This is a militant feminist rant.
If that’s not your thing, consider yourself warned.
I was at my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving this year, and they had recently purchased the movie Eat. Pray. Love. I was excited to watch it because I had missed it in the theatres, due to moving to Texas in the first place. Normally, I love Julia Roberts. I don’t know if it was graduate school, the way the movie trailer was cut, the fact that we watched the 3-hour long director’s cut – admittedly per my request – or just growing up in general. But I was so PISSED by the time the movie was finally over that I wanted to scream.
I might just be dense. I believe this is possible. But I didn’t know this movie was another fucking romantic comedy. I really wanted better for this movie. It’s about this woman who goes through a divorce and travels the world to discover the meaning of life. It starts off decently. She has lost the passion she used to feel for life and wants to find it again. I can get that. Also – spoilers are coming up, so if you wanted to see this movie and care if you get spoiled, stop reading now.
So, in Italy, she rediscovers eating and enjoying pizza whether or not it means you gain ten pounds. So far so good. In India she discovers mediation and prayer – finding inner peace as well as love for others. Recognizes the importance of daily spiritual care. Also good. Then, she goes to Bali. By now, I am noticing a pattern. All the people who are teaching this woman about herself are men: the Italian tutor, the man from Texas who tells her how meditation helped him forgive himself after his divorce, and now a “tour guide” with whom she has a love affair and also the medicine man who is somewhat responsible for this year-long journey to begin with. All the women she meets in these countries play a secondary role and are hardly seen. At the end of the movie, she realizes she is falling for this tour guide the same way she fell for her ex-husband and the boyfriend she had after that. She realizes she is again losing herself and the balance and self-knowledge she has gained. She tells him, “I don’t have to love you to prove I love myself.”
But then the medicine man tells her that sometimes losing balance for love is part of living a balanced life and she runs off into the sunset with him. So in case you didn’t connect the dots, this movie is basically saying, travel the world to learn to love yourself as long as at the end of the day it means love finds you again when you least expect it.
Why can’t there be one movie where learning to love yourself isn’t the first step on the path to finding a new man? Why can’t there ever be a movie about living a happy, fulfilled life as a single person? Why is our culture so obsessed with pairing people up? If her new relationship was portrayed as any healthier than her others, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much. But she hasn’t learned anything. She is still melting into the men she loves and losing herself. She finds what is important to her and then gives it up as soon as someone else is ready to love her. Where is the movie about the woman brave enough to travel the world alone and then return home alone and build a new life for herself on her own terms?
As a single woman who might be single for a very long time, I resent that there are no role models available for my life. It is 2010 and at the end of the day, women are still defined by the men in their lives. It makes me sick. I have nothing against love or marriage. That isn’t what this is about. But not everyone finds that. Why does that have to make their lives something less? And if it doesn’t, where is that message in the media? Where is that message in the movies, on TV, in books? Gay people, single people, women – there are so few strong, realistic role models. The woman in this movie doesn’t even choose on her own to run off with this man – she does it after another man gives her permission to do it. I expected better from our society. I still expect better.
When will I see it?