1) Must one have a large authentic collection to be considered a "relevant fan"?
GWTW memorabilia is not cheap and it has only risen in cost since the 1980s. Most people who have collections and sold items for profit, bought them long before things were traded on the internet. Today, "authentic" and "genuine" pieces directly connected to GWTW are priced well beyond the reach of college students, working class people, and even most middle class people. It is a relatively small inner circle of people who can afford to buy clothes, jewelry, set pieces, and personal items from the set or that belonged to the actors.
Does economic status determine your level of fandom in the GWTW community? What is the burning desire to own these items?
Perhaps the desire to own these items lies in some desire to have a personal connection with the people who were part of the book or film. Even so, how does owning one piece or another among the thousands or even millions of pieces of memorabilia related to GWTW determine your status as a GWTW fan?
I am not here to knock collecting GWTW memorabilia. I actually started my own collection when I was in grade school and fell in love with the film. I used birthday money to make small purchases at the Memphis Film Festival. (I loved the dealer room of the Memphis Film Festival in the late 80s and early 90s). I received some GWTW items at Christmas. I bought t-shirts (that are now vintage 50th anniversary shirts) that I wore to school. I used money from being a camp counselor to purchase things that appealed to me as a teenager that were GWTW themed such as posters and music boxes. My collection is small and holds a few unique things like newspaper clippings from the 50th anniversary, advertisements of the film running at the Orpheum Theater, and pieces of the film that I bought for a quarter. Today, Warner Brothers will happily sell you film pieces on a plaque with a photo of the scene for 150 dollars! I think my experience of finding and buying film pieces for a quarter over 20 years ago at the Memphis Film Festival dealer room is far more unique than buying a plaque online from Warner Brothers.
Mostly what I own are books. I've gone through hundreds of hours reading books on technical aspects of filming GWTW. I've read and own books about the making of the film, books about Margaret Mitchell, books about David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia de Havilland, and several editions of the novel. I bought a first edition, 7th printing (June 1936) of the novel a few years ago. Of course this brought ridiculous comments like "well I have a real first edition." Seriously, is this where we've come to? I was pleased to have a little extra money at the time to make this purchase. It means a great deal to me to own a copy of the novel that has survived more than 75 years of being held, handled, on a shelf, and whatever life that lead to it arriving in a box at my student apartment. And, does either my commitment to GWTW as a fan or the worthiness of my 1936 copy or the validity of my "collection" somehow diminish because someone else has an earlier printing?
I say this because neither my commitment to GWTW nor my collection are for anyone to use to judge me because quite frankly it would be ridiculous. My collection represents mostly the time in my life from 3rd grade to 18 and is intimately connected with specific moments of my own life.
Getting back to books, my favorite GWTW related book by far is Herb Bridges book that was published for the 50th anniversary and I can't talk about Herb Bridges' book without talking about the second issue:
2) What does GWTW mean to me and why am I fan of GWTW?
So, let's begin with a story. It's December 1989. I am 11 years old, in the 6th grade, my family is dysfunctional, my parents are divorcing, and suddenly just after December 15, 1989 (about the time Ted Turner was throwing one hell of a GWTW party in Atlanta that I desperately wanted to be at), the situation arose where I no longer lived at home and I no longer lived with my parents. Although I had been involved in ballet and some sports, to that point GWTW had served as this wonderful escape for me from my home life and from school bullies. Suddenly, in December 1989, I didn't have access to many things in my life. I was mostly left to my own devices of writing and navigating in very different life. The one thing I could hold on to through my imagination was GWTW. Melanie and Ellen's characters brought me great comfort, Scarlett gave me fire and a way to endure, Rhett gave me a different image of a father.
At that time in late 1989 and early 1990, living in a completely new situation to me, the only piece of GWTW that I actually had tangible access to was Herb Bridges book. In that book was a world of photos of everyone that I would dream of meeting and events that imagined attending, even though I knew it would never be possible. Between the story of Margaret Mitchell, the genius of David O. Selznick, and the collection and story telling of Herb Bridges, I somehow found a way to survive through an extremely difficult time in my life. In 2009, I nearly cried when I finally had the opportunity to stand before Herb Bridges and ask him to autograph my copy of that book that had been in my possession since the day I got it at Walden bookstore (where GWTW happen to be playing on their television) at the Raleigh Springs Mall in Memphis.
I have encountered other parts of GWTW mirrored in my own life over time from experiencing the death of a best friend to ending a long-term relationship. I now know what the "Old Guard" is in the South. You really do not want to be on their bad list, no matter the circumstances that put you there. I also know how difficult they can make your life (especially in a city where you weren't born) should you ever find yourself on their wrong side.
I've had to pick myself up many times over and tell myself "After all tomorrow is another day."
Gone With the Wind means more to me than a single object or a single collection. It means that it is possible to survive. It's a touchstone in my life that threads together my childhood, my teenage years, and into adulthood. The intersection of GWTW into my life illustrates that sometimes dreams do come true. (I got to meet Ann Rutherford twice before she passed and corresponded with Cammie King by email, facebook, and mail before she passed).
If some people need to determine my ranking based on my collection, I simply leave them with the following: The most important part of GWTW collection and the piece with the greatest value (determined by me) is the ribbon I made in 6th grade to wear in my hair for the 50th anniversary. It's red and in white writing (whiteout) it says GWTW 50th anniversary. There, that's what you can know about my collection.
Yes, I love Gone With the Wind, obviously, because otherwise why would I have this website. But, I dream of a day when fans can come together and share their personal stories of their life connected with this story. When did you discover GWTW? What part of it do you carry with you today? How has it endured in your own life? Those stories almost never involve costumed balls, collections or "experts." I look forward to the day when a GWTW event involves roundtable discussions about the role of women in the story and the importance of the intersecting relationships between Scarlett, Mammy, and Melanie. I can't wait to have the discussion about how the men who made the film protected the men in the film.
We have an opportunity to learn so much more from this story and from one another, but that opportunity can't arise until a little space is given for it at least alongside the collections, costumed balls, experts, and featured celebrities who really fall 8 degrees away from people who we all would have loved to have met but who died over 40 years ago, now.
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of GWTW fans out there who buy the DVDs and the newest mass produced products or a special vintage item. They have their own experiences of discovery of GWTW (and as God is my witness, I hope this website helps that happen) that are as valid as mine, yours, or even Herb Bridges'. If the 75th anniversary goes anything like I hope it goes, many of us will be meeting each other next year and we should celebrate being part of something that has connected people from all over the world for 75 years.