In (still) trying to come to terms with Season 8 of GoT (Tormund’s there. Let’s focus on Tormund.) I ran across this in my fandom-Google-stumbling:
Apparently “George R.R. Martin frequently mentions Gone With the Wind in interviews”.
My first thought: “Lord help us, it’s that thing again.”
And then: “Huh. Well. I ain’t never read it.”
Make no mistake, I grew up on the movie. I defy you to find a White Southerner, particularly Female, who didn’t see it at least once in the 90s.
My memory of Gone With the Wind did not come from a marketed VHS copy, but from a VHS you could record on, the ancestor of DVR, a…whatever those orange-boxed ones were…Maxell?…TDK?…anyways, it was recorded off of ABC or CBS. Some public, widely available television channel. Prime time, y’all. Seems unthinkable today. And this was the 90s (the latest decade to make a nostalgic commercial comeback).
I distinctly remember that as the years rolled on, the greatest enjoyment of watching our VHS copy was not the actual film, but the commercials featuring rather quickly-dated fashions and technology. Plus the M&Ms commercials. Y’all should’ve seen how much we loved M&Ms and those original Mac computers.
Even if I didn’t have a copy of the film, the stories of my family connections to Gone With the Wind would have been passed down. This makes my family sound far more “connected” than we actually are, but what I mean to say is that no, we weren’t extras lying on stretchers in that famous scene in Atlanta, and no, we weren’t extras at Twelve Oaks flouncing around in those bell skirts. But. One of my grandmothers fell in love with the idea of Scarlett, to the point that she christened the hog on the farm she was raised on “Scarlett.” And then proceeded to paint the word “Tara” over the pen.
There you go.
I defy you to find a White, Southerner, particularly Female family history that doesn’t have some similar story nearly intoning the impact this book, and this film made on a particular generation of the South.
If Ye Olde BuzzFeed were abuzz in 1940 (when Gone With the Wind premiered), then ye “BuzzFeed quiz” question of that WWII White Southerner Female Generation would not determine which Disney Princess you were (I think it was basically just Snow White at that point), but instead, you would discover if you were more of a Melanie or a Scarlett. God forbid you were an India. And what a relief (in their minds) if you were Belle, so then you could sleep with Rhett to your heart’s content. Allegedly.
Anywhos, I can only testify as to what has been passed down to me as a White Southern Female born of many generations of (surprise, surprise) White Southern Females. And yet, unlike past White Southern Females in my family line, I have never read That Book. Seen the movie. Should (?) maybe (?) read the book.
Full disclosure, Pt. 1, I visited Margaret Mitchell’s home in Atlanta once. That’s about all I know of Margaret Mitchell. She had a typewriter.
Full disclosure, Pt. 2, beyond visits to battlefields and poring over National Park Service materials that were published for the recent 150th observations and anniversaries of the 1860-1865 American Civil War (I specify the years, because I still maintain that America’s War for Independence was America’s first civil war), I am by no means, an expert on that American Civil War. I am not reading Gone With the Wind to examine its historical content. (You want historical-accuracy examinations of this novel, honey, I’m sure they’re out there. Godspeed and ask a Park Ranger.)
I’m really reading this book in an effort to get off the porch, and understand why my grandmother felt the need to paint “Tara” over the pigpen. What spell did this book weave? Especially that of Scarlett “That Woman” O’Hara.
That woman has been my shadow whether I blessed-well like it, or not.
As soon as folks figure out where I’m from, and how long my family’s been below the Mason-Dixon, two things historically pop out of people’s mouths:
“Where’s your accent?” (SIGH.)
“So, you’re like Scarlett!” (um…….no.)
For land sakes, Scarlett O’Hara was an unapologetic racist! How is it a compliment to be compared to her?! Why do you feel the need to lead off with that comparison, boo bear? You gonna compare the men in my family to David Duke?
But if you just feel like shimmyin’ on past that fact that she was a racist, Scarlett O’Hara Twenty-Five-Thousand-Married-Names was as mean, unflinching, and unapologetic as Lucy Parke Byrd, the first wife of William Byrd II.
September 6, 1710: “My wife against my will caused little Jenny [a woman enslaved by the Byrds] to be burned with a hot iron…”
January 31, 1711: “My wife quarreled with me about not sending for Mrs. Dunn when it rained [to lend her John]. She [Lucy Parke Byrd] threatened to kill herself but had more discretion…”
February 5, 1711: “My wife and I quarreled about her pulling her brows. She threatened she would not go to Williamsburg [Virginia’s colonial capital] if she might not pull them…”
February 27, 1711: “In the evening my wife and little Jenny had a great quarrel in which my wife got the worst but at last by the help of the family Jenny was overcome and soundly whipped [for her resistance]…”From the “Diary of William Byrd II of Virginia, 1709-1712”
Scarlett O’Hara was not a Fortune 500 CEO, CFO, or COO. FFS, she was far more like Lucy Parke Byrd; claiming a woman was her property, and beating her with a hot iron, while her husband and family would have the same woman whipped (tortured) without a second thought.
WHY do we “pedestal” this person?
I don’t know. But I need to know since people keep referencing her so much whenever they discover that I am White, Southern, and Female.
Copyright Off The Porch History 2021