Study Guide

Forrest Gump Warfare

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BUBBA: After we win this war and we take over everything, we can get American shrimpers out here and shrimp these waters.

Bubba may not be too smart, either, but he's smart enough to know that there's something selfish about the war in Vietnam—and he's totally on board with it. To him, the war is nothing more than a way to get access to the sweet, sweet South Asian shrimping waters.

FORREST: Somebody in [Lt. Dan's] family had fought and died in every single American war.

We're not sure, but we think there might be something a little tongue-in-cheek about this. Taking pride in your family's military service is one thing; taking pride in the fact that they've all managed to get themselves killed seems a little more extreme. Could Forrest Gump be questioning America's military history? We wouldn't put it past the movie.

FORREST: I don't know much about anything, but I think some of America's best young men served in this war.

Talk about avoiding controversy. There's literally no way to disagree with this statement without looking like a meanie since you can hate on a war all you want, but it's just cruel to hate on the kids who have to fight in it. Maybe you love Forrest right here for his innocent way of praising the dead. Or, maybe—like some critics of the movie—you just see this as more evidence that Forrest Gump never takes a stand on any hard issues.

TV ANNOUNCER: The ceremony was kicked off with a candid speech by the president regarding the need for further escalation of the war in Vietnam.

Even as millions of Americans protested against the Vietnam War, several presidents (including Lyndon B. Johnson) doubled down on pouring more American troops into Vietnam to make sure that the communist Viet Cong didn't take over the place. Sure, it seems foolish in hindsight—but history happens in the present, and we tell our stories about it later. What kind of story is Forrest Gump telling?

LYNDON B. JOHNSON: America owes you a debt of gratitude, son. I understand you were wounded.

The second president Forrest meets is Lyndon B. Johnson, and he celebrates the occasion by pulling down his pants when the guy makes a joke about seeing Forrest's war wound. Talk about failing to appreciate the gravity of the situation. To Forrest, his war service is just as meaningful—or meaningless—as his football career.

RALLY LEADER: Tell us about the war, man.

Back in Washington, D.C., after finishing his military service, Forrest gets caught up in an antiwar rally that goes way, way over his head. Everyone around him is just about willing to kill for their beliefs, but Forrest is just as happy to speak at a political rally as he is to fight in the jungles of Vietnam; it's literally all the same to him.

FORREST: There's only one thing I could say about the war in Vietnam.

All right! We're finally going to hear Forrest take a stand and say something controversial, and … oh wait. Just as he approaches the mic, some Army dude pulls out all of the electric cables and cuts the sound feed. Looks like this is just one more way that the movie avoids having Forrest say anything that might turn some audience members against him.

BLACK PANTHER LEADER: Don't you know we in a war here?

Jenny takes Forrest to hang out with some of her friends who are in radical political groups like the Black Panthers, and it goes about as well as you'd expect. In comparison to Forrest, the radicals look like big dummies—which is really saying something.

BLACK PANTHER LEADER: We are here to offer protection and help for all those who need our help because we, the Black Panthers, are against the war in Vietnam.

The Black Panther leader who speaks to Forrest lays out the principles of his group as if he's reciting something from a piece of paper. But while the Black Panthers are a significant part of American history, Forrest Gump deflates the high political rhetoric by having Forrest respond to everything they do with bemused innocence.

FORREST: I promised Bubba in Vietnam that as soon as the war was over, we'd be partners.

Just like every other major historical event in Forrest Gump, the Vietnam War matters for its private meaning, not its political meaning. To Forrest, the most important thing about the war is that, once it ends, he has to fulfill the promise he made to Bubba. Who cares about global politics when you have a shrimping boat to buy?

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