Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why I dislike Scarlett O'Hara...

Recently, there's been this thing on Facebook where people put up the three literary characters that define them.  A number of my friends include Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind in their three.  Every time I see Miss Scarlett held up as a heroine, I roll my eyes.  I certainly don't think she's a heroine, although I can understand why people are dazzled by her.

I'm basing my comments in this post about the movie version of Gone With The Wind.  I haven't yet read the book, although I probably should.  Books are usually much better than movies and I have a feeling the book would offer more insight into Scarlett's character.  Given my fascination with narcissists, reading Margaret Mitchell's depiction of Scarlett might be very interesting.  But I am so busy reading other stuff that I haven't gotten to any novels in a long while.

Anyway, back to why I hate Scarlett.  I didn't always feel this way.  In fact, for the longest time, I remember thinking Scarlett was an amazing character.  Portrayed by the strikingly beautiful Vivien Leigh, she was vivacious and spunky and crafty.  This was a woman who would always survive and stop at nothing to get ahead.  On the surface, she seems like a person to be emulated and admired.

I think my opinion about Scarlett changed the last time I watched Gone With The Wind.  It was 2010 and we were living in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Fayetteville is located in Fayette County, which is just south of Clayton County, the setting of Gone With The Wind.  Since we were living so very close to where Gone With The Wind was set, I decided I needed to buy a copy of the film.  So I did.  And then I watched it, just like I have many times over the course of my lifetime.

The difference was that when I'd watched Gone With The Wind in the past, I didn't realize how profoundly my life had been touched by people with Cluster B tendencies.  Scarlett O'Hara comes across as someone with profoundly narcissistic tendencies, but she's also very histrionic.  As I watched her flounce and flit about, teasing young men who were interested in her, screwing over friends and family, and behaving like a temperamental brat with no empathy, I started to realize that if I ever met Scarlett in person, I'd probably dislike her intensely.  Then I realized that, in a way, I have met Miss Scarlett many times.

Scarlett meets Rhett Butler after having a tantrum.

Miss Scarlett is the woman who smiles as she stabs you in the back.  She's selfish and petty.  She wants what she wants and everyone else be damned.   She throws temper tantrums shamelessly.  And yet, everyone is fascinated by her because she has incredible beauty and charisma.  Men stand in line to be used and abused by her.  She takes full advantage and leaves them worse off than she did when they first met.  My husband was married to a woman much like Scarlett, though she certainly didn't have Scarlett's intoxicating good looks.  My former best friend had some "Scarlett" tendencies, too, and I was left profoundly hurt by her.


A lot of people mistake Scarlett O'Hara for being free spirited and vixenish.  But watch her closely and you see someone who is ruthless and unkind.  She is a survivor, though, and will survive until the bitter end.  At the end of her life, she'll probably be alone and bitter.

I realize she's just a fictional character in a famous book, but Scarlett O'Hara represents toxic, narcissistic women who think they are justified in being cruel and duplicitous.  It bothers me that so many people hold her up as someone to be admired.  If you've ever spent much time in the company of someone who is a full blown narcissist, you might understand why I had such a visceral reaction to Scarlett the last time I watched Gone With The Wind.  

I can appreciate that Scarlett is a very intriguing character and Vivien Leigh did a fantastic job portraying her.  In fact, I remember in 1994, there was a sequel to Gone With The Wind written by Alexandra Ripley.  The book was called Scarlett and I remember that it really paled in comparison to the original and probably should have been left alone.  A movie was also made, starring Joann Whalley, who couldn't really hold a candle to Vivien Leigh.

Joann Whalley as Scarlett.

I notice a lot of the people who admire Scarlett O'Hara also admire the late Princess Diana, another woman who probably gets more credit than she deserves.  It's not that I don't think Diana was special.  She was.  She was very beautiful and charismatic.  But she was also very troubled and had many character flaws that were overshadowed by her very inflated public image.  I found Diana fascinating, but I could never worship her or even look up to her as an example.  Indeed, I think a lot of the reason people are so attracted to characters like Scarlett O'Hara and real people like Diana is that these individuals are often extraordinarily good looking.  It's hard to look away from them.  And they are so charming and alluring that many people are willing to ignore their bad behavior just to be in their midst.

I will admit that when it comes to Cluster B types, I have what Dr. Phil would call a "psychological sunburn".  I am very sensitive to abusive behaviors that come from Cluster B types.  And that's probably why I have such strong reactions when I run into Cluster Bs, either in real life on on the silver screen.

In the end, Rhett's response was best...