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  4. Gone with the Wind: A Film Review for Our Times

Set in Georgia, the film (and book) cover the American Civil War (1861-65) and the Reconstruction Era (1865-77) through the eyes of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, following her as she grows and changes throughout the years.

The movie opens with the words, “There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the Old South…here in this pretty world, gallantry took its last bow...” emblazoned across the screen in an elegant yet antiquated script.  It sets the scene of the era, but it is nothing more than a nod to the glamourization and romanticization of what the ‘old south’ stood for.

And this is problematic in ways that are still pertinent to today’s cinema and television in that it reduces African Americans to roles of servitude and perpetuates stereotypes that have been ingrained in the culture throughout American history.

Let’s consider the following: the African American characters in the film, who are slaves, are unflatteringly depicted as loyal, docile, and attached to their white overseers. For example, Oscar Polk plays an unquestioning and faithful valet;  Butterfly McQueen plays Prissy, represented as hysterical and dishonest. Though Hattie McDaniel was the first African American female to win an Oscar for her portrayal in the film--a historic moment for Black Americans, she could only receive this acknowledgment for a role that promoted her servitude and obedience. At this level, the movie is disturbing because it whitewashes the massive, crushing, and obscene reality of slavery, portraying the white overseers as “kind” and “decent” to those to whom they denied freedom and fundamental human rights.

This historical revisionism damages the film. At the same time, however, it is also interesting to compare and contrast this period with others in history where people profited off atrocities and injustices of the marginalized and oppressed.

That said, it is still hard to understand the film’s actual position. Because while it does give a voice to those opinions that existed (then and now) which defend the ways of a decadent ‘old south,’ it also dramatically changes tone in the second half, bringing about a sort of punishment to those characters that had for so long lived off of the death and torture of others. Each of the characters (overseers) falls victim to misery, madness, injury, and death that crosses generations. This could be interpreted as attempting to create a narrative of balance in an almost Biblical/Old Testament-y way.

Despite the massive problems stated above, the film displays certain elements which are hard to step away from and ignore (however, I am not separating the good from the bad, this film will hopefully continue to age worse and worse).

What stands out to me, and what I feel I need to acknowledge, is the character of Scarlett, keeping in mind that this should not be her story. And the fact that it is, unfortunately, speaks clearly to our society’s tendency to whitewash historical periods and events.

We follow Scarlett over the course of fifteen plus years, and in terms of femininity represented on screen, what we get to see is drastically different from most films produced at the time, and perhaps, still unrivaled to this day. Her character is extraordinarily crafted to fit all and zero archetypes at the same time. She is never trapped and never confined, heroine and anti-heroine at once. I switched between hating and loving her every ten minutes, in a good way. Scarlett captures the audience from the very first minute the camera’s gaze lands on her. She’s rosy-cheeked and flanked by two doting admirers. She continues to string us along throughout until the very last minute when we watch her dark silhouette standing starkly against the sunset as she grows more and more distant and the iconic orchestral theme sweeps across the landscape.

I think a significant part of Scarlett’s place in cinematic history is due to the excellent casting of Vivien Leigh, whose fascinating and heartbreaking life reveals a kindred spirit to that of Scarlett in more ways than one (even Scarlett’s description in the original book seems a word for word description of Leigh). Leigh immerses herself into the character and gradually exposes every facet of her complex identity and femininity, transforming and evolving before the audience’s eyes. Scarlett's character, as described in an article, was that of  “daughter, sister, flirt, wife, midwife, mother, widow, nurse, killer, farmer, scavenger, business owner, socialite and — most importantly— survivor.” That gives you an idea of how much Leigh was able to say and show through her character, and how much she shined in comparison to the often flat and demeaning female characters in movies of the time. As I said before, the problem is that (historically) this is not Scarlett’s story; it should be instead that of Mammy, Pork, and Prissy.

As for Rhett Butler, I never really liked him (but then again I hardly liked any male characters in the film). But his character’s influence on cinema and storytelling is abundantly clear, paving the way for many more “wisecracking but reluctant American outlaw hero[es]” to come (Star Wars, Casablanca, Die Hard, etc.).

The production, artistic direction, and costumes are and will forever be gorgeous and overwhelming in a way that echoes the decadence of the story. I can’t help but be in awe of this film’s technical masterpiece and how things like costumes/prop/set design, score, etc., make this film a meaningful piece of visual and auditory art. There are at least ten shots I can think of that are absolutely unforgettable and monumental. Each costume is a masterpiece, accompanying every character throughout their arcs and acting as valuable markers of the passage of time: Scarlett’s early gowns are exquisite and explosive with childish frills, sporting the full hoop skirts and V-necklines of the 1860s, while the second half of the movie sees tighter, more vertical styles in richer and gaudier fabrics that reflect Scarlett and Rhett’s materialistic and baroque relationship.

