At the very end of her 7 February 2003 Salon interview, in which she expressed thoughtful opposition to the war in Iraq (ignoring her haruspical intonings about the shuttle disaster), Camille Paglia said,
If I could, I would assign everyone to watch "Gone With the Wind"--which is dismissed these days as an apologia for slavery. But that movie beautifully demonstrates the horrors of war…. It shows the destruction of a civilization, the slaughter of a whole generation of young men, and people reduced to squalid, animal-like subsistence conditions. And that's what's missing right now, as we prepare to march off to Baghdad — a recognition of the horrors and tragic waste of war.
I disagree that such awareness is missing, and I also think that the horrors of war you see in Gone With the Wind have to do with a civil war (e.g., starving soldiers scavenging as they straggle home across the blasted countryside) and with a war fought with pre-modern weaponry and before modern medicine (the amputation scene still makes my thighs ache). The scene in which the women breathlessly scan the casualty list after the battle of Gettysburg absolutely communicates to people who have never endured having loved ones in battle, but a movie about the Nazi Blitzkrieg against England would probably be more apposite to what the Iraqi people will face. (To make her point Paglia might recommend William Wyler's Mrs. Miniver, a phony but earnest homefront movie from 1942; John Boorman's 1987 Hope and Glory is the infinitely better movie, but it preserves the mixed feelings that survivors of the winning side can have. Boorman shows the bombing of London autobiographically from his childhood perspective, and it's exciting and dazzling, like living inside a fireworks display. But then Paglia has never clearly understood the difference between a movie's aesthetic merit and its utility in making a point.) Still, she's right that Gone With the Wind is a powerful movie, and you can watch it uninterrupted in a version with restored Technicolor tomorrow afternoon on Turner Classic Movies.
Gone With the Wind is the most spectacular and multifaceted of what used to be called women's pictures. At the basic level Scarlett is a tempestuous heroine out of a bodice-ripping historical novel, a focus for fantasy projection on the part of far more sedate women. (I once heard a young woman from the San Fernando Valley tell about a party she had gone to where you were to come dressed as a character from Gone With the Wind and the hostess was disappointed that every single female showed up as Scarlett.) This aspect is clearest in the scene in which Rhett carries Scarlett upstairs and forces himself on her and she wakes up the next morning purring with satisfaction.