This cornerstone of the Hollywood Golden Age, which won eight Academy Awards, follows a manipulative Southern belle named Scarlet O’Hara who falls for a dashing gentleman during the American Civil War.
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Its treatment of race is nauseating, a dismaying reminder of how recently blacks could be presented as inferior with essentially no controversy. At the same time, in Scarlett O’Hara’s vicious maturation from pre-war naivety to a ruthless titan of industry, it features the strongest and most complex woman in American entertainment, along with a view of gender politics without many equals today.
GWTW may easily be viewed in the era of “Django Unchained” and “12 Years a Slave” as the movie that might have been made by an industry under the Confederate States of America, had it won the Civil War… As ideological propaganda depicting all Yankees as monstrous, it far surpasses Soviet-era movies depicting a corrupt and evil capitalist West and U.S.; there’s really no equivalent from Eisenstein and Pudovkin on through the Golden Age of ’60s international Marxist cinema.
Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are abusive and exploitative of each other, the former appearing for the first two hours as so nakedly manipulative and repellently self-serving that Rhett’s resulting slink down into gutter treatment seems dramatically inevitable. Still, events by the end of the fourth hour have become so dark that it seems bizarre and almost nonsensical that history continues to refer to this story a ‘romance’.