Why Jenny From ‘Forrest Gump’ Is One of the Most Misunderstood Characters of All Time

Forrest Gump came out in 1994, and Tom Hanks won an Academy Award for playing the title character. In Forrest Gump, Robin Wright played Jenny. Just like the movie polarized viewers, Wright’s character also received a huge amount of criticism from fans.

If one searches Jenny in Google, articles, forums, and comments rage about how Jenny is one of the worst characters in film. Years after the release of Forrest Gump, some viewers have changed their tune about Jenny. While some fans of the movie are more understanding, Jenny is still one of the most misunderstood characters of all time.

Forrest Gump Jenny
Robin Wright played Jenny in ‘Forrest Gump’ | David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Fans overlook that Jenny was abused as a child

While Jenny is not blameless in her actions, many fans of the movie overlook that Jenny’s father abused her as a child. From a young age, Jenny was trapped in a cycle of abuse and did not have a loving home like Forrest. While the movie is from Forrest’s perspective, viewers can see how difficult it is for Jenny to break out of that abusive cycle. For a long time, Jenny does not understand why Forrest is so kind to her because it is not something she ever experienced.

A Reddit user wrote, “She wants so much to be loved that she doesn’t understand that they are taking advantage of her… That’s why she’s so shocked when Forrest defends her from harm. Why would anyone do that if what they’re doing to her is normal?”

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Jenny is not given the same benefit as other characters because she is a woman

In Forrest Gump, Forrest is a very kind character who is surrounded by characters who are more complex and nuanced than him. One of those characters is Jenny and another is Lieutenant Dan. While both characters have the same amount of nuance and self-worth issues, Lieutenant Dan is beloved by audiences while Jenny is not.

“Put Jenny and Lieutenant Dan’s stories side by side; both suffer from familial abuse… and carry it with them to such an extent that it shapes their lives and their almost-deaths. Jenny doesn’t value herself enough to understand Forrest’s unconditional love, and neither does Lieutenant Dan,” wrote Sophie Wing in One Room With A View.

She continued, “Yet Lieutenant Dan (admittedly a wonderful character in his own right) doesn’t get half of, if any, of the flack that Jenny does; the world isn’t conditioned to see their periodic rejections of Forrest as part of the same journey.”

Jenny constantly runs away from Forrest in ‘Forrest Gump’ to protect him

It’s no secret that Jenny’s actions hurt Forrest and Forrest’s pain and heartbreak about Jenny is valid. However, some viewers of the movie interpreted Jenny running away from Forrest because she did not care for him. In reality, it was the opposite. Jenny cared for Forrest and wanted to protect him from herself.

“So Jenny kept running away. Every time Forrest gets close and saves her, she runs off before she falters. She won’t let herself get near him, and as the movie goes on, she fails a little more each time,” a Reddit user wrote.

“I felt the same way about Jenny. A misguided woman with a terrible childhood,” a Reddit user wrote. “… she knows how innocent Forrest is. Jenny was also afraid of corrupting him.”