This post contains major spoilers for Gone with the Wind.
It is a curious sensation when you read/watch a work you’ve read/seen countless times, and somehow, this time, it isn’t what you remember it to be. This has happened to me when I watched some depthless chick flicks I used to enjoy a few years ago, and that’s understandable; there was nothing more to get out of them. On the flipside, I’ve read the Harry Potter books several times, and I’m always finding something new. Perhaps that’s because I first read them as a child, and obviously, I’m going to pick up more as I grow older.
But I recently had this sensation when I watched Gone with the Wind. I’ve read the book and seen the movie several times. It is a work I love. It is a work from which I find inspiration; for example, the “I’ll never be hungry again!” scene never ceases to lift my spirits. The movie boasts high production values, a brilliant score, and fantastic performances and is all-around great.
So imagine my surprise when I found it slightly laborious to get through this time around. Maybe it’s because I was too familiar with it. There were no more surprises. Some of the magic was gone.
Or maybe I was starting to become annoyed with Scarlett O’Hara, of whom I’d always been a champion. I hold the belief that even though her actions can be dishonorable, she has to be admired for turning her life around the way she did. And I’ve found that one of the best parts of the story of Gone with the Wind is watching Scarlett learn her lessons. But this time around, I found myself at times shaking my head at Scarlett, wondering why on earth she’s acting the way she does.
Nevertheless, I still love Gone with the Wind. The question is: why? It’s not a happy story. The end involves a miscarriage, the death of a child, the death of a friend, and the dissolution of a marriage. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – the film’s most famous line and considered the greatest movie quote of all time – isn’t exactly that nice. Now that some of the magic of the film had gone, I found myself pondering how bleak this story can be at times.
Because of this, I also found myself pinpointing exactly why I love Gone with the Wind. The answer is the same as it has always been. I love it for its theme of survival, illustrated through both Scarlett and Melanie. I love that these two characters are survivors, but it opposite ways. When all is said and done, however, neither could’ve survived the war without the other, and I find that to be beautiful. Now that I realize that I might not enjoy some parts of the film, I have an even greater appreciation for its theme of survival and how it makes me love the story as a whole even more.
I guess, then, that even becoming familiar with a work to the point of not enjoying it fully is not necessarily negative. It can help you focus in on exactly what you love about it. Though I may now be more critical of Gone with the Wind, I appreciate its depth and power so much more.