Forrest Gump as a site for media archeology

If it is possible to perceive History as a form of cultural storytelling then it wouldn’t take much to argue that film history, has mostly been a uni-linear chronological account of moving image. The historical monument of film history rests on the triple pillars of “the history of photography, the history of projection and the “discovery” of persistence of vision” (Elsaesser,2006,p18).It is this genealogical account of cinema history as a superior medium that surpasses or ignores the histories of various mediums embedded with cinema that becomes the prime object of media archeology.  Media Archeology presents an alternate model of re-mapping and re-conceptualizing audio-visual history and “adds to the study of culture in an apparently paradoxical way by directing attention (perception, analysis) to non-cultural dimensions of the technological regime”(Ernst,2013,p61).


The film that won Tom Hanks his second consecutive Academy award for best acting, Forrest Gump (1994) presents a site for media archeological analysis. Directed by Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump is a story of a low IQ American white male, a misfit to be in the ‘mainstream’, who still manages to do well for himself while upholding American values. The character of Forrest Gump is made to participate in various crucial moments of American history during the second half of 20th century like Governor George C. Wallace’s School House Door speech, receiving a medal from President Johnson and shaking hands with John F Kennedy and Nixon or sitting with John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show.

picture1 With the help of CGI and digital effects, Forrest Gump was seamlessly inserted into key historical moments to re-present and re-construct American history from Gump’s point of view. This play with the temporality of history and thus time, happens in a non-chronological episodic manner. Forrest Gump works as a meeting point for old and new media where digital technologies like chroma key, warping, morphing, rotoscoping, voice doubles etc. are used to link present to the past. Now, while the linear film historiography would document Forrest Gump as an important film in the history of cinema with ground breaking ‘invisible effects’,the media archeological approach would concern itself with making those techniques visible that produce these effects, how do they work, what hardware and software are involved in digitizing the archives and how the special effect company ILM achieved the desired visual results to rupture the technological differentiation of old and new.

By Swati Bakshi


Elsaesser, T. (2006). Media: An Archaeology of Possible Futures? In: Wendy C. and Thomas K. (eds.), New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, New York and London: Routledge, 13-26.

Ernst, W. (2013). Digital Memory and the Archive. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Roth R.(1994). Stupidity as Redemption (Forest Gump).Available from []Accessed 20 February 2017].

Industrial Light and Magic (no date).Forrest Gump. Available from [Accessed 18 February 2017].


Rachel (2010) Forest Gump [Image]. Available from

Eric Roth (1994) Stupidity as Redemption (Forest Gump)[Image].Available from []Accessed 20 February 2017].

Steve Webber (2010).Imagine John Lennon meets Forrest Gump.[Image] Available from [Accessed 19 February 2017].


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