This week was incredibly busy socially (which is unusual for me, because this year I haven't been terribly social since moving to LA). We went on a couple of long walks through Griffith Park and the LA River. I did some work at Stories, this cool bookstore and cafe in Echo Park and I picked up Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (my favorite of the All Souls Trilogy!) for $1, so started re-reading that.
For some reason I've been into melancholy coming-of-age/finding-yourself films this week. I wanted to watch Carol, Girl, Interrupted, The Devil Wears Prada, and Little Women, but ended up just watching the first two. I hadn't seen Carol since it came out in theaters in 2015, but it remains a sensual and beautiful love story between two women in 1950s New York. It also explores the idea of finding oneself and one's purpose through one of the main protagonists, Therese, who works retail and wants to be a photographer. I relate to this lately because of my move to LA and trying to find my stride in my creative practice. I also did a live tweet of the film so feel free to check it out.
Girl, Interrupted holds up. It's based on a memoir of writer Suzanna Kaysen (played by Winona Ryder), who spends time in a mental institution in the 1960s. It's about a young woman trying to find herself and deal with mental health issues, in a world that is undergoing political upheaval and with a family that isn't very supportive. Her parents want to "fix" her ASAP so it doesn't embarrass them in front of their friends, but she's having a hard time dealing with finding a place for herself as an unconventional thinker in a world that wants her to have a practical plan.
Both of these are stories written by women about female protagonists, that have been directed by men. I also LOVE them, but am trying to think a little more critically about things that I unequivocally loved in the past. Although Carol is breathtakingly beautiful and romantic, we mostly see longing and sorrow playing out through their facial expressions and body-language, rather than hear the characters talk to each other. It kinda painfully reminds me of relationships I've had in the past where not communicating about what's going on led to some sticky situations. It's frustrating to watch them not talk to each other, and talk around Carol's recently-ended relationship with her husband, Harge. The characters seem highly reductive and stylized so it's hard to know what anyone is really thinking or feeling -- the book goes into the inner thoughts of characters more.
The characters in Girl, Interrupted feel like "crazy-girl" tropes, except for the main character, Suzanna. We get some back story on some of the other girls, but we don't often get to hear their thoughts or feelings about their lives -- we mostly hear Suzanna's observations through writing in her journal or get info on them from Lisa, another patient at Claymoore.
I also thought: what is with this trend of having women perform self-exploration, especially in the 1990s-2000s? Maybe I'm overgeneralizing here, but it seems like society likes to capitalize on the suffering of women as they have bad things happen to them that force them to grow, whereas stories with male protagonists growing up are way more about the fact that they have a dream to be X, Y, or Z and they have to overcome conflict to get there. Women find themselves while men become what they always knew they could be.