06 August 2004

Why I wish Zapatero would be the government leader in France too

I rented Mona Lisa Smile yesterday, because I was curious. The trailer I’d seen in the theatre showed me actresses I appreciate, like Kirsten Dunst or Maggie Gyllenhaal. But I had read many bad reviews and I gave up. But yesterday was the right time again because I needed an unconsequential movie. And while this movie lacks some qualities, it is actually very consequential. The first major surprise is the painting that the lead character (an art teacher) chooses to challenge her students’ assumptions and make them doubt about their knowledge of art: a Soutine. A beef’s carcass Soutine. How about that? When was the last time you saw a Soutine shown in a mainstream movie or actually any movie? I have never. This sequence is of great pleasure.
Now, the core interest: the movie is set in 1953-54 but of course, it is meant to resonate very much in 2004. Like Pleasantville or Far From Heaven that have similar themes and motives.
In this story, the women are educated to be good housewives. And she who does not aim to get married is a failure to society. Is it any different now?
Even if singles are more and more numerous, they are looked as pathetic. Honestly. Being single is only just a phase until one reaches the goal of settling down and starting a family. Being single cannot be an end in itself.
I even feel that sometimes. Especially at the movie theatre. Especially when I watch a romantic comedy. Except when - thank god! - it’s a movie with Julia Roberts who again in this movie ends it single and proud. Just like in My Best Friend’s Wedding when she made me feel like I would end up my life with my gay friends. Would she become some sort of cult feminist icon like Mae West?
But it is true. I am sensitive to the social pressure of the-wedding-as-the-goal-of-life. Because I was educated to think that. Because I'd like to think that my happiness is constrained to the Prince Charming showing up at the last five minutes, at the last page of the fairy tale that we all submit an application to. My life would be so much easier.

Last time I went to Israel, I expected and I got the question: “why are you still not married?” I was surprised though that the question would mainly come from 9, 10, 12 years-old girls. At their age, I knew already I would not be trapped. Obviously, they think differently. They were not happy of the way I answered: what for? Or why would I want to? Is it THAT important?

I know I have a Cinderella hidden inside of me, and somehow it’s OK, I don’t really mind. But she’s not convincing anymore. Like with Santa Claus, we got to stop believing in Cinderella at some point. I know it’s hard. And it gets harder, the more you grow-up. But as much as I don’t believe that the Messiah is about to come to show me the way, I don’t believe that the Prince Charming is gonna come and give my life the meaning it longs for.

In another sequence of the movie, the art teacher shows a series of advertising picturing women in various occupations, always at home, with the last amazing vacuum-cleaner or the perfect washing-machine. I could not help but think that the graphics might be different but the content is still the same. It is still about the representation of the ideal woman (and the ideal technology!). In Vogue, Elle or Cosmopolitan, the women are still shown in a caricatural way, as stereotypes. Those magazines have their qualities in promoting a certain kind of feminism but they give it, at the end, to caricature, like the rest of them. And that’s very unfortunate. They are best at depicting frivolity and superficiality. But they don’t do it well enough, not enough in a positive sense.

And at the end, it comes down to making the stereotypical choice between careers and love. Because we don’t deserve both. We are still losers, whatever we choose. We remain clichés behind the lens of a camera, still or in motion.

This is my 3rd blog about a movie. Maybe it’s a way for me to realize that it is my sole passion, what truly inspires me. Well actually it’s not so true. There are books and also pop songs. But again, they all tell stories. That get me out of the reality.What a vicious circle.

-- Joëlle

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