What’s the message behind Forrest Gump? The much beloved Tom Hanks movie is full of lessons that we can learn from and apply to our own life, but the most important one, in my opinion, at least, is that of compassion. Despite being rejected by society, Forrest remained compassionate to others and never turned his back on anyone: teaching us about the importance of remaining kind and empathetic towards yourself and others. No matter what.
It’s lessons like this which make Forrest Gump one of the best movies of all time, but one of the biggest debates that has rumbled on since the ’90s movie‘s release is whether the character of Jenny is a protagonist or a movie villain.
In the movie based on a book, Jenny, who is played by Robin Wright, is Forrest’s childhood best friend. They connect on a deep level as kids because they’re ostracized from society for different reasons: Forrest because of his IQ, and Jenny because she lives in poverty and is abused by her father. As she gets older, Jenny suffers more hardships as she dips in and out of Forrest’s life — but the pair eventually sleep together. Shortly before dying of AIDs, Jenny reveals to Forrest that they have a child together.
Despite Jenny’s tendency to run whenever she gets too close to Forrest, his love for her seems to never fade over the years: but her response to his affection has long sparked debate over whether she’s truly the villain of Forrest Gump — with many arguing that she treated him poorly and took advantage of him.
But a popular post on the r/movies subreddit, which has 31.5 million followers, provided a different perspective — arguing that if you think Jenny is the villain of Forrest Gump, you’ve missed the point of the drama movie entirely.
“People don’t realize Jenny was abused from a young age, and that abuse obviously caused trauma and PTSD in her adult life. This is why she couldn’t settle with Forrest. She knew she was broken, and she knew Forrest was pure and innocent. Jenny didn’t want to inflict her issues onto Forrest,” the Redditor argued.
According to this Redditor, the reason Jenny feels inclined to run from Forrest is because she feels she isn’t good enough for him — something which, the poster adds, is something that abuse victims often do in real life, too.
“They tend to run away from relationships due to the trauma that has been inflicted on them,” the user added. “And in Jenny’s case, it’s even more understandable as abuse victims in the ’50s/’60s/’70s/’80s were NOT taken seriously. There were no outlets or shelters that could’ve helped Jenny. Being a woman was horrible during that time, and unfortunately, Jenny had to deal with her issues on her own. Forrest didn’t understand the depth of Jenny’s issues because he had a ‘simple mind.'”
It’s clear to see why this post got upvoted so many times, as it really gets into the heart of Jenny’s nuances as a character and how reductive it is to force characters into ‘good’ or ‘evil’ boxes. At the end of the day, real-life people are complex and live in a place of moral greyness — and the way Forrest Gump captures this very real reflection of humanity is what makes the movie so damn great.
For more on Tom Hanks and some of his new movies, here’s our guides on the best Tom Hanks movies, how to watch Elvis, how to watch A Man Called Otto, and the Toy Story 5 release date. Or, if you’re after more uplifting tales, check out our listicles detailing the best feel-good movies, best family movies, and best rom-coms.