Saturday, August 08, 2009

Monalisa Smile … She’s smiling, but is she happy?

In the 2003 movie, Monalisa Smile, different stories for different women and how their lives and choices were being affected by both traditions and taboos were presented in a very sensitive movie that went back to 1953 to start the events that took almost a year.
What really strikes me the most is the stories, those women who are everywhere now in our Arab societies.

First one, Connie, the girl who somehow reached the conclusion of being ugly and with minimal chances of getting married, which is, of course, the whole purpose of her life! That girl who chokes into tears when anyone talks about how slim her chances are to be asked for a date, or to be “wanted” by a man, and her usual reply is;

Connie Baker: [hurt] someone, somewhere, someday might be interested. Just in case, I'll be prepared.
[Connie leaves, fighting back tears]

I guess you easily remember at least a dozen of her in your life. And I don’t know when, how or what should be done to help her… I really don’t!
That girl who got the slap of her life when she was told by the "single teacher" that she reminded her of herself... Ouch! What a future! Single? Alone? Afterwords the girl also choked into grieving tears!
But naturally since she is a “good” girl, she gets her happy ending when she doesn’t let the chance go to have the “good” guy who once told her –bragging about himself-;
Charlie Stewart: My parents say my future is right on the horizon.
Wow! I’m impressed!

Second girl is Giselle, the rebellious, daring girl who came from a broken home “first divorce in the block” feeling all small, cheap and insecure that she allowed being hurt more than once with every possible way. She is the smart girl who you keep on wondering why she is acting that “slutty” when she can rule her world and be one of her own! Such girls make me want to grab their heads and shake it till they get up of this Greek tragedy they are living and wake up to see that we all are in pain and we all have our past that’s hunting us. Only those who are strong enough can actually step away from all that and get themselves what they can have … which is just ANYTHING THEY WANT!

Then we go to Princess Betty, the girl who just has everything. The looks, the family name, the money, the big school, and of course the husband! That girl who is just so sad feeling that all her life is being taken away from her the moment she was born. She is supposed to get married, get a house with the kitchen machine and washing one, get babies and just get photographed with the Hoover in one hand and the her book in the other!
She’s the perfect women. The one everyone looks up to, not noticing her bleeding soul that shades her eyes with all this pain, her shaking voice that is struggling to come out through all these tears that were buried deep and anger that was fed everyday when she just sees any sign of life reminding her that she is dying alive!
She’s the one who knows everyday her husband is cheating on her, but is supposed to let it go since he comes back at night putting food on the table and sleeps next to her. Faking a tremulous smile when she greets her guests as any “happy lady” would do, accepting to live a false play as long as she has the leading role!
The only pleasure such girl can get is by living the image of “the one everyone is jealous of”… “They would die to be me, but they just can’t!”
Luckily for Betty –unlike most of her likes here – she sets herself free and breaks every single wall that was between her and life, in a marvelous scene she asks her mother the fundamental question that I don’t think we even ask it to ourselves here;
[About the Mona Lisa]
Betty Warren: [ironically] look at this, mother. She's smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty Warren: She looks happy, so what does it matter? Not everything is as it seems, Mom!

How many parents refused that their daughters return to their homes telling them “a good wife waits for her husband for how long it takes”, “ don’t wash your dirty laundry in public”, “you will make your hair and dress nicely waiting for your husband no matter what”?
In the movie, Betty set herself free. Do you think our Betties can dare think the same?

Joan, the worst kind ever! The one who actually has every possible opportunity in life and then “chooses” to throw all that away for a man and a home! Believing in the freedom of choice obligates most of us to at least respect such a choice. But I don’t think I can have this in my heart.

The only thing that has to be mentioned here is how objective the movie was when this particular character was presented without any judgment.

What makes me personally a bit against that, is the fact that the examples that we have here are not doing that cause of an aware choice rather than a previously set programming. This is what they are expected to do and this is how they are going to be.
Quite an objective way to look into things that I appreciate the film for!
I am practically living with those. Graduates from medical schools who after taking the “title” choose to leave all that, cause they suddenly discovered that a woman’s ultimate role is the man and the house! Those who fight for imaginary jobs where they only can enjoy the image of someone with brains using all these brains in exploring new ways to escape any real challenge when they can “have it all”, the title, the job – or so it seems-, the man, the house and the kids. In their sick minds, they have it all. They don’t care if everything they have is a flat image with no depth.
They don’t care if because of them, men everywhere have a strong valid argument when they want to prove that educating women is a “poor investment”.
They don’t care if they are the weapon by which men have won a lot of battles regarding increasing women seats anywhere, giving women the right to get this job or that, or at least giving women a fair equal chance in being promoted!

Who do they think they are fooling but themselves? It’s pathetic when humans live a lie so good that they start to not only believe it, but be unable to see that people actually don’t buy it, in fact they can see it very well but they enjoy laughing at them!

I can never forget these words from one of the teachers when she was “educating” them about true life;
Nancy Abbey: You may be here for an easy A. But the grade that really matters is the one that he gives you, not me!

I wanted to applaud when their single teacher was asked why she wasn’t married and she just replied;
Katherine Ann Watson: I am not married because I am not!

And I was laughing when the students were discussing the fact of having a grown up single teacher in their school;
Betty Warren: No man wanted her!
Giselle Levy: She’s not dead, Betty.
Betty Warren: She’s at least 30.
Connie Baker: I guess she doesn’t want any children!
At that moment, I thought I left the movie and started hearing my own friends talking!!

Such an amazing movie that went deep inside women souls searching for reasons why those complete, wonderful and capable creatures are voluntarily lowering their own expectations from life when they literally have everything to open new worlds to the world we live in.
Monalisa smile, showed hope that I wondered if we can have here. Being negative is not my favorable color, so I’ll just ask, do you see any hope?


iane said...

~~In a world that told them how to think, she showed them how to live.

Great Movie. :)

Eman Hashim said...

It is, Iane. It so is.
It really touched my heart

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