Historical References in the Movie
In the movie Elvis Presley comes to stay at the Boarding Home that the Gumps run. Young Forrest dances in a very odd way while Elvis plays the guitar. This eventually inspires Elvis Presley to find new dance moves similar to those that Forrest showed him. Although this did not happen in reality. Elvis Presley was one of the greatest revolutions in Rock and Roll and Pop culture. He was known for his very suggestive dancing such as the pelvic thrust and many other similar forms of dancing. He was one of the most famous musicians and it can be argued that he still is one of the most famous musicians of all time.
The Klu Klux Klan
In the movie Forrest Gump claims that his mother named him after Civil war hero, Nathan Bedford Forrest. This man was the person who founded the Klu Klux Klan during the 1800's. In the movie, Forrest Gump is actually superimposed onto a picture from the movie, Birth of a Nation of Nathan Bedford Forrest as can be seen in the picture on the left. Birth of a Nation was one of the most controversial movies of all time as it was essentially a reverse where it portrayed evil as the hero. For example, the movie portrayed members of the KKK as heroes to African Americans. It showed how slavery and several other evil actions that have been committed were good things. It was controversial because it sympathized with the evil and went against what the population considered to be inhumane.
The Black Panther Party
In the movie, Jenny takes Forrest Gump to a meeting of the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party was an African American revolutionary leftist organization from 1966-1982. They believed in preventing racism against blacks, and that all blacks deserved to be treated equally to whites in society. The group was specifically known for its rhetoric, military posture and its way of expressing their beliefs. As you can see in the picture to the left, the movie portrays the Black Panther Party's military posture by showing them dressed up in military uniforms.
The Hippie Movement
After Jenny leaves Forrest, he soon finds her associating herself with the Hippie Culture in an Anti-Vietnam War rally. The Hippie movement did actually occur in the Untied States. During the mid-1960's a hippie subculture started to emerge among the youth population. The main belief that they expressed was their anti-sentiments towards the war in Vietnam. The Hippie's created their own social groups, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution and used drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and "magic mushrooms" to explore other states of consciousness. In the movie, Forrest Gump is about to give a speech on his feelings about the war in Vietnam, when the speaker system malfunctions and his speech is never heard. This actually happened during the congregation in Washington D.C. where the speaker malfunctioned when a soldier was about to give his opinions on the war. People believed that government officials were behind this event as they did not want the truth about the war in Vietnam war to get out to the rest of the United States population.
In the movie Forrest Gump is asked to sit in on a television interview with John Lennon and Dick Carret. John Lennon was an English musician and singer who was one of the founding members of The Beatles. With Beatle Fellow, Paul McCartney, he formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century. The Beatles were very famous in the pop culture world. Lennon was known for his rebellious nature and his criticism of the Vietnam War. His criticism was so harsh that the Nixon administration attempted to deport him back to England so that he would cause no more issues. Unfortunately Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman on December 8th 1980 in his New York apartment.
Vietnam War 1955-1975
Forrest Gump enlists in the army where he is sent to the front line in Vietnam. The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial armed conflicts during the 20th century. Many people were against the war as they believed that the soldiers were only being sent to their deaths, and that the war was not very productive for the United States. Many of the soldiers returned home only to be called by protesters as "baby killers." The war first started towards the end of the Cold War when the United States attempted at eliminating any Communist Presence in Vietnam. The main presidents during this war were President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Nixon who were known for authorizing hundreds of thousands of troops to be sent to Vietnam. President Nixon was known for his idea of "Vietnamization" where he would gradually bring troops from Vietnam home and end the war soon.
In the movie, Forrest Gump witnesses the Watergate Scandal from the Watergate hotel. The Watergate scandal was a political scandal during the 1970's which involved a break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington D.C. After investigation it was found out that President Nixon was aware of this and that several members of the Committee to Re-elect the President had participated in this break-in. Further in the Investigation it was revealed that every conversation in the oval office was taped and that Nixon was supposed to hand over those tapes. Nixon did hand them over but it was found that there were huge gaps in the tapes and that Nixon had not provided the full evidence. Soon after the investigation Nixon resigned as president of the United States.
In the movie, a man asks Forrest Gump for ideas of T-shirt designs. Forrest Gump wipes his muddy face on a T-shirt and the movie shows a smiley face on the T-shirt. which soon becomes a famous and very popular symbol in the United States It is during the 1970's that the smiley face was invented to show a stylized representation of a smiling human face. It is also attributed with the quote "Have a Nice Day!" which also became a very popular saying in American Society. The unhappy smiley face was actually introduced in 1953 before the happy smiley face which was introduced to popular culture in 1958.
Ping Pong Diplomacy
In the movie, Forrest Gump becomes very adept at playing ping pong. In fact, he is so good that he is asked to play on the American team against the Chinese. This is a clear parallel to the term Ping Pong Diplomacy which was used between the Americans and the Chinese. The term comes from an incident when American Ping Pong player, Glenn Cowan missed his team bus during the 31st World Table Tennis Championship. He then is forced to take the Chinese team buss where he talks with Zhuang Zhedong through an interpreter. Soon after it was agreed that the American table tennis team would also be used for foreign affairs by playing with members of the Chinese team. This soon became known as Ping Pong Diplomacy.