What’s the Matter with Her?
The easy answer is that Jenny has a problem dating a guy like Forrest (even though he’s sweeter and let’s face it, cooler than pretty much every other guy she’s ever dated). While her point of view is understandable, especially in a small, Southern society like hers, Jenny continuously shirks Forrest’s advances in favor of men that are abusive and impatient.
In addition, Jenny experiments with a lot of hard drugs throughout the movie, and believe it or not, her experimentation constitutes a mental disorder.
Substance Abuse Disorder
Not specifying any particular drug for diagnosis, Substance Abuse Disorder is marked by a few symptoms. Since we spend most of our time with Forrest (hanging out with the good kids), it is hard to decipher whether Jenny exhibits most of them. Her behavior overall argues for the diagnosis, since she shows no positive improvement for a long time. There is one symptom for this illness, however, that Jenny demonstrates loud and clear.
*Continued substance use despite recurrent interpersonal problems
Jenny gravitates toward abusive boyfriends. While it is unclear what the role of substance abuse plays in these relationships, it is clear that once Jenny cleans herself up, she finally realizes that she’s been dating the wrong guys. Perhaps Jenny dated bad boys so they could introduce her to new substances, or perhaps she used substances to quell the effects of their repeated physical abuse (It might have been a little of both).
Child Abuse and Substance Abuse
While little Forrest is definitely in good hands, Jenny was definitely not in good hands as a child. The most recent statistics reveal that as high as 60 percent of people in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse were neglected or abused as children. While Jenny suffers from a mental disorder because of her childhood, she is unfortunately not alone, and as far as children of abuse are concerned, Jenny is not that unusual. The only thing that really makes her unusual (Not to mention, lucky) is her friendship with Forrest, and his unyielding capacity for love and forgiveness.
What About Forrest?
The DSM-V highlights mental illnesses as anything that impairs social or occupational functioning; learning disorders of any nature are no exception. Mental Retardation is probably the closest mental disorder that would explain Forrest’s low IQ, but to be considered mentally retarded, a person must have an IQ of 70 or lower. Forrest’s IQ is just too high for him to qualify for that kind of diagnosis.
And as he demonstrates again and again, a low IQ doesn’t at all mean that someone can’t make great opportunities for themselves. (Stupid is as stupid does, right?).
While Forrest’s infatuation with Jenny makes him look a little stupid, he is certainly not the first or last person to be the victim of unrequited love. In fact, his tolerant nature probably makes him smarter than anyone who’s ever held a grudge about it.