For: strong pervasive immorality and moral confusion, adultery, fornication and lust, white supremacy, and physical and sexual abuse
Gone with the Wind is the mildest fate desirable for this yes, classic, yes, long, yes, cleverly cast package deal in abomination. The saga of scheming wickedness and dark sensuality presents a world in which not a single person can tell right from wrong, and requires almost the same of its audience. Its epicness is warped, its value to society in the negatives, and its redeeming elements can be counted on the fingers of no hands, leaving it locked in mortal combat with biblical morality, and fully intending to be the survivor.
Strong Pervasive Immorality and Moral Confusion
Main character Scarlett is consistently evil from the beginning of the movie to the end, and is openly portrayed as such, but Gone with the Wind presents her very evilness as attractive, useful and even admirable. Rhett, her adversary, lover and sometime husband, is equally immoral, and even more favorably portrayed.
Gone with the Wind holds up “gallantry”, “chivalry” and a vaguely defined idea of “honor” as the highest and in fact only standard. The concept of an actual distinction between righteousness and sin is completely absent from all of the characters, without exception.
Scarlett kills a man, and calls her action “murder” with grim satisfaction.
Scarlett swears, taking the Lord’s name in vain in an extreme form, “If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Rhett explains on multiple occasions that he loves and “admires” Scarlett because she is “bad… selfish and shrewd.” He points out the guilty Scarlett’s false repentance, says confidently that she would be just as immoral if she had it to do over, and then asks her to marry him. Other characters who are aware of Scarlett’s wickedness love and admire her, citing her “passion for life” as her most important trait.
Scarlett viciously berates a brash neighbor woman who bore an illegitimate child, almost immediately after trying desperately to persuade an old friend, Ashley, to commit adultery with her, and specifically advertizing her ability to bear him illegitimate children as an incentive.
Scarlett lies to, seduces and marries her sister’s fiance. Ashley’s portrayed-as-saintly wife Melanie defends the action, telling the sister she must understand that Scarlett only married him so that she wouldn’t have to give up her material possessions. Ashley says that he is responsible for Scarlett’s decision, because, for her sake, he ought to have stolen the money from other people.
Scarlett claims that she is afraid of going to hell, and Rhett tells her it’s questionable that there even is a hell. Scarlett says she knows there is, because she was raised to believe so, and Rhett relents, saying he doesn’t question the teachings of childhood. He then asks what she has done that she should be afraid of hell, with full awareness of, but apparently placing no ethical or eternal weight on, her constant, deliberate immorality to date.
An unrepentant whore and brothel madam who provides and/or commits adultery with Rhett is continually defended by the other characters. Melanie states that she would be “proud” to be seen with and be under obligation to her after she lies to cover Ashley’s violent crimes. The woman’s concern that she would damage Melanie’s reputation is clearly presented as outweighing her obvious intent to continue on in heinous sin. When Scarlett says she doesn’t want their daughter to associate with the woman, Rhett says, “If you were a man, I’d break your neck for that.”
Rhett pleads with a woman, in veiled terms, for her to have a therapeutic abortion. The death of another infant is described as a positive event.
Gone with the Wind either ignores or perverts biblically-defined love. After years of constant bitterness, adultery and abuse, Rhett and Scarlett claim that they have “loved” each other for most or all of that time, even though they displayed all the things that love is not, and none of the things that love is. Scarlett claims she loved Rhett all along without realizing it, but, biblically, love necessarily manifests itself in increasingly improved behavior, while her treatment of Rhett grew worse. Rhett claims that Scarlett never gave him a chance to show his love, but, biblically, love is equally defined by a lack of the negative behaviors he displayed constantly. Love is patient and kind, does not envy, boast, insist on its own way or rejoice at wrongdoing; is not arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful; rejoices with the truth; and bears, believes, hopes and endures all things.1 The movie ends with the dissolution of Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage.
Ashley and one of Scarlett’s previous husbands lead an illegal raiding party against Yankee civilians, with violence and/or murder as their implied intent. While the organization is not named, the activities and rationale are identical to those of the Ku Klux Klan2 and are all positively portrayed.
Adultery, Fornication and Lust
After their marriage, Rhett and Scarlett agree to cease physical relations with each other indefinitely, on the understanding that Rhett may go to a brothel on a regular basis. This adultery and corresponding indifference go on for years, not negatively portrayed.
Scarlett regularly seduces to one degree or another men who are in love with, engaged to, or even married to other women. She passionately kisses Ashely on multiple occasions while he is married to another woman.
On one occasion, Scarlett attempts to sell her body, but is told she’s not worth the wage she wants.
Before their marriage, Rhett repeatedly tries to persuade Scarlett to run away with him, clarifying that he has no intention of marrying her.
It is said that a positively-portrayed character “can’t be mentally faithful to his wife.”
Gone with the Wind displays a pervasive, unbiblical caste system, in which white slave owners and submissive, ignorant black slaves are presented as the best and most natural in society, and non-racist whites are only surpassed as an inherently polluting influence by free blacks who didn’t remain subservient to their former owners. Southern civilization is portrayed as being destroyed by the very presence of non-southerners and non-segregated negroes.
Hard-working Scarlett and normally uncomplaining Melanie are both emotionally devastated by the idea of any of their friends or family “picking cotton and plowing just to keep food in our mouths.” Black people, however, are portrayed as enjoying doing the same or greater tasks for the same or lesser return. Those negroes who elect not to, after the war, are portrayed as ungrateful, out of place, and even harmful to society.
The introductory title card laments the disappearance of such romantic elements of southern civilization as “Gallantry”, “Cavaliers” and “Knights and their Ladies Fair” and prominently features racial slavery and mastery right in the middle of them.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Rhett is violent with and abusive of Scarlett, to the point of making death threats, and his violence increases her affection for him.
Rhett views Scarlett as primarily a sexual object, telling her she was “meant for” a life in which she is overwhelmed by a man’s force and sensuality to the point of fainting. He tells her that what’s wrong with her is that she badly needs to be kissed, often and by someone who knows how. Marital rape takes place offscreen, which Scarlett takes pleasure in remembering.
1 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
2 In the original novel, the organization is referred to explicitly as the Ku Klux Klan. The name was removed from the film script, but the motives and actions remained the same.