SZA, Frank Ocean & Jenny from Forrest Gump
I hated Jenny Curran the first time I watched Forrest Gump. And pretty much every time after that as well. I’m sure I’m not alone. She’s the wild-child that played Forrest to the left for his entire life, had sex with him in a moment of pity, and eventually dies of some mysterious, incurable condition, likely either Hepatitis C or Aids, leaving Forrest to care for the couple’s young son.
Although she met with a tragic end, I never viewed Jenny as a particularly sympathetic character, probably because we are served her poor choices and neglectful behavior in direct contradiction and to the direct detriment of Forrest’s kind-hearted, genuine, soul.
I have, however, been amazed at how some of our favorite artists have embraced not only the storyline of Forrest Gump (which is certainly one of the greatest movies ever, btw), but the character of Jenny.
My fascination with this topic started in 2012 with “Forrest Gump,” from Channel Orange. Frank Ocean dedicated an entire song to the dynamic of the relationship between Forrest and Jenny, even singing from Jenny’s perspective at various points.
I know you Forrest/I know you wouldn’t hurt a beetle
But you’re so buff and so strong
I’m nervous, Forrest (for us)/Forrest Gump
My fingertips and my lips/they burn
from the cigarettes/Forrest Gump
You run my mind, boy
Runnin’ on my mind, boy
Ocean paints Jenny as a delicate, tormented soul that fears the stability and love that Forrest might provide her with. It’s almost as if her insecurities about her flaws make her believe Forrest is too good for her. He shows a preoccupation with Forrest, which implies that even as we see Jenny jetsetting, getting in trouble all around the world, she is thinking of Forrest, and wishing that conditions were suitable for them to be together.
On SZA’s new album, Ctrl, she talks about the relationship that Forrest and Jenny had, sympathizing with some of Jenny’s motives and actions. The song, “Doves in the Wind,” is about women’s empowerment through sex, but it also gives women the agency to be sexual in ways that are meaningful to them. While sex between two people is lauded as a dynamic act that can enhance a connection, SZA is sure to remind listeners that she, and all women, have so much more to offer beyond “pussy,” that makes them whole.
Real niggas do not deserve pussy/Meaning it’s more, you see right through walls
Ain’t talkin’ about pussy/Meaning you deserve the whole box of chocolates
Come at me
Forrest Gump had a lot goin’ for him/Never without pussy
Y’know, Jenny almost gave it all up for him
Never even pushed for the pussy
Where’s Forrest now when you need him?
This verse is full of gems, but overall, SZA comments on the humbleness of Forrest and how his genuinely being a good person made him attractive. She can see why Jenny had sympathetic and loving moments toward Forrest, even with having a free-spirit personality. When she says Jenny almost gave it all up for him, she doesn’t mean sex; she’s talking about the entire lifestyle that had her wayward for so many years. But we definitely have to remember that almost, because it makes a big difference in this case.
Ctrl isn’t the first time SZA has invoked Jenny, though. “Warm Winds,” ft. Isaiah Rashad has two distinct sounds throughout the track. At the start of the second sound, SZA begins the prayer that Jenny and Forrest say in the field while they are young children.
Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly far, far away.
Ironically and tragically, her prayer was answered. She chased love and drugs and moments throughout her entire life and got far, far away from where she started. Let’s hope our SZA doesn’t fly too far though. She’s a leader for the culture.