After having seen the film several times and read sources about it over the years, I am finally able to gather my very scattered and contradictory thoughts about it: no, the (absurdly worded)“pretty world [...] of knights and their ladies fair” is not “gone with the wind”; It is not “no more than a dream remembered”... the cruelty and horrific remnants of that world are still with us today, spectres of humanity’s penchant for destruction and war, still affecting millions and millions of people and reincarnating into different versions of itself as history continues to repeat itself.

That being said, the movie does need to be seen, just as it needs to be criticized. It should definitely be discussed in more depth as a part of film history and American history in general but never excused, as I read once “Gone With the Wind tells us more about 1939 — and the years after — than about the 1860s.”

Chapter 1: The World Around Us | A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Revenge of the Fringe

Is internet culture driving America to extremes?

In December of 2020, historians in The Washington Post weighed in on whether 2020 was the worst year ever. Materially, the answer is clear: even in a year of tumult, we live in an era of superabundance. Since the turn of the last century, Americans have added decades to our lifespans, easy-to-source food to our tables, and secured health outcomes that, even in a bad year, remain better than anything our ancestors enjoyed.

By Jen Hollis - Former Teacher of IB History, St. Stephen’s School
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Understanding the Origins of BLM and the World’s Outrage Over George Floyd’s Death

"I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter... Our lives matter."

- Patrisse Cullors, Founding Member, BLM

By Tatiana Lima '15
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: George Floyd’s Killing and the Black Lives Matter Protests Against Police Brutality

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested and killed by Minneapolis Police after being accused of stealing from a store. Outrage followed when footage of the arrest revealed one of the officers--Derek Chauvin--placing his knee on Floyd’s neck during the arrest for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and ignoring Floyd’s desperate pleas of “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…” 

By Sofia Ghilas '21
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Justice

Opinion: The Rise of Anti-Asian Sentiment

After the recent fatal shooting of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, Georgia, last month, there is increasing alarm about the proliferation of anti-Asian racist memes, posts, and other online activities that may have set the stage for real-life violence.

By Lixuan Du ‘23
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Bloom Where You Are Planted: How and Why We Persisted During Covid

“They won’t let you board the plane?” I responded on my mobile phone, rubbing sleepy sand out of my eyes. It was 6 AM on a Sunday in February 2020, and half of our school was at the airport – or soon to be -- for Spring Trips, heading out to destinations like Oman and Morocco (the other trips had gotten out the day before).  So began my intimate relationship with the virus. Though we had been tracking the virus for weeks prior, that moment is the moment it all really began for me.  (And, yes, those trip participants literally pulled their bags off the airline conveyor belts, redialed the rental van, and returned, despondent, to their homes in Rome.)

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

Reopening After a School Closure and Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Dateline: 25 January, 2020

On January 18th, St. Stephen’s students and teachers returned to the classroom for the first time since late October. At 8 am on Monday, a line of excited students wound its way down Via Aventina, each student waiting their turn for morning temperature checks. All around them, teachers weaved in and out of the line, stopping to greet groups of students and remark on how surreal it felt to be back.

By Vittoria Giusti ‘22, Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

At War With an Invisible Enemy

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging issues the world has collectively faced in recent history. We are essentially waging war against a silent enemy--one who has no national borders, knows no social bounds, political systems, nor cultural norms or values. This silent enemy of ours has inflicted harm on whoever crosses its path, upending life as we have come to know it, surreptitiously taking lives, decimating industries, and destabilizing the world economy.

By Xara Al Said ‘23
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | The Pandemic

The Disproportional Impact of Covid on Black Americans

 Last year, as we watched the United States attempt to tackle the Covid-19 virus with mixed messages from the former President, spotty stay-at-home orders, at will mask-wearing, and widespread Covid testing, we observed a great divide between those catching the virus and recovering and those catching the virus and dying.

By Tanesha Alexander - Assistant Librarian, EAP Teacher, and DEI representative
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

Teens and Bullying

Bullying occurs a lot more than one would expect. Injuries, abuses, humiliations, threats, teachers offended while the class videotapes them, kids kicked, teenagers arrested for serious acts against peers.

By Emma Jansen ‘24
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Student Perspectives on Social Media and Bullying

A Social Media Guide for Teens

The use of social media has become an inevitability of modern-day life. Whether you’re following your school’s Facebook account, chatting with your family on Whatsapp, or sending your friends pictures on Instagram.

