Notes for John Crowe Ransom's never published, never read review of Gone with the Wind, unearthed by an overeager assistant professor…
Who'd have thought David O. Selznick's film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's classic doorstop of a novel would speak to me so, well, directly? Mitchell was a Southerner, and she totally understood how the Old South was about genteel manners, a leisurely life, and connection to the land.
Must start out by countering the critics who dismiss GWTW as schlocky nostalgia disguising the deep evils of slavery and whitewashing the oppressive patriarchal culture of the Confederacy. So what if they seceded from the country? They had traditions to preserve. Who wouldn't want to save agrarian culture from those greedy carpetbaggers from the North?
I love it when Scarlett O'Hara shoots that plundering Northerner! Still, her whole ambitious businesswoman sensibility is a little unnerving. I'm not ready for women to be so bossy. But I am comforted in knowing that she was trying to return the war-torn South to its former glory, and to restore the integrity and economic autonomy of the South against Yankee colonial forces.
Sure, I'm no film critic, but the sets surely warrant some credit—those lavender sunsets, the vision of Atlanta burning, and Tara a mere shell of her former glories! And what about the natural surroundings at the plantation called Twelve Oaks? The tree-lined driveway, the flora of the South… ah, wisteria, oak trees. GWTW reminds me of everything that's good and pure about those parts.
People accuse the Fugitive Agrarians of being sentimentalizers, but that's exactly what we're against. Just because I love GWTW does not make me "bad." I believe in enlightenment and progress, and I believe that the distinctive culture of the Southern past warrants praise and defense.
Use the review to capture two audiences: cinephiles and Southerners—the latter of which must resist encroaching industrialism and the modernization of society, culture, and the economy. We don't care about keeping up with the Joneses; we'd prefer to keep back with the O'Haras and the Wilkeses.
My favorite character: Rhett Butler, for sure. He embodies everything we agrarians love about the Southern gentleman. Sure, he's a bit of a scoundrel, but those suits! That fabric! That gallantry! That crooked smile!
I love it when Scarlett realizes that Rhett is the real Southern gentleman—not that wuss Ashley Wilkes.
Think long and hard about how to deflect the critical tendency to focus on slavery and not all the good things about the antebellum South. Here's one solid Agrarian smoke-and-mirrors trick: that the South may have enslaved, but now it's a slave to the North, which is exploiting it for cotton and other natural resources.
Dwell at length on the callouses on Scarlett's perfect hands. She worked hard—and it would only get worse. Those poor Southerners and the losses they suffered.