The movie Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, tells of a tender hearted, IQ challenged person, who experiences great achievements throughout the latter half of the 20th century. It utilizes historical fiction to capture the essence of the age and mood of the events it covers. Forrest was born right before the end of World War II in 1944. He lives throughout the movie in the Cold War era. It occurs during a time of turmoil in America, with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Both of these events portray the rebellious atmosphere in America. Forrest Gump portrays significant events from the 1940’s to 1980’s, the accuracy of which, despite minor mistakes, helps the audience understand the American mood of the era. In the movie Forrest claims his mother named him after Civil war hero, Nathan Bedford Forrest. In a notorious incident in 1864, 200 of 262 black soldiers died when southern troops under the command of Nathan B. Forrest overran Fort Pillow in Tennessee. (Foner 416) In the movie Forrest tells about this man’s association with the Klu Klux Klan. Nathan B. Forrest is known for his prominent involvement in the KKK and one of the first Wizards of the Klan.
Race was not a huge subject in the movie, as the main character treated all races equally. The first involvement of race relations within the film, took place as Forrest was attending Alabama University to play football. The movie shows the day that the University desegregated and for the very first time allowed black students to attend. Forrest sees a group of students protesting and decides to see what’s going on. Vivian Malone Jones and James A. Hood were the first two African American students to attend the University. Forrest with his tender heart and low IQ, notices one of the black students had dropped her book and he gladly returns it to her in front of the hostile, white, crowd. The part of picking up her book was not really part of history, but it shows the tone and mood of the campus on that day in history.
Forrest Gump enlists in the army where he is sent to boot camp and then on to Vietnam to fight on the front line. Vietnam was one of the most controversial wars ever fought. Many people were against the war and believed we were only sending soldiers to their death. Opposition to the war became the organizing theme that united people with all kinds of doubts and discontents. (Foner, 796) By 1967, young men were burning their draft cards or fleeing to Canada to avoid fighting in what they considered an unjust war. (Foner, 796)
The Black Panther Party was an African American revolutionary leftist organization. They believed in preventing racism against blacks and that all blacks deserved to be treated equally with whites. The movie portrayed the Black Panther Party’s military view by showing them dressed in military uniforms. Most prominent of the new groups, in terms of publicity, if not numbers, was the Black Panther Party. It became notorious for advocating armed self-defense in response to police brutality. (Foner 789)
In the movie Forrest witnesses the Watergate Scandal, but believes someone is breaking into the President’s office and calls the police. This is quite comical as this really did happen. In June 1972, five former employees of Nixon’s reelection committee took part in a break-in at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington D.C. A security guard called police, who arrested the intruders. (Foner 818)
In conclusion, I believe the Forrest Gump movie is basically an accurate representation of the history during the Cold War era. It was funny, entertaining and yet gave you a glimpse into history. The director used many key aspects, such as how Forrest got his name, accurate television clips from history and special effects used throughout the movie. The movie gave a pretty accurate description and helped the audience visualize and feel the emotional state of America at this time.
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