Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, tells the story of Forrest Gump, an unintelligent but sincere man, as he journeys through life during the late 1900s. With his mother’s explanation that “life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get” in mind, Forrest is able to surmount obstacles and live a remarkably successful life despite his low IQ and the resultant discrimination (Forrest Gump). Guided by his gentle nature and optimistic outlook on life, he witnesses and influences some of the most memorable events of the century. Forrest inspires Elvis Presley, joins the all-American football team, meets President Kennedy, wins the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Vietnam war, defeats the Chinese national ping pong team, meets President Johnson, speaks at an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument, influences John Lennon, meets Richard Nixon, divulges the break-in at Watergate, starts and maintains the renowned Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company, becomes a preliminary investor in Apple technology, obtains fame and reverence by running across America for over three years, and marries his life-long love, Jenny. Forrest’s success does not come without struggle, however, and his story advocates that although obstacles are an inevitable part of life, there is undoubtedly something to be learned from all of them, but having a plan and a clear vision of the future is not necessarily the best way to overcome them.
Although the film offers no obvious dramatic plotline, one of the most compelling aspects is the emotional honesty of the characters throughout, especially Forrest. As the storyline progresses to reveal themes of friendship, loyalty, courage, and luck, the audience grows to genuinely care for Forrest. His simple reasoning for his actions when the “normal” man would be expected to have some larger motivation, along with his inability to explain the negative facets of life and his tendency towards optimism characterize him as an endearing figure—almost child-like in his innocence.
Forrest’s purity is both amusing and enlightening in the context of the historical events that he observes and occasionally influences. Though society sees Forrest’s simple-mindedness as stupidity and criticizes him for it, the audience can see, through Forrest’s perspective, that a simplistic viewpoint is a gift rather than a hindrance: it allows him to be unfettered by selfishness and considerations of position. As Forrest puts it, “stupid is as stupid does” (Forrest Gump). In other words, calling someone stupid does not make him or her unintelligent, but rather, we can only know a person by his or her actions. Therefore, Forrest is never disturbed by society’s constant reference to his “stupidity”, and his actions are far from foolish, as can be seen by the great success he accomplishes in life.
The film presents interesting parallels between Forrest Gump’s life and the development of America into what it...