This weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Life had a cold opening featuring Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions in a Forrest Gump-style skit. Sessions was acting like Gump, eating chocolates, telling anecdotes about his life to strangers, and sitting on a bench by a bus stop. It was trolling. Period. It brought up the absurd outrage hurled at Kellyanne Conway for putting her shoes on the couch of the Oval Office and the allegations about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign for which there is still zero evidence. Yet, the context of the skit reminded me of something.
In 2012, I was fortunate to attend Americans For Prosperity Foundation’s Right Online conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was at the Venetian, Sheldon Adelson’s base of operations, and I remember commentator Bill Whittle describing Forrest Gump within the cultural divide between liberal and conservative America. He said in some ways, Gump is a swipe at conservatives. He’s pretty much mentally challenged, with an IQ of 75, he’s from the Deep South, he’s not all that well-educated, and is portrayed as a simpleton. Remember the scene where he outruns his high school bullies in a pick-up truck and turns onto a football practice being watched by legendary University of Alabama coach Bear Bryant?
“Who in the hell is that?” asked Bryant.
“That there is Forrest Gump, coach. Just a local idiot,” replied another coach.
Whittle said that’s how liberals see us: stupid—and evil, repugnant, and Southern. The latter part I’ve always found interesting since wasn’t it whites in Boston who were caught using American flags to try and beat blacks during the forced busing incidents in the early 1970s? I digress though. Yet, what does Gump do with his life?
He’s an all-American football player thanks to Bryant; he’s an American hero, earning the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War; he starts a profitable shrimping business with Lt. Dan; he gives a portion of the company’s money to his war buddy, Bubba, who first mentioned the idea of the shrimping business; he donates a ton of that money to churches and hospitals; and he is a great dad. My god—what an evil, racist man, right? The thing about liberalism is that things that they feel are problematic are often viewed positively with the rest of America. Outside the insufferable bubbles of urban America, people respect military service, they honor heroes, and they like playing football, seeing it as a way for their children to earn a higher education that is now priced at a home mortgage rate. Gump always picks the right path in life. He embodies self-sacrifice. He’s a business owner and job creator. And his hard work pays off in the end. Compare that to Jenny, who is the poster child for free love and left wing culture. She does copious amounts of drugs, has numerous sexual partners, and later dies of AIDS.
Whittle was pointing out that even with liberal America mocking and denigrating citizens who aren’t like them, ironically it is these people who inadvertently represent what is good, moral, and indelibly American. He prefaced this lecture—I forgot the name of the panel—with how Norman Lear tried to make Archie Bunker a hated character in America with All in the Family; he became one of the most iconic and beloved television characters in history. This disconnect between rural and urban America is now new and this skit was something a long time coming. Sessions is like Forrest Gump. He’s southern, he’s conservative, he’s stupid (in the eyes of liberals), and embodies evil values, or something. Frankly, it’s more of the former. Gump is the embodiment of the slow man, someone who is borderline mentally challenged—and that’s what liberals think is the default intellectual setting of conservatism. The sad part is that it overlooks what a wonderful cinematic character Forrest Gump is—and a person who probably is more grounded, successful, and loving than any urban-based progressive, who preaches tolerance though easily turns to hate.
I know the Left thinking we're morons is nothing new, but it's still something to fight against--and using Forrest Gump as a vehicle is wrong in so many ways.