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What Was Wrong With Forrest Gump? His Disability Explained

What Was Wrong With Forrest Gump? His Disability Explained

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Love it or hate it, Forrest Gump left a significant mark on pop culture. While the book is much less well-known, the movie version was an instant classic when it was released in 1994.

Forrest had to wear leg braces as a child and was considered mentally “slow” by the people around him. Critics and audiences fell in love with the simple but sweet Forrest. But his character left many wondering if he had a certain kind of disorder, either physical or mental.

It turns out that there’s strong evidence of specific diagnoses for both Forrest’s physical and mental disabilities. This guide will explore all of Forrest’s possible disabilities and the evidence for them.

What Disability Does Forrest Gump Have?

Forrest Gump may have been autistic, although the movie doesn’t specifically diagnose him. The original novel of Forrest Gump describes Forrest as an “idiot savant.”

“idiot savant” is an outdated term for someone with an intellectual disability but the capacity for extreme skills in specific areas.

Both the movie and book often describe Forrest as slow or having a low IQ. However, he’s also very skilled at certain activities like ping-pong and chess (the latter is only in the book).

The movie version of Forrest Gump doesn’t specify any kind of diagnosis for Forrest other than a 75 IQ. That isn’t a sign of a particular disorder, but experts consider it intellectually disabled.

Close up of Forrest Gump's face while he's sitting on a bench

None of the filmmakers or cast of Forrest Gump have spoken out about Forrest’s specific disability, either.

Was Forrest Gump Autistic?

Some psychological experts believe Forrest Gump displays traits consistent with being on the autism spectrum.

In fact, in 1998, two doctors analyzed the movie and published their view that Forrest is autistic. They compared his behaviors in the book to the diagnostic and statistical manual of meant disorders (DSM-IV).

The Ijichis cited Forrest’s speech development, struggle to relate to others, and reliance on routines as evidence of autism.

The ABA website also cites Forrest’s intense focus as a common sign of autism. He has trouble understanding social cues but excels when given specific instructions.

He immediately takes to stripping and reassembling his weapons in the army and is a borderline obsessive ping-pong player.

While none of these traits are exclusive to autistic people, and the creators of the different versions of the character have confirmed it, it’s not a stretch to believe that Forrest Gump is, in fact, autistic.

What Was Wrong With Forrest Gump’s Legs?

Forrest Gump actually had strong legs but had to wear braces because he had a crooked back.

Like with his intellectual development, the creators don’t explicitly say what disability Forrest has. However, they do give a general reason as to why he needs leg braces.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t have anything to do with his legs at all. In fact, Forrest has to wear leg braces because of a bad back. In the movie, the doctor describes it as “crooked as a politician.”

Polio was still common at the time Forrest was a child, so it’s possible he had a mild case of the disease. People often use braces to help with muscle weakness in the lower parts of the body.

Based on the mildness of Forrest’s symptoms, scoliosis is a more likely diagnosis. Leg braces can also help alleviate a curving spine that scoliosis causes.

Other Disabled Characters In Forrest Gump

Forrest’s friend Bubba may also have been autistic, and Lieutenant Dan is both physically disabled and likely suffering from PTSD.

Forrest isn’t the only character in Forrest Gump that has some form of disability. The most obvious example is his friend, Lieutenant Dan.

Lt. Dan becomes physically disabled after Vietnam. He has both legs amputated, and he spends a large part of the movie in a wheelchair.

Not only that, but he shows clear signs of PTSD after the war. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 6% of Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point.

Lieutenant Dan exhibits common PTSD symptoms, such as isolation while in the hospital with Forrest and extreme anger at Forrest for saving his life. He goes through a dark period of alcohol abuse and depression.

It’s a haunting look at the price that veterans can pay, but Forrest Gump also shows Dan coming to terms with his traumatic experience.

On the mental side, Forrest makes friends with a man named Bubba while in the army. The movie portrays Bubba as around the same intelligence level as Forrest. But more than that, Bubba also portrays a type of focus similar to Forrest’s.

Close up of Bubba as Forrest holds him in the jungle after he is shot

One of the iconic scenes of Forrest Gump has Bubba reciting every type of shrimp recipe he knows. This could be a representation of a “special interest,” a trait common among autistic people.

Whether or not Forrest and Bubba are accurate representations of autistic people is still up for debate. But it’s undeniable that Forrest, Bubba, and Lt. Dan are much beloved characters who are often able to overcome the obstacles life presents them.