Posted in book vs Movie, film, general, movie reviews, rant

Scarlet O’Hara (Bubblews Repost)

Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind trailer-9

EDIT NOTES:  This post was made several years ago on Bubblews, a site that is no longer online.  I found it while cleaning out some folders on my google drive, and decided to repost it, with some minor grammatical corrections.  According to my file, I wrote this on October 9, 2014, 11:55 AM.  I plan on eventually reading the novel, and rewatching the movie to see if my views still hold true. Also this post doesn’t focus on GWTW portrayal of slavery, which is at times very awkward because of its avoidance of the reality.  This just focuses on their main plot around Scarlet.

On Sunday, I saw Gone With the Wind in Theaters.  It was a great experience, although I hate to tell the movie people that 5 minutes is not enough to allow people to get to the bathroom and/or go to the concession stand to refill their drinks.  Should have been fifteen, but that is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that watching this movie again has made me reevaluate the characters. When I first watched the movie, I sided with Rhett and thought Scarlet and thought she was a spoiled brat who wanted what she couldn’t have.  But this last time has had me reevaluate what Scarlet is as a character, as well as Rhett.

Ashley, like before, remains something to roll my eyes over.  That hasn’t changed.  And I love Melanie still, though I think she deserved better than what she got in Ashley.  

But back to Ms. O’Hara.  This time around I really enjoyed her character.  I always like women-driven narratives, and you can’t say GWTW is not about Scarlet. I remember thinking that most of the bad things that happened to Scarlet were her own doing, but I realise now I’m wrong.  TO be honest, the only truly bad thing she does is marry Frank Kennedy when Suellen was intending to marry him.

Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of times something happens and the blame gets purely on Scarlet and not on the men in her life. People blame her left and right for Ashley, but always speak of how honorable Ashley.  Honorable my ass.  If he were honorable he would have told her he was in love with Melanie, and would not have kissed her in the barn.  Not that Scarlet should have continued on hoping he’d return her feelings, but Ashley was at least half to blame for the situation.  This was not a single person situation.

Marrying Charles Hamilton was a asshole-type move, but considering how happy Charles seemed to be, I think India was better off without her boyfriend.  Again, Charles isn’t blamed for leaving India, is all Scarlet’s fault (and India tries to make her pay for it for the rest of the movie).

Scarlet is a multifaceted woman.  She likes pretty things, likes dressing up, but also isn’t afraid of hard work when it’s required of her.  Apparently Melanie is the only one who truly sees that part of Scarlet’s personality.  

Also I find it interesting that she keeps telling people how she is scared about whatever situation she is, but because she actually confronts her fears and gets through it the men in her life keep going “Oh, you are never scared.”  No, she’s scared, she’s just not letting her fear overcome her.

So part one is Marriage #1, Ashley being a terrible husband, Scarlet making some not-so-good choices, and everyone (especially Rhett) ignoring her when she says she doesn’t want to do something.

Part two starts off with Scarlet having returned to Tara, running it and working it to provide for her family because her father has lost his mind in grief and can not do it.  Suellen keeps whining about how much she hates Tara because she has to farm it herself, and their youngest sister tries to keep the peace.  Meanwhile Scarlet is trying her hardest to keep things even going.

Again, Melanie admires her and Ashley basically does his “Woe is me” act  (whatever sense of reason he has in the first twenty minutes of the film seems to have left him for the rest of it) and uses his admiration for what she is doing to continue on his mental affair with Scarlet.  Although, unlike Ashley, Scarlet at least seems to learn from her mistakes and walks away this time.

Oh, and she shoots a looter.  And Melanie helps her hide the body. I’m full of Melanie/Scarlet friendship love.

She tries to manipulate Rhett to keep Tara.  Her basic motivations in part 2 are to survive and keep Tara, which she sees as her home.  Rhett of course calls her on it.  Doesn’t seem to admire her resourcefulness in keeping away the tax collectors so far, and the fact she made a pretty awesome dress in a short time out of her mother’s drapes.   

Scarlet is resourceful.

So here is where Scarlet makes her big mistake.  Bigger than marrying Charles Hamilton.  She tricks Frank Kennedy into marrying her so she can use the money has in his store to help pay off Tara’s taxes and also make herself wealthy enough so she can fulfill her promise to never go hungry again.

Now, Frank Kennedy spent most of part one and the first half hour of part 2 talking about his love for Suellen.  But instead of rushing to his ex-fiance and trying to convince her to wait for him, he believes Scarlet’s lies and marries Scarlet.  Now, it takes time for him to make that decision, though it’s not shown in the movie.  HE doesn’t propose on the screen.  But apparently during the entire engagement he doesn’t once ask Suellen about her new fiancee.

So Sue, you are again better off without Frank.  He’s almost as bad as Ashley in my mind, and you can tell how much I don’t care for Ashley.

Anyway, So Scarlet has now managed to keep her home, made herself wealthy (although she does have some issues with ethical employment, but she’s still thinking “MONEY WILL MAKE THINGS RIGHT” that she learned at the end of the war.).

