Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 10+
Still one of Hollywood's best sweeping epics.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this epic drama, which is widely considered one of the top movies of all time, would never be rated G by today's standards. The film centers around the Civil War-torn South and includes several scenes of war-related violence, such as wounded soldiers dying, and Scarlett O'Hara shooting a Union deserter. The sexuality isn't as overt as in contemporary movies, but it's still pervasive, as Scarlett is clearly a bold, sexually attractive woman who manipulates men with her looks. Additionally, there are several kisses (a few very passionate ones), a scene that implies a husband has forced his wife to go to bed with him, and even the inclusion of a minor character who is a good-hearted "lady of the night." The alcohol and cigar use is also frequent, although mostly because there are so many parties in the movie. Parents should be aware that the depiction of African Americans is problematic and stereotypical -- the slaves seem to actually enjoy their lot and are either superficial and ignorant or fussy and smothering. It may concern some parents that the Confederate South is portrayed as having been a place of gentility and charm.
- Families can talk about how the Civil War is portrayed via the character of Scarlett O'Hara. How does the war affect her way of life? Does living through war change her personality, or does she remain the same throughout?
- Scarlett is married several times for different reasons. Was marriage her only option at the time? What is different about her marriages to Charles, Frank, and then Rhett? Which of her marriages means the most to her and why?
- Melanie is Scarlett's opposite in most ways. How do their personalities, values, and behavior differ? Why does Melanie forgive Scarlett over and over again?
- How are African Americans depicted in the movie? Would the portrayal of Civil War-era slavery be different if this 1939 movie were remade today?
The good stuff
Positive messages: The movie suggests that the genteel, slave-holding, plantation-owning way of life that is "gone with the wind" is worth romanticizing. Yes, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her portrayal, but the African Americans in the movie are all slaves and act stereotypically and as if they actually enjoyed their servitude. Scarlett can be manipulative and at times acts in a way many would find wrong (marrying for convenience, kissing a married man).
Positive role models: Scarlett is fierce, determined, and ambitious, but she's also vain, selfish, manipulative, and unkind. The real role model in the film is Melanie, who is the epitome of selflessness and grace, even after it's clear Scarlett is in love with her husband.
What to watch for
Violence: The movie revolves around the Civil War, and there is a great deal of overt and implied violence, although sans the gratuitous depictions common in contemporary movies. Wounded soliders are screaming, needing amputations, and dying in tent hospitals. Union officers cruelly light fire to Atlanta. Scarlett shoots a bloodied Union deserter and then drags his body away. Scarlett falls down the stairs and loses a pregnancy. A child dies after a horseback-riding accident. Rhett handles Scarlett roughly and makes a comment about wanting to tear her apart. Men try to steal Scarlett's carriage, causing her to almost falls off a bridge.
Sexy stuff: Scarlett uses her sexual attractiveness ALL of the time to get her way, and flirts with many men, even married ones like Ashley. She often dresses in what was considered provacatively at the time (cleavage-bearing dresses with a supertight corset). There are a few kisses, and one scene that implies a husband has forced himself on his wife; it will go over kids' heads, but a drunk Rhett roughly carries Scarlett to her bedroom, and the next morning she is extremely happy and relaxed. Bell is a "lady of the night," in other words, one of the original "hookers with a heart of gold."
Language: Probably the most famous "damn" in all of movie history.
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adults drink often, although usually at parties (wine, champagne, and brandy). Scarlett and her father drink whiskey. Rhett gets drunk on occasion, and in one scene three men pretend they're drunk to avoid confrontation. Rhett and other Southern gentleman smoke cigars throughout the movie.