My brother won tickets to an advance screening of a new movie, and he was kind enough to offer them to his mother and little sister. Awwww. What a nice guy.
Except the movie being previewed was Eat Pray Love.
Oh. Well, he’s still a pretty nice guy, I guess.
So now that I’ve watched Julia-Roberts-as-Elizabeth-Gilbert prance self-centeredly through crowds of foreigners trying to find herself, what do I think? Here’s my brief summary of Eat, Pray Love, as reported on my Twitter feed:
Hi! I’m an upper middle class white woman who doesn’t like her husband. I’m going to let a bunch of cute people with accents change my life. Fix me, brown people! Your poverty & inability to escape your problems centers me. Me. Meeeee. MEEEEEEEEEEE! Now I’m centered. I’m going to go marry Javier Bardem.
Of course that leaves out all kinds of things. Like the fact that Gilbert (as portrayed by Roberts) is a self-involved angsty shrew, but everybody adores her anyway, immediately, and sometimes even after she’s opened her mouth and actually said things. (I found this unbelievable.) And the fact that the whole film pays