Just the Thing to Fire Up Some Holiday Cheer – Hate Mail!

As Charlie Brown and friends remind us: “Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun or all that children call their favorite time of year.” Oh, and you know what else is great for building up that festive holiday spirit? Hate mail! I got a doozy the other day.

This one was sent to me as a personal message through Facebook. It’s so crazy I’ve had to censor part of it! I think you’ll understand why.

Subject: Response to your opinions on forrest gump

I find your description unprofessional, you said the movie was racist, I am black and I see nothing wrong about it, and I think your racist for even implying it. you got the message of the movie wrong, the message is that life isn’t predetermined its free and random. the character is easy the most likable character, he’s caring has no hate, for example he gave the money from apple to bubba’s family. I would bet non of you self righteous jerks would do that. just remember a n***er wrote this racist bastard.

This seems to be in reference to our very first Roundtable post, which was published back in June. To be fair, that piece has been highlighted in our “Popular Posts” section ever since, so it’s not like this person had to go digging for it or anything.

So, why did I call ‘Forrest Gump‘ racist? Well, there’s the obvious answer: Because it is.

To elaborate: There are only two types of black characters depicted in ‘Forrest Gump’. First, there’s Bubba and his family – the only characters in the entire movie who are just as intellectually stunted as Forrest, if not more so. They’re so ignorant and pathetic and helpless that they need a single-digit IQ, mouth-breathing white man to save them from their circumstances. Yet unlike Forrest, there’s no reference at all in the movie to Bubba or his family being developmentally challenged. No, in the world of ‘Forrest Gump’, that’s just what black folks are like, the intellectual equals of a mentally retarded white man.

To counterpoint this, the movie also shows us the other side of African American culture – the psychotically violent Black Panther members who use and abuse nice white girl Jenny, then get her hooked on drugs. Lovely.

So yeah, I think that ‘Forrest Gump’ is racist. Shockingly racist, in fact. And you should too, if you think about it. But that’s the worst part about ‘Forrest Gump’. The movie instructs you not to think about it, not to look beneath the surface, not to ever question anything beyond face value. The movie explicitly tells us that thinking is a bad thing and the cause of all the troubles of the world, all the while subversively slipping in some frighteningly reactionary messages about race, about gender, about politics, and about history. This is truly one of the most hateful movies ever made. Stupid is as stupid does, indeed.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Boy you hate that movie! I get what you mean about the not thinking part though. I’m of the opinion that critical thinking is the most important and most oft lacking thing in our society and it really bums me out when people push against it.

    As far as the racism goes, I’m just gonna stay out of that one 🙂

  2. Hmmm. Never really thought of it as raciest, but I haven’t seen it in 15 years. As a southerner and as a caucassion that has a mentally challenged brother, I found the movie offensive in other ways. Quite frankly, its just not that great of a movie. However, it had an excellent soundtrack!

  3. Jane Morgan

    ‘Forrest Gump’ isn’t racist. It’s a little retarded. But to call it racist feels PC.

    What’s the alternative?

    (A) Throw in seventeen more black characters, each one three-dimensional and unique, representing every possible flavor of black culture, to have a five-hour movie with an even weaker through-line?

    (B) Tell the writer/director they can set the movie in the south but they can’t have any black characters?

    (C) Blacklist filmmakers who want to make movies for mass audiences who subscribe to an anti-intellectual philosophy?

    ‘Forrest Gump’ is poorly crafted. There are thousands of reasons to deny it respect. But imaginary racism is at the bottom of the list.

    On the other hand, ‘American Psycho’ is teh totally misogynist!

    • Josh Zyber

      How about they just not make all of the main black characters even more mentally retarded than Forrest? What was the point of portraying them that way other than to say, “Yup, that’s what black people are like”?

      • Jane Morgan

        “I was born a poor black child.” – Steve Martin, ‘The Jerk’

        Sometimes movie characters don’t represent entire blocks of people. Sometimes they’re just live-action cartoons.

        I did a google search on this. It looks like you and two other people are the only people on earth that are offended by “racism” in ‘Forrest Gump.’

        If this was a real issue, Tom Hanks would have made a public apology by now.

        • Josh Zyber

          Forrest Gump isn’t just some quirky character piece. The movie is designed as a parable, and all of the characters are deliberate archetypes. Forrest is the All-American Everyman, Jenny is the wholesome girl next door, etc.

          So, yes, Bubba and his family are literally meant to represent ALL black people. That’s the story function they serve in this movie.

          • Jane Morgan

            ‘Forrest Gump’ has a weak plot. The weaker the dramatic structure, the more open a movie is to misinterpretation.

            But I understand why you make the argument.

            Saying “Forrest Gump is racist” is a provocative sentence that would work well at parties.

            Just like Tarantino’s ‘Top Gun’ monologue from ‘Sleep With Me.’

          • Jenny is absolutely not the wholesome girl next door. I know parable is open to interpretation, but Jenny clearly represents the American counter-culture.

            Also, as insulting as it is, Bubba does not represent all black people, just as the barber at the beginning does not represent all white people. Unfortunately, he does represent the black, agrarian south, which still plays into your racist argument.

  4. Yep, and the first Star Wars movie is racist (no African Americans) AND sexist (the one woman in the movie needs rescuing)…sheesh, I could take any number of movies and say the same thing about them. You’ve totally forgotten the scenes that address (and condemn) the racism of the South during the years Forest was growing up…they’re all over the movie. In fact, the whole presmise of the film is really about tolerance for those who are seen as different – but I guess that just zipped over your head.

  5. Sorry Joh, I’m with you more times than not, but not here.

    Sure Gump is an overrated film, but the reaching is pretty far here.

    I mean Bubba’s family isn’t the only people he helps in the movie. I guess you could say since he saved Lt. Dan, that it is saying all crippled vets need a mentally handicapped person to save them. To be honest, the film doesn’t really depict any of the characters in a positive light when you really think about it.

    Although your review kind of reminded me of a Paul Mooney skit, the email response above is a tad over the line.

  6. I somewhat disagree with your response. As I recall, it’s Jenny’s scummy white boyfriend who smacks her around (although the Black Panthers don’t do anything to discourage him). I don’t remember any black panthers that get her hooked on drugs either. I might have missed something.

    As far as Bubba’s family goes, it wasn’t a retarded person that helped them, it was a good person that happened to be retarded. He didn’t even believe he was helping them, he was merely giving them their share. That’s still pretty insultingly racist, but that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

    If I have any problem with the movie, it’s that it glorifies thoughtless culture (Forest) while depicting counter-culture (Jenny) as on a degrading path to self-destruction. I can ignore or even love how racist a movie can be (Transformers 2), but this bit of reactionary thinking is incredibly dumb, ugly and self-congratulatory.

  7. EM

    What I don’t get about people who loathe their own brains is that so few of them act on that loathing and seek to cause their own brain death. (Some do achieve it by happenstance…) I realize it takes some brainpower to arrive at such a logical conclusion and put it into effect, but still I should think such achievement would be within easy reach of a large majority of such persons.

    Comedian Emo Philips has a line that goes something like this: “I used to think the brain was the most fascinating organ of the human body. Then I realized what was telling me that.”

  8. Mike

    I think he only gave Bubba’s family half of Bubba Gump Shrimp. Lt. Dan got he and Forrest invested in Apple. I don’t think Forrest spread that dough around. Just sayin’.

  9. Wow, talk about reading WAY too much into this movie, I’m pretty sure that the film makers werent just sitting around and decided on the fact that Bubba and his family would be thought of as a racist family in the movie, the location Forrest was in, were Bubba was from and the time period allowed for that, there were a lot of poor black families like that back then (as equal rights were barely even going yet) and there are STILL poor black families like that down in those areas today, I never once thought of their portrayal as racist or anything else in the movie for that matter.

    To me Forrest Gump is an all time classic and as I said, you are reading WAY too much into what the film makers intended here

      • EM

        Gert, thank you for the example of a misguided reaction. Again, I don’t remember the film well enough to agree or disagree regarding the merits of Josh’s interpretation.

        However, I’m pretty sure that seeing things that don’t exist is not in itself a problem here. As I said in the discussion on homoëroticism (I don’t know why there’s something about *this* blog post that keeps making me think of that):

        “Seeing what is not actually there is the very ESSENCE of cinema. The pictures are illusions: we are not actually looking at the places, persons, and things we imagine we’re looking at. The motion in the pictures is also an illusion, one our own minds create out of perfectly still images. Furthermore, movies are generally (though not exclusively) the stuff of fiction, portraying events that are not happening, did not happen, and will not ever happen.

        “As in any form of communication, the recipient must apply his own resources in order for a message to be received. In cinema, if the viewer does not see what is not truly there, the communication fails, utterly.”

        (Since I attributed the quote correctly, this is not self-plagiarism. 🙂 )