The Shady, Hidden Plotline in 'Forrest Gump'
Forrest Gump is about a guy sitting on a bench for two hours, telling his entire life story to people who just want to wait for the damn bus in peace. It's a convenient framing device for the film, but have you ever wondered why Forrest was telling all this stuff to random strangers? The film hardly portrays him as the type to initiate and then maintain prolonged conversation. He's more the "sit and stare into the distance" type of guy. Well, as you rewatch the movie for the 20th or 30th time on basic cable, you might start noticing some clues pointing toward Forrest's true motivation. Are we suffering from some type of Tom-Hanks-fueled delusion, or have we stumbled upon forbidden knowledge? You decide ...
Forrest Was Under Some Type Of Investigation
When Forrest finally gets off that bench and visits Jenny, she shows him her lovingly assembled stalker scrapbook about him. It's mostly news clippings about the time he ran across the country and grew a sweet beard, but then there's this headline:
"Investigation Of Gump To Continue In Hometown." Hmmm. The article's text reads: "Friends of Forrest Gump have been characteristically evasive in their conjecture regarding his actions. 'He never knew what he was doing' said [some guy]. Most people who grew up with him have strong opinions of him. Twelve out of twenty people would say only 'He's an idiot,' as if that should explain everything."
Huh, that's a weirdly accusatory tone for an article about a guy who got famous for running a lot. But what else could this "investigation" be about? Despite secretly influencing some of the most important events in the 20th century, Forrest is still relatively anonymous. The people on that bench have no clue who he is. Why is that?
Well, aside from his cross-country run and being great at ping pong, the most noteworthy thing Forrest has done is stumble ass-backwards into a fortune by founding the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Forrest is a millionaire by now ... Or is he?
Why Is A Millionaire Wearing Such Ratty Shoes?
Let's go back to Forrest sitting on that bench. Notice anything weird about his feet?
Forrest is still wearing the old beaten-up shoes he took on his cross-country run, or what's left of them. It's not like he went straight from that highway to visit Jenny. He went back to Alabama, got a haircut, changed his clothes, got her a present, etc. Why is a rich man walking around with some extremely uncomfortable chunks of rubber on his feet? Like most questions in this article, this one could be answered with a simple "Because he's dumb," but let's think about this. What if Forrest isn't rich anymore?
"Hogwash!" you might say, even though this is hardly occasion for profanity. Do calm down. See, Forrest didn't only get his money from selling shrimp. He also invested in Apple back in 1975, when no one knew what that was. But there's one problem with that ...
Forrest Couldn't Have Gotten His Money From Apple
Not even Apple's founders knew what it was in 1975, because it didn't exist yet. The company was founded in 1976, and didn't go public until December 1980. And yet when Lieutenant Dan (Forrest's Vietnam officer and partner at Bubba Gump) shows him the shareholder letter from Apple and tells him they "don't have to worry about money no more," it clearly says September 1975.
It's clear that Forrest is at best a sleeping partner in the business, with his partner handling the day-to-day operations. Forrest himself says he never went back to work for Lieutenant Dan. Could Dan, a former alcoholic who was wasting away without a sense of purpose, have used the company's initial earnings to finance some less-than-legal endeavors? This guy lived in a seedy New York hotel for years. He's gotta be on first-name basis with a decent number of dealers and pimps.
Whatever Lieutenant Dan did with that money, it must have paid off big time. What if he faked that shareholder letter to justify their massive earnings? That seems like overkill, given who he was trying to fool (he could have scribbled something on a napkin with some crayons), but Dan didn't know who else might see that letter at some point. Of course, such a flimsy ruse couldn't work forever ...
Forrest Is Trying To Get His Story Out There, In His Own Special Way
So what does this have to do with Forrest yapping on that bench? Like we said, it's unlikely that Forrest was personally involved in any financial misdealing, but that's still his name on the company logo. Oh, and he kept a chunk of the money, so there's that. Hence:
Now, we're not suggesting that Dan has intentionally screwed Forrest over. We see they are on fairly amicable terms when he shows up at Forrest's wedding, where they're meeting for the first time in a long time (Forrest didn't know he had a fiancee, or titanium legs). We're saying that if Dan has screwed up the running of the company, Forrest too is going to be implicated as founder/partner/beneficiary. Fans of the original novel will recognize "Forrest ends up in legal trouble for something he doesn't fully understand" as a recurring motif there.
What Forrest is trying to do, then, is get his side of the story out there to people, because he's in trouble and under investigation. Obviously, someone of his intellectual disposition can't be expected to have a nuanced discussion or appear on television interviews to clear his name. So he simply sits there and starts laying it all out to anyone who's within earshot. This would turn this entire heartfelt movie into a guy clumsily trying to establish his alibi. But there's another important implication here ...
This Puts Jenny In A Whole New Light
One of the big talking points about this film is how Jenny returns to Forrest only after he's rich and she has a son to take care of. It's been long slated as a classic gold-digger move. But that might not be the case.
Think about it. Jenny's scrapbook has that clipping about Forrest being under investigation, so she knows about it. If Forrest did lose his money, maybe he's the one mooching off of her. She returned to him not just because she's sick and has little time left, but because she wants to be by his side as he's accused of things he doesn't understand. She wasn't always there for him as she once promised, but hey, at least she is at the end.
One last thing. That article about the investigation of Forrest "continuing" came out when he was right in the middle of his cross-country run, so the investigation must have started at some point before that. And remember when Forrest met Jenny right before he went to Vietnam, and she specifically made him promise to "just run away" if there's trouble? We all know what Forrest does when someone tells him to run. He says "OK" and he runs. Even if it's from the law and he can't run anywhere in particular.
Eamon Lahiri loves a good film theory! Check out this one he wrote about Fight Club, and this other one about Fight Club, and this other other one about The Happening (no, it's that weird Shyamalan movie about trees). He's a regular Cracked contributor and he's probably napping right now. If you liked what you read, say hi on Twitter. If you want him to write for you, mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for queries.
For more, check out 5 Racist And Sexist Messages Hidden In Forrest Gump - After Hours:
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