She also makes a mistake in trying to keep Ashley close by getting him to agree to be co-owner of the lumber yard.

Apparently despite the ethical issues surrounding her marriage to Frank Kennedy and subsequent takeover of his businesses, Scarlet has a sound business mind and the Kennedys are doing quite well.  I’m not entirely sure what Frank does, I guess he still runs the store, but he apparently isn’t used to a woman taking over because when Scarlet gets angry he is stunned.

Rhett finds it all amusing (except Ashley, though I don’t blame him).

The one thing Frank does is that he decides that no one is going to hurt his wife. While the ladies are berating Scarlet for going around running things and not being womanly, the boys go out and do some vigilante behavior. Although he ends up dying, this allows us to see that Scarlet was not totally unfeeling about Frank.

Rhett doesn’t understand what “no” means. While this time Scarlet at least seems to be acting in denial, the first time he kissed her it was clear she was not wanting it at that time, did not at any time stop pushing him away.  The second time after the initial second you can see her accepting the kiss, and afterwards she seems to enjoy it, welcoming it.

But seriously, Rhett doesn’t understand that no means no.  He also knows she’s drunk, and proposes anyway. I think I would have waited till at least she wasn’t crying over the fact her husband might have died because of her.

I used to think it was an act, but since she wasn’t expecting Rhett to come over, I don’t think it was.  She’s starting to internalize the things people are saying about her.

So she makes probably the best marital decision she makes during the movie, although I don’t know if it’s the best one she could have made over all.   Rhett admires her ability to take things under control, to succeed when people tell her no.

And in actuality Scarlet and Rhett have the happiest marriage in the film, bar maybe the Means.  Despite Scarlet’s lingering “love” for Ashley she doesn’t seem to be pursuing him much, although Rhett sees it everywhere and India doesn’t help by passing around rumors because she caught Scarlet and Ashley hugging.

Melanie calls bullshit on it and ignores it all.  Go Melanie.  No one blames Ashley still.  He’s too honorable.  The fact that Rhett basically says he thinks Scarlet would cheat on him but Ashley was too honorable really irritates me because he doesn’t seem to have any idea of what his wife is about.

She wants to be loved, not just get Ashley.  I think if she had pushed hard enough, Ashley’s “Honor” would have not been enough.  She goes a bit further then she should, but I don’t for a second think she would have cheated on Rhett, not the way he expects her to.  

We won’t start on the Rhett drags his wife to bed scene.  I’m going to assume that Scarlet was okay with that because she seemed quite happy in morning till Rhett goes “I’m leaving you.  Sorry for sexing you up.”  But it’s a bit dubious at first whether she really wants it beforehand.  

Rhett leaves Scarlet twice. Because he assumes she’d leave him at any moment.  For Ashley, although I think if you watch her she’s just holding on to the idea of her and Ashley because it’s been with her so long.

If you watch the scene where she’s with Ashley in the end and basically is looking at him going “Why the hell was I interested in you?”  it doesn’t sound as if she is as surprised as you might think.  It might be the first time she openly admits it to herself, but I think shes pretty much been giving up on the idea a long time ago.

Of course Rhett runs because Scarlet hugs Ashley as they cry over Melanie.

So in the end Scarlet has lost EVERYTHING.  She’s got her money, so she won’t be hungry again, but she’s lost her daughter (and I think she cared about Bonnie more than Rhett seemed to think she did.  Maybe it’s different in the book, I don’t know).  She lost her baby, her husband, her best friend and partner in crime Melanie, and apparently the respect of those around her because they assume she’s still after Ashley (but Ashley is above reproach).

So in the end my new verdict is Scarlet is awesome because she’s someone real. She doesn’t fit the cliche of ditsy girly-girl, or “I’m gonna kick your ass” girl.  She likes food, hates naps.  She fights with her sisters (sometimes rightly, sometimes in the wrong). She is intelligent, she is ambitious but mostly to protect herself, and really her main concern is she wants someone to love her.

Really love her, not just tell her she’s pretty and act in awe of her.  I think that’s why she really falls in love with Rhett, because most of the time he calls her on her crap (although he adds on stuff that isn’t really about her but rather him) but for awhile they seem to really love each other.

Surprisingly, the four men in her life are the least of story even though when you talk about the movie you end up having to talk about them.  

Scarlet gets so much crap she doesn’t deserve (and some she does). And some of things she gets blamed for is not equally given to the other parties in question.  I guess I join Melanie Wilke’s Scarlet fan club now though.

Although I might be off about Melanie, she never seemed like she was unobservant or dumb, so I always thought she had known about Ashley and Scarlet. She was the biggest supporter of Scarlet, and of her relationship with Rhett.  Not because she was like “Finally away from my husband,” but because she genuinely wanted those two happy.

This is already five pages long, so I won’t go into the fact that this movie as a variety of women considering it’s a movie from 1939.  


A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

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