Worst Movie Ever Made…? Every time Gone With The Wind fills the screen with its dishonest portrait of the Old South as it was before the Civil War, I cringe. 

About the Worst Movie Ever Made

Gone With The Wind is a classic mainly because Vivian Leigh’s work as a conflicted Scarlett is unforgettably heroic. Clark Gable’s as Rhett is classic movie’s iconic display of rugged individualism.

Consider the other side: Movie making with a conscience

And both stars are almost indescribably attractive and showcased at their most beautiful.

Their acclaim is well-earned. But that doesn’t justify the extra baggage, the romanticizing of a culture built on slavery that comes with it.

Popularity alone is key in earning Gone With The Wind the distinction of Worst Movie Ever Made.

Other bad movies filled with bad ideas are forgotten or resurrected to be mocked, but not Gone With The Wind.

Gone With The Wind is embedded in our culture. People watch with the indiscretion they show in drinking sugar water (soft drinks). The dangers are known but ignored.

Gone With The Wind Leads the Pack

This movie depicts southern plantation owners as benign innocents. They are loyal to their homeland, a little ignorant, but determined to sustain the prettified honor of their culture.

That culture was impossible without enslaving millions of African laborers. Almost all descend from free people kidnapped and shipped across the ocean.

Terrible conditions onboard resulted in cruel deaths. An estimated 20% of the human cargo perished in crowded, filthy ship holds before reaching America.

Not once in Gone With The Wind do we see slaves beaten or punished for not obeying their masters. But it was common practice on plantations.

Gross exaggeration of reality finds loyal slaves marching off to defend the Confederacy while Atlanta falls around them.

Never do we see any mixed race children. They were common on plantations where slaves were routinely raped by their “owners.” 

Instead, we see docile servants, each happy to serve the O’Hara family. They are undistinguishable from household servants in other films, part of the family. They’re not bright, but they’re happy to serve.

The Civil War as Modern Day Romantics Prefer

It’s hard to say it’s worse than how slavery is misrepresented, but the depictions of war are at least as offensive.

As the South falls, tens of thousands injured and dead, Sherman’s march on Atlanta is shown like a fall into a hell of the North’s creation. Victimized Southerners descend into crime only as their city burns around them.

Scarlett escapes, a loyal, ignorant slave at her side, with Rhett’s gallant assistance.

The South started the Civil War by attacking Fort Sumter, and their heroic General Robert E. Lee sustained the Confederacy by grinding out one of the most efficient killing machines in the history of the world.

We don’t hear that he invaded the North, hoping to make Washington, D.C. and the rest of the country, safe for slavery.

The Confederacy: Domestic Terror Lionized

Three-quarters of a million people died because the South was desperate to keep slavery. Plantation culture survived only on the backs of millions of lives in chains.

Finally, scenes of suffering of soldiers, maimed and dying to the streets ignore the dubious cause. Southerners die for a cause. That cause is slavery.

Outside Atlanta, in Andersonville, Union prisoners are held in deplorable conditions, dying in filth, diseased and hungry.

Andersonville, where the noble Southerners inflicted the grossest inhumanity on other Americans, goes unnoticed in Gone With The Wind.

Reality spoils the fantasy of horrors the South committed to save slavery.

The American Civil War was the worst disaster in our history. More people died than in all our other wars combined.

The Confederacy claimed for States Rights. Their economy depended on massive slavery, and they feared it being banned.

Conclusion

Gone With The Wind sustains the myth of Southern honor, as if there really was more at stake than preserving a culture dependent on kidnapping, rape and enslavement.

And it romanticizes conditions to the extent that it’s impossible to see any evil in the pre-war Southern plantation lifestyle. Why would Northerners want to destroy the charms and grace of the South?

I hate this movie, its endless propaganda.

It became an admired classic. That exposes of our national preference for romanticized ignorance over reality. Tolerance of white supremacy is part of the package.

It’s almost as if slavery didn’t exist, certainly none of its evils, except as a detached concept.

Disclaimer: I once wrote that Amadeus was the worst movie ever made, but I was wrong. I didn’t realize that it was really Gone With The Wind until I made the mistake of trying to watch this lump of soupy propaganda recently. I apologize to the makers of Amadeus for knocking it off the pedestal.

Gone with the Wind is the worst movie ever made, an exploitation film designed to clean up the horror of slavery and replace it with a genteel fantasy of sophisticated plantation owners victimized by the North.

What do you think?

Note: An somewhat different version of this article was published in my newspaper, The Roosevelt Island Daily.

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6 Comments

  1. I feel your pain about this movie. Not sure I would call it the “worst movie,” as it does have a great script, acting, costumes, and atmosphere. But I understand why your attribution is partially based on this film’s immense popularity. A similar case is the John Wayne vehicle The Searchers, with its depiction of Native Americans.

    My problem these days is the over-the-top attempts at political correctness (censorship, changing names, ostracism, etc.), which I wrote about in a recent post. We just can’t be going around wiping out things that upset us, no matter how “uncomfortable” those things might be. They can be, as we now say, “teachable moments.” They are part of an often inglorious history, but we should not be trying to whitewash that history, no matter how upsetting it might be. Your thoughts?

    1. First, admittedly, the title was intended to attract readers. For the criteria cited, it’s the worst, aggravated by its popularity and what that tells up about our culture.

      To your most interesting point, political correctness drives me nuts, changing history and/or holding the past for judgment against a contemporary mirror doesn’t teach anything by how self-righteousness in the now operates, assuming we’re always better than what came before us. Happily, I never got hooked on John Wayne and never saw The Searchers, but I assume it does what Gone With The Wind Does, misrepresents the truth to earn favor among those who’d rather not know.

      While political correctness goes overboard too often lately, this is something different, a sort of reverse correctness where we lie to ourselves about the past and, thereby, make it impossible to act on its legacies. Correcting a story that’s been told dishonestly to generations to cover up massive wrong doing isn’t political, it’s moral. That’s the learning experience we need. Our culture’s history of racial violence and white supremacy should be told truthfully, not hidden and, therefore, approved.

      1. Agreed. Your blog post isn’t PC, as we now define it, it merely draws attention to a rose-colored view of a violent history (even if the movie and book is fiction). We should be doing this. My objection is to when we take things a step further. For example, if a TV network were to black out certain scenes in the movie. Or a town remove Clark Gable’s name from a street sign. Or, at the very worst, remove this film from circulation. That kind of revisionism is, sadly, happening right now, and it’s extremely dangerous.

  2. Too true. Throwing a cover over Kate Smith’s statue in Philadelphia was over the top as is condemning people in their fifties for what they were only accused of doing in college is not just wrong but it’s often a cringe-worthy resurrection of Puritanism. But it’s also a rebound exaggerated by refusing to acknowledge the truth for too long. When the bubble bursts, the energy is far greater than it would have been if not suppressed for so long.



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