Monday, January 23, 2006

Culture Shock

Alex was housebound with strep throat this weekend, so I took advantage of his captivity to do something that I'd been threatening the boys with for months.

We watched "Gone With the Wind".

I'd seen it a couple of times in theaters years ago and when Elizabeth was in middle school she and a friend watched it at a sleepover; I think they fell asleep about 30 minutes into the Reconstruction and missed the steamier scenes with Rhett and Scarlett altogether. It seems that most middle school girls spend a couple of weeks somewhere along the way toting around the unabridged version of the book and sighing over Scarlett's adventures. It's probably worth a boatload of Accelerated Reader points and it can't hurt to tie in to a bit of American History class.

But that's girls. My sons were AWARE of the girls toting the book around, but showed no particular interest in reading it themselves. They knew the names of the battles, they knew the names of the generals, but Scarlett and Mr. O'Hara and Belle Watling were mysteries. The gracious plantation of "Tara" was confusing; they have a cousin with that name, but as a location? No. Even the name "Clark Gable" didn't bring any recognition.

So, we settled in for the epic story. It was every bit as splendid as I remembered, and they were quickly caught up in the characters, the places and the occasional lines of text that scroll across the screen. We took it in turns to read the text aloud.

I was amused to find that they knew exactly what a blockade runner was; after all, the Star Wars movies are full of them. They were astonished to hear Mr. O'Hara refer to "House Darkies" and "Field Darkies" and instruct Scarlett in how to properly relate to "inferiors". It is a credit to the society of which they are a part that such discussion shocks them. They were properly offended at the behaviour of the Carpetbaggers and I think appropriately recognized the good that was Melanie Wilkes. They are ahead of me there; when I read the book for the first time, in middle school, I couldn't bear "Melly". Her character appeals more to maturity, I suppose.

Alex and Isaac may never read the book, and that's fine. But someday, perhaps they will have middle school aged daughters, and when I exercise my right as a grandmother to ordain their reading material and send these imagined young ladies an unabridged copy of "Gone With the Wind", they may remember a bit of the magic. Maybe they will take 4 hours and watch the movie again, taking it in turns to read the scrolling text aloud.


Sherilyn said...

Corey has yet to see GWTW. I keep threatening him with it. I've seen it so many times I've lost count. At least ten times in bits and least 5 times all the way through. It was on TV once in a German hotel room....dubbed in German. I watched it for a while until Corey insisted on finding CNN. He couldn't understand why I was watching it in German. Ummmm...cuz I know what they are saying anyway since I've seen it a dozen times?

And yes, it was sureal to look at Vivien Leigh, expecting a sugary sweet Southern drawl to come out of her mouth and get very gutteral German instead. And she never did say fiddle dee dee, exactly...guess they translated that, too. :D

I've seen the TV version so often that I should rent the real thing sometime and watch that...and try to get Corey to finally sit through it.

Elaine said...

I didn't read it until I was out of college -- I was in a show 3 months after graduation and I raced the lead male of the show. We both read it and would come to rehearsals and discuss it when we weren't onstage. It was really neat to read it that way -- kind of a mini book club.

Didn't see the movie until after that. Sad, huh? Saw the movie when I was down with tonsillitis in 1999. I couldn't lift my head off the pillow, so I watched the whole thing sideways. LOL!

Kaye said...

My mom gave her copy of the book this past summer when I was home on vacation. I think she was horrified that I had never read it (I'm 37, by the way). Maybe I'll pull it off the shelf and read it next. It will definitely be a change of pace from the Stephen King book I'm currently reading. :)