By Sofia Ghilas '21
spirit new
Chapter 1: The World Around Us | Service

In the Spirit of Service

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama

By Dr. Helen Pope - Former St. Stephen’s Teacher and Director of the Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film review: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

IMDB Rating: 7.6

‘You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.’ Words from the great activist for black rights, Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party from 1966 to 1969.

By Luca Vanderson '22
what we started
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: What We Started

What We Started on Netflix is a beautiful documentary about the history of electronic music that follows its origins from the early 1970s until today. The film explores the genre through interviews with DJs and music producers.

By Matteo Scarfini ‘24
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: Seaspiracy

The newly released Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, explores the damage the fishing industry is causing the blue planet.

By Gustav Franklin ‘21
gone wind4
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Gone with the Wind: A Film Review for Our Times

I saw this film for the first time three years ago, and it is one of those movies that you cannot only watch; you have to think and read and write about it to understand it and its impact on you.

By Benedetta Bosco ‘22
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching

Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky, starring globally known actors Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, and was released in 2012.

By Anita D’Alisera ‘21
favorite online
Chapter 2: Our Life Online | What Students Are Watching | Digital St. Stephen's

Our Favorite Online Events

This past year has challenged us to move our events online, from Zoom olive oil and wine tastings that transported us to the Tuscan countryside to gallery openings that brought us to the heart of the New York City and Roman art scene; we have made the best of this pandemic, seizing it as an opportunity to experiment with new mediums and new activities.

Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing


As the school's only student-run literary and artistic magazine, INK provides the grounding for your creativity to thrive.

By The INK Team
cw 1
Chapter 3: Creative Writing | Creative Writing

A Selection of Creative Writing

You’ve probably seen that meme: a child in a big armchair, cozily reading a book. All around her head are thought bubbles full of knights and dragons, maps and mountains, ships and seas. And below, the caption: “Reading Takes You Places.”

Chapter 4: Departments | The Lyceum

New Initiatives at the Lyceum Take Off During the Pandemic

"All men by nature desire to know." (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.980a22).

Nevermore than during the last seventeen months did these words from Aristotle ring true for me. We are so fortunate that through the Lyceum, we are able to create special opportunities for our students to learn about the ancient world, whether it’s through weekend trips and lectures or by inviting scholars, writers, and poets who through their workshops, lectures and readings enhance our classes and broaden our students' horizons.

By Inge Weustink - Director of the Lyceum, Classics Teacher
city of rome1
Chapter 4: Departments | Exploring City of Rome II Class

Exploring the New City of Rome 2 Class

Between 1400 and 1700, Rome was reborn as a global city, capital of a growing world ‘empire,’ so to speak, for the first time since antiquity. The city today owes much of its historical appeal, its most eye-catching artworks, and monuments, to this, the Early Modern era (c.1400-1700 CE).

By Dr. Rebecca Raynor - Art History, Dr. Paul Treherne - History
arts hero
Chapter 5: The Arts

The Arts

This year our students have embraced the digital world, moving their drama and art shows online.

Image: Credit in here mentioning that the art work was selected for the cover

Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview, Cortile 2021 Highlights

Nicola Formichetti ‘96

Fashion Designer / Stylist / Creative Director

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
M. Stancati photo
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Margherita Stancati ‘03

The Wall Street Journal reporter

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Galen Druke ‘08

Host and Producer at FiveThirtyEight.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Diva Tommei.Photo credits Ilaria Magliocchetti
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Diva Tommei ‘02

Investment Director Information Technology ICT at ENEA Teach

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Elizabeth Blackwell ‘86


By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Rachel Sadoff
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight Interview

Rachel Sadoff ‘15

MA Candidate in Public Health at Columbia University

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
Healthy Campus team
Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Alumni Spotlight

Alumni serve as our Healthy Campus Team

With Italy’s many COVID restrictions, we’ve needed additional staff to greet and temperature check arriving students, walk the campus for compliance, assist classes if the teacher is working remotely but the students are here, and various other activities to keep us safe.  To our great fortune, four alumni came forward to help us for the year: Michael Alonzi (2013), Tatiana Lima (2015), David Rosales (2016), and Alessandro Cosmo (2017). We asked about the experience, and they had this to say…

By Eric Mayer - Head of School
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Chapter 6. Alumni Spotlight | Digital Alumni

Alumni Events Online

From alumni trivia and virtual reunions to happy hours and afternoon coffee breaks, our digital alumni events have enabled us to bring together alumni and current and former faculty members from around the world.