Like everyone else, today I'm thinking about the wonderful writer Nora Ephron, who passed away last night. She did many great things, but I think her greatest might be Julie and Julia, which I'm going to go ahead and call one of the best, most feminist mainstream films ever.
I'm watching it right now and, maybe it's the PMS talking, but I swear every other scene is making me cry:
- Like when Julie describes the time her mom made Julia's boeuf bourginon and it felt like everything was going to be okay because Julia was there, like a big good fairy watching over everything.
- Or when, just after meeting Simka in the ladies' sitting room, Julia stands up to her full height and declares in her brash-yet-twinkly voice, "I am VERY conventional."
- Or when Julia and her sister are looking in the mirror after getting dolled up for a party, and Julia goes, "Pretty good ..... But not great."
- Or, you know, basically any scene with Stanley Tucci. Agh so good!!
The acting is perfect, the characters are super-compelling, and the writing is funny and sweet and honest. But the most amazing thing about this movie is that, unlike basically all other lady-comedies, it's about women who have already found love and still long for more in their lives.
Crazy, right? Cause what woman in her right mind could ever want anything more than A HUSBAND?!
I love Julie and Julia (especially the Julia part) because shows us what it looks like when a woman has a great relationship AND ALSO a bigger ambition, a goal that she is willing to toil and suffer for, something new that she desperately wants to bring into reality. Julia's marriage is wonderful, but it's not enough to fulfill her. She wants to make her dent in the universe, and she perseveres FOR DECADES to make it happen. Which is so inspiring it actually makes my own ambitious feminist heart OVERFLOW.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that love is frivolous or unimportant or that it's something we shouldn't desire. I myself am in a beautiful relationship with a wonderful man that I will be marrying very soon, and I count myself among the luckiest bitches ever in that department.
But you know what I am talking about. The cultural imprint put on us from a very young age is A Romantic Relationship Is By Far The Most Important Thing For Girls. BY FAR. And when we let that imprint direct the course of our lives, it can make us crazy.
Like ... maybe we spend lots of time feeling sad that we are single, or we put up with extreme amounts of BS from our men because we don't want to be alone, or we habitually forget about our friends when we hook up with someone new, or or or ... it's all a variation on a theme that woman is made for man. That loving a man should be our ultimate goal, and after we're coupled, our movies may as well end.
Obviously, that is bullshit. And I love Julie and Julia for showing that. This film, like all Nora Ephron films really, shows a great respect for love, and it also sanely places it in the context of the rest of an intelligent and ambitious woman's life.
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” That's what Ephron said in her 1996 commencement address to Wellesley, and her films show what happens when we follow her advice. Thank you for that, Nora.