So, this post had been sitting in my drafts inbox for months. Months. Like, mid-summer. I didn't have time to finish it... until now when I decided to give myself rare day off from studying and write three blog posts (the one posted on the day before Thanksgiving Day, the one posted on Thanksgiving Day, and this one). As you might've guessed from the title, this one is going to have a question for y'all at the end. ;)
I tend to look for the good in the bad. It's just how I am and have been since I was a little girl. Sometimes this can backfire as it exposes me to other dangers and it can make me miss a lot of red flags but, overall, it's been a good trait to have.
I have two guilty pleasure movies: Mona Lisa Smile and Gidget... and people wonder why, especially when they get to know me a little better.
Why do these choices surprise people? Because of the content in the movies.
Spoiler alert if you haven't seen either. In Mona Lisa Smile, we have a (relatively) young teacher, Dr. Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts), who goes to teach at conservative Wellesley College in the 1950s. She is a progressive in the land of conservatives trying to "enlighten" the "oppressed" young women at the college who favor a more traditional lifestyle. Dr. Watson and another student are all about not being tied down, sleeping with however you want to sleep with (even if that man is married or sleeping with his students), foregoing marriage because it'll only limit your potential... you know, pretty modern ideas which seem radical when placed in the 1950s.
So why do I like this movie? Well, besides the clothing and the music (big fan of 1940s-50s music and pop culture over here), what I love about this movie is that the character Joan Brandwyn (played by Julia Stiles) challenges Dr. Watson's presumptions and ideas. Joan is the brightest student in her class and Dr. Watson does everything she can to get Joan into law school... and away from a potential marriage. When Dr. Watson learns that Joan has eloped and gotten married to her boyfriend, you can see the disappointment on her face because Joan has "thrown everything away" by choosing to marry.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you, a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
This is the scene that makes the entire movie worth watching (for me)... because I can relate to it, in a way. I often get told not to "waste my brain" and to dedicate myself and my life to a career instead of a marriage. Yet, I want the opposite. I want to dedicate myself to a family when the time comes. Family has always been important to me -- for more than a career could ever be. I wasn't raised this way (my mother always drilled it into me to focus on a career before I ever married) but it's what I've come to want for myself. I can look past the blatant (modern) feminist ideas and focus on this scene. Joan, who has the world at her feet, chooses to follow her dream... even if it puts her at odds with someone she respects.
By the way, there's a "What Mona Lisa Smile Character Are You?" quiz and I got Connie. I totally don't mind.
What's so bad about Gidget? Well, it depends on what you focus on. The guys have a beach party that's really meant to be an excuse for the young surfer bums to (in modern terms) hook-up with whoever they want, even trying to dissuade Gidget from going because she's too innocent and wholesome. Yes, lots of kissing and (tame, for our standards anyway) innuendos going on during the beach party. Gidget wants to make the guy she likes jealous by lying about being interested in someone else and then tells him she's going to a "beach shack" with the oldest of the beach bums (who looks old enough to be her young father) who only asked her for a ride to the shack with no other intention than getting some sleep which he can't with the guy fellas going wild. She actually manages to get the guy to ask her into the beach shack and tries to get him to make sure she's no longer "snow pure" but nothing comes of it.
So why do I like this movie? Again, besides the music and pop culture stuff (released in 1959), Gidget makes some pretty dumb ideas but she's still her own person and won't let anyone else influence her. Her friends get on her case about not "making it" (slang for, well, not waiting until marriage) even though she's "pushing 17." She talks to her mother about how she hates when guys want to get handsy when she just wants to be their friend... and even wonders if she's odd because she's not into that or being like most of her friends. She's a star student, she prefers to surf rather than go on a "manhunt" (look for the most eligible bachelors) with her friends, her wardrobe is more modest (even her bathing suits are tasteful compared to others'), and there's an innocence about her that resonates with me. Again, yes, she makes that dumb decision to go to the beach shack with the older beach bum but he actually stops her (after pretending he was into it to scare her off... it didn't) and tells her to go home. He actually protects her instead of taking advantage of the situation. Bravo, Kahuna!
Is it wrong to seek the good in the bad? To ignore what the overall message is for the little good that you find? I keep going back and forth on this... especially when it comes to these guilty pleasure movies. It's no secret that I'm pretty much a "prude" when it comes to sexual innuendos and scenes in films... which is what I think makes people wonder about these two guilty pleasure choices. The only explanations I can give are the ones I've just written -- I look beyond a couple of scenes and focus on the positive things I can get out of them.
Of course, there are some movies, books, and shows I will refuse to watch or read, no matter how much my friends rave about. If it contains a lot of "sexy times," has a lot of cussing, or has something I'm not entirely comfortable with, I will avoid it because I know that I'm just not into that kind of stuff. I will actually fast forward some of the Mona Lisa Smile scenes and just focus on the parts I like. I have a line that I will not cross because I know my weaknesses (e.g. a vivid, occasionally overactive imagination) and what I need to do to avoid adding to my list of stuff I need to take to the confessional.
Anyway, I would love to hear about whether you also try to find the good in the bad, not only in life but also in music, books, tv shows, and films? Do you simply avoid these types of films? Do you watch everything and not worry about these things? I would love to hear from you; no judgments if you have a differing opinion. :)
That's it for now.
I hope y'all have a lovely rest of the (long) Thanksgiving Day weekend!