Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis and the titular character played by Tom Hanks, tells of a lovable idiot who experiences great achievements throughout the later half of the 20th century. It utilizes historical fiction to capture the essence of the age and mood of the events it covers. Forrest, born right before the end of World War II in 1944, lives throughout the movie in the Cold War era. It occurs during a time of domestic tumult in America, with the Civil Rights Movement starting in the 50’s and the counterculture of the 60’s protesting the Vietnam War; both events showcase the rebellious atmosphere. 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.
Forrest’s activity in domestic events throughout the film immensely demonstrates the shaping of America. The University of Alabama integration, occurring in 1963, happens with JFK sending troops to assist as Wallace opposed integration. The movie also incorporates deeper detail as one black lady drops her book while walking into the school, which really occurred, and Forrest picks it up, but this part never occurred in history. The counterculture and the Blank Panther Party indicate the domestic troubles in America. The era of both of these events fits as the Hippie Movement started in response to the Vietnam war and the Blank Panther Party existed from the 60’s until the 80’s for militant protest. In fact, the Hippie speech in front of the Washington monument even contained a soldier from the war whose speech remains unheard due to the speaker’s malfunctioning, just the way that Forrest’s speech never surfaced. Watergate, the scandal that obliterated American trust in its government, also featured Forrest in it. The Watergate scandal had men with flashlights coming in, as it was the site of the Democratic National Convention, and were discovered, although not by a man complaining to the staff. The accuracy of these events, down to the smallest details, shows the effort done to accurately portray history in the life of Forrest Gump and helps the audience see the revolutionary changes occurring.
The foreign impact of Forrest Gump accurately portrays America’s foreign influence. The Vietnam War, in the movie, showcases many of the troubles of the war. This includes the constant rain experienced in the movie and the ambushes that frightened the soldiers so much. This helps the audience sense the fright of serving in Vietnam. Furthermore, America implemented the Ping Pong Diplomacy to appease tensions with China, a country America feared due to its Communistic government. The audience thus witnesses the effort by the government for peace. These foreign historical events of Forrest Gump demonstrate the historical nature of the movie.
The historical accuracy of Forrest Gump persists throughout the movie, even involving itself in the intricacies of each event. For example, the audience assumes from the movie that Forrest was responsible for creating the smiley face during his cross country run in the 70’s. However, the smiley face is widely said to have been attributed to brothers who created it in the late 50’s or early 60’s. Furthermore, Hurricane Carmen barely hit South Carolina, where Forrest was; instead, it majorly hit around Louisiana. However, these inaccuracies still capture the essence of the American spirit, that of resistance and survival. The involvement of history in Forrest Gump, despite its frivolous mistakes, classifies the movie as an American classic.
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