Date: Fri, 29 Jul 1994 15:38:21 CDT


Subject: Re: Forrest Gump

No, I guess I'm not really ready for Tinsel Town isoglosses, though I

imagine it could be an interestinng study for anyone who wanted to devote

time to it. Interesting to the extent that it reveals how certain

varietal features become prominent for indexing purposes and then are

imitated in grossly inaccurate ways. Or, conversely, their presence in

prestige varieties or in one's one variety is totally ignored.

For example, though double modals are ubiquitous down here, I don't ever

recall hearing any actor incorporate one into Hollywood Southern. I just

think it would be lost on most Yankees who haven't indexed this and would

just interpret it to be a mistake or a repetition. Like the time Clinton

said "might could" during one of the debates. I'm sure it just flew right


Well, I guess I'm not telling anyone anything they don't already know, so

I'll depart from this exchange after one last comment.

Something that comes back to mind, what with all these movie titles mentioned

with links to the South, are the comments of some drama students that I

overheard at a campus play a few months ago. They were comparing notes on

relative success in supressing their Alabama speech traits so that they

could make it in acting. One had already decided that it was impossible and

that she would opt for a career in stage design in order to be able to stay

close to the theater. So, my question is (but I already know the answer),

why can't some of these people be given a chance to shine when it comes to

casting that `Southern' role? It happens so rarely (Sissy Spakek in Coal

Miner's Daughter) I'm talking about serious roles, mind you, not Hee Haw

foddor. They no longer keep African-Americans confined to minstrel

comedy (if it can be dignified with the name comedy) but they let them play

themselves. So, though white actors don't dare don black face, non Southern

actors think nothing of doing an atrocious parody of Southern speech and

behavior. I don't want to take anything away from Robin Wright's performance

in Forrest Gump--I think she showed a lot of talent--but I can't help myself

from thinking of these aspiring Alabama actresses that I overheard who will

likely never have a chance at their day in the sun. Maybe it's no big deal;

we'd probably all be a lot better off if we payed less attention, not more,

to the Tinsel. But as long as we were on the subject....

Mike Picone (Yankee-born, in case you're wondering)

University of Forrest Gump