply does not feature any art to it. The highest grossing film of all time for over twenty-five years (and to this day, if you adjust for inflation), this film went through multiple writers, directors, and production delays before it hit the big screen and ran away with the major awards at the Oscars that year. And despite cultural changes towards the treatment of African-Americans on screen as well as depictions of slavery, Gone With The Wind is still beloved as a romantic and beautiful film. Many of you are likely already cursing me as an SJW or a liberal or any other dirty word you can try and sling at me, but it simply is not possible to separate a film set during the Civil War from the horrible reality of slavery in the United States at the time.

The UnPopular Opinion, Gone with the Wind, Oscars, Clark Gable, Drama, Maureen O'Hara, Civil War

But, just for argument’s sake I will not criticize Gone With The Wind as it relates to slavery or African-Americans on screen. There are plenty of other reasons why this movie is so damn boring. The abysmal dialogue is at the forefront of why this movie has not aged well. Through the first half of the twentieth century, hundreds of movies were made that feature laughable speeches and monologues. If not for these terrible films, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would not exist. But, even fifty or sixty years later, most of these movies stand the test of time. From Citizen Kane to Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz to Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, the works of Alfred Hitchock, and many more, classic films earn the title because they work for generations to come. Gone With The Wind is stale, outdated, and does not hold up well at all.

This comes from the fact that Gone WIth The Wind is a product rather than a work of artistry. The decisions all look and feel as if they were decided by a committee of producers rather than the vision of a single filmmaker. So, why do so many regard it as such an achievement of cinema? Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara is one of a spoiled woman who is wholly unlikeable through the movie. Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler is equally unlikeable and a scene of forced sex between the couple is one of the most uncomfortable sequences in film history. Supporting performances from Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel are amongst the better characters in the film with McDaniel’s performance winning Best Supporting Actress and serving as an iconic moment for African-American actors.

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Gone With The Wind won 10 Oscars, two of which were honorary for technical achievements in film. The use of color definitely sets the film apart from other movies released in the 1930s and the technical prowess of those involved make the awards-worthy. The editing and art direction awards are also notable as is the fact that it did not win Best Picture but rather Outstanding Production. The naming of the award is key as this movie is most certainly a production. Was it best film of the year? Seeing as it beat classics like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz, I am confident in saying it was definitely not the best movie released that year. All three of those movies, which feature some questionable dialogue, all hold up significantly better than Gone With The Wind.

At slightly under four hours, Gone With The Wind is a slog of a film. The emotional stakes never reach levels more than melodramatic while the narrative feels like it could have trimmed over an hour and still told an adequately epic story. Had this story been told today, it would be handled very differently. If you look at examples like 12 Years A Slave and Django Unchained, two very different looks at Civil War-era storytelling, the attention to detail, visual proficiency, well-written dialogue, and realistic portrayals of the time, they tell stories much more powerful than anything in Gone With The Wind and do so while still garnering Oscars and acclaim from fans.

The UnPopular Opinion, Gone with the Wind, Oscars, Clark Gable, Drama, Maureen O'Hara, Civil War

At the end of the day, Gone With The Wind is a woefully overrated film that takes a revisionist look at the Civil War as a romantic era rather than a violent and racist period of American history. Couple that with characters who are so poorly conceived and melodramatically acted and you are left with a film that never manages to be more than a curiosity from a bygone era. As a movie regarded as one of the greatest of all time, it is a painful reminder of how tone-deaf Hollywood can be in the pursuit of making popular films. Gone With The Wind is an expertly manufactured work that checks off every requirement of a studio executive rather than serving as an inspirational film worth any level of emotional investment. If you love it, then fiddle-dee-dee because I don’t give a damn.

But hey, that’s just my UnPopular Opinion. Tell us your take on Gone With The Wind in the comments below.

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Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected] or spell it out in the comments below. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you’d care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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