Well, this entry is designed to serve a few purposes all at once, because I’m an all-at-once kinda guy, except when I’m not.
The first purpose is to establish that I am, in fact, alive and have not fallen off the edge of the world. I haven’t blogged in forever, mainly because things in my personal life have been chaotic and in flux, and it’s not very entertaining reading about somebody in that kind of mindset. Let’s just say it’s been a very rough year, with deaths, personal and professional turmoil, and at least two persons of my acquaintance suffering from very serious illness.
Now on to other matters. Selah has posted an appreciation – a tract, if you will – on the inspiration she derived from Margaret Mitchell’s characterization of Scarlett O’Hara. For Selah – and she puts it far more eloquently than I – Scarlett was a symbol of feminine strength in a world dominated by men.
Now, I won’t argue that the figure of Scarlett succeeds in the minds of many for exactly those reasons. God knows there has to be SOME reason that the character became, and remains popular, because it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with her inherent charms or her stature as a person, because she’s quite an awful person most of the time. She’s vain, spoiled, manipulative, pushy, greedy, and more than a little cruel, and that’s not even taking into account the portions of her character that were shaped predominantly by the times, so I’m not talking about the racial elements, etc.
But, even worse from my perspective, Scarlett’s strength is established by placing her around and against the most cardboard of stereotypes. Her Deep South seems to be populated almost exclusively by nitwits, from the idiotic and weak men she manipulates into marriage (at least once screwing over her own SISTER in the process – I don’t get how that’s a feminist icon in action, but okay…) to the foolish and insipid Ladies Who Tea in the big cities and finally to the original androgyny she pines for, the Man with the Girl’s Name, Ashley Wilkes.
Scarlett appears, to this admittedly hard-headed male at least, to embrace the very worst of traits from both men and women, and her perseverance and frequent successes cloak her actions along the way. For Scarlett, the ends – that she’ll never go hungry again, that the taxes on Tara are paid, that she never has to cut up curtains to make a dress again – justify the means, any means. For me, I think this is the very worst thing for a feminine icon to be. Scarlett’s actions make the argument that the only way to succeed is to outdo men (and anyone else around) at grasping and scrabbling for more. She violates all the unspoken taboos of the society around her, and is roundly praised by readers for her independence; but aren’t at least some of the taboos there for a purpose?
I will now brace for the inevitable assault…