Obsession: Whit Stillman's Metropolitan

Now available on VHS and Laserdisc. LASERDISC!

Now available on VHS and Laserdisc. LASERDISC!

I saw this movie late at night on PBS, during Christmas vacation when I was in high school. I taped it off the TV, on VHS. 

I thought all the characters talked like they were rich. Like the entirety of their educations were expensive, not just the college part, but the pre-college years, as well.  I wanted to talk like them, be invited to debutante balls, and go to exclusive after parties at trust fund penthouses, where everyone is wearing their expensive dress shoes while standing on hardwood floors or white carpets. 

Specifically, I wanted to be Audrey Roget, the main character in the movie. I would log into chat rooms, and use her name as my handle. I checked out a book by Lionel Trilling in the school library, but the only reason I wanted to read it was because Audrey has an extended conversation about the author with Tom, her crush in the movie. Tom has a freakout when he thinks Audrey goes to party hard with Cynthia and scummy Rick Von Sloneker. He rushes to the scene, fearing the worst, but when he gets there, we see that Audrey is above all that, bored with the party, and doesn't care that the cool kids think she's a stick-in-the-mud. She's even reading a book when Tom comes to rescue her, while the other kids are involved in some sort of debauchery. I identified with her, and hoped that when people described me it would be reminiscent of Audrey. 

I've been reading a lot of articles on Jezebel, HuffPo, Miss Representation, etc. about how there's a lack of female main characters in movies/ television/ games, and how the lady-characters that stay in the picture, often don't align with everything we want for our daughters. To over simplify: they are either too old-school-girly, in a way that limits our rights and our dreams in a way that men are not limited, or they are women/girls who are trying to prove themselves as capable by taking on a masculine role, in a sense, only living up to something by being a man. Just today, I read this very well thought out article about whether or not to allow Disney princesses into your daughter's life. I was never obsessed with princesses when I was young, because it seemed ridiculous and impossible to me, and mostly because I didn't see princesses doing things that I thought were at all interesting or exciting. They tended to sit around and were expected to behave, and wait till dudes came to their rescue. I chose instead to make up my own stories, playing "Monsters" around the Canyon Schoolhouse Library, and reenacting dramatic moments from Empire Strikes Back with the Hibbert brothers. I played Luke Skywalker, btw, not Princess Leia- in case you were all ready to bust me for saying I didn't like princesses.  

I emulate the characters that really affect me, the ones who seem like people that have the exciting lives that I want. Acting like them makes me feel like I am that much closer to having that. As someone who was, and still can be, a tomboy, I personally don't know what it will be like if I have a daughter who is really into girly things, but I do know it's up to her. And it's up to me to show her as many great options as I can, regardless of what she likes. I don't want princesses to be all she has to choose from, but I won't feel bad about her picking that, if I know she had all the other options in front of her (ok, maybe I'll feel a little bad, but it'll be payback for me giving my mom a hard time about wearing dresses when I was little). Seeing characters we like and/or are interesting to us affects the types of people we mold ourselves into. Even more so when we're in our teens and twenties, and sometimes beyond, if the story is powerful enough. That's why it's important we have more depth, quantity, and variety in the TV shows, movies, and games that we center around women characters. It wouldn't matter so much that there are some girls who want to be princesses, as long as we know they got the chance to see all the other wonderful options out there for them, and know that there are so many great ways that they can get just as much attention, praise, and admiration as they'd ever dreamed- and they don't have to marry a prince, or wear a silly hat for the rest of their life to do it.