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Written by Timothy Sexton
The adult Forrest in voice-over narration recalls that Jenny’s father was “lovin’ man, always kissing and hugging her and her sisters” when the visual imagery on the screen showing young Forrest arriving at Jenny’s home clearly suggests he was a degenerate incestuous sexually abusive pedophile.
The film’s being set in the past provided many opportunities for irony for audiences when it was first released in the early 1990’s. In some instances, the time since its release has allowed the level of irony to wax and wane. Forrest learns that his financial manager has invested in a company called Apple. The first level of irony is his observation made from ignorance that it is probably “some kind of fruit company.” At the time, audiences members would have been extremely familiar with Apple and assume that by then Forrest had made a decent profit. A few years later, however, the irony would have been somewhat different as it appeared that Apple was on the road to ruin and permanent bankruptcy. By the second decade of the 21st century, however, the irony would have swung back but become even greater as Apple rebounded and went on to become one of the most successful companies in history, thus ensuring Forrest a more than comfortable old age.
Forrest’s Lack of Irony Detection
One of the film’s funniest examples of irony is due to Forrest having pretty much no ability to detect abstract meaning in language such as irony or metaphor. After not having seen each other for some time, Lt. Dan surprisingly reappears in Forrest’s life by announcing his plans to help with the shrimp fishing business by “trying out his sea legs.” To which Forrest replies to the literally legless wheelchair bound man, “But you ain’t got no legs, Lt. Dan.” The irony is subtle and complex and points toward a generalized misunderstanding of the film. On the surface, the reply by Forrest would seem to confirm the intellectual retardation which is so often attributed to him. Ironically, however, the reply actually conforms the opposite by demonstrating that within the literal-minded perspective of Forrest, this is actually an intellectually appropriate response. Only if Forrest had not already by this point exhibited on countless occasions his inability to grasp metaphorical concepts could his reply be mistaken as proof of cognitive malfunction, but that’s not the case at all.
Who put the Forrest in Gump?
In his narration Forrest tells us the origin of name: “Momma named me after the great Civil War hero, General Nathan Bedford Forrest” and then goes on to describe his understanding of this real life figure as someone who “started up this club called the Ku Klux Klan. They'd all dress up in their robes and their bedsheets and act like a bunch of ghosts or spooks or something.” The irony is dual-edged. In the first place, once again Forrest only sees the literal meaning of the story he has been told and thus misses the ugly reality. Beyond that, it will become ironic that he becomes close friends with a black man and dedicates his life to seeing that man’s dream realized following his premature death. Plus, Forrest Gump is a decent human being while his namesake was anything but.
The Most Watched Event in TV History
The first landing on the moon by human beings in 1969 has ever since been touted as the single most-watched moment in the history of television with some estimates asserting that more than 600 million people around the world were watching it take place live as it was actually taking place on the surface of the satellite. That assertion is ironically undermined in the film with a brief shot of the broadcast airing on a TV no one is looking at because everyone in the room is instead watching Forrest display his remarkable ping-pong playing skills.
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