Gone with the Wind opens with a statement that contradicts what the world knows about its heroine: “Scarlett O’Hara wasn’t beautiful.”
That might be how Margaret Mitchell imagined her as, but Hollywood certainly didn’t share the same vision when they picked Vivien Leigh to play the southern belle. Mitchell’s words didn’t ring true anymore, Scarlett was beautiful.
I have never been one to admire another. It is a rare thing that I put in such a high pedestal another, much less to have one in such high regard. The closest I have come to admiring are Madonna and Lady Gaga. The former for being, well, Madonna, and the latter for saying what a lot of others would not have the guts to do so. Madonna will always have my approval for shocking conventionality
and proclaiming that she loves sex, and Lady Gaga had my respect the moment she acknowledged that she wanted fame and she is willing to pay the price for it. I admire them for their defiance.
I admire Scarlett O’Hara for that same defiance. But I love her for everything she stands: she is vain, she is selfish, she is spoiled, she is self-absorbed, she is brutal, she is strong, she survives, she is beautiful, she is a woman beyond her century, and she is blind. But admire and love her I do. She is my heroine for all time.
In the movie, we first see Scarlett flirting with the Tarleton twins. She learns that Ashley Wilkes, the man she secretly loves (and believes to love her too), will be married to sweet Melanie Hamilton (her polar opposite). On that famous scene where she finally tells him how she feels, the audience sees three crucial things: one, Ashley Wilkes wants Scarlett, but he loves Melanie and doesn’t have the guts to tell Scarlett that; two, Scarlett is a woman in love; three, when Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler finally meet face to face, we see that he isn’t a gentleman and she is no lady. As the movie goes on, Scarlett marries thrice: the first time because Ashley had scorned her, the second time to save herself and her family, and the third because Rhett Butler asked her to. And during all these time she wishes she was married to Ashley instead. During all these time, we see her love for Ashley as it truly is: she was in love with the idea of Ashley, but she wasn’t in love with him.
But despite her measly love-life, Scarlett O’Hara remains as among the strongest female characters in literature and in cinemas. Her sheer will to survive the Civil War was astounding. No longer was she the spoiled, bratty child we first saw. She survived the war and the inevitable aftermath. She transformed in front of our very eyes when she declared, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
I could write about the three other characters of Gone with the Wind. I could write about Rhett Butler and how I wished he’d stayed when Scarlett finally realized it was him she truly love. I could write about Ashley Wilkes and his inability to tell Scarlett he loves Melanie. I could write about Melanie Hamilton and how she’s the most honorable character of them all. I could write a lot of things about the movie, about Rhett and Scarlett, and about Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie. But I won’t, Because right now, I only write about Scarlett.
I love Scarlett O’Hara. Maybe because I see a lot of myself in her – the movie version at least (or at least, I think so). I think there’s a Scarlett in all of us.
Oh, fiddle dee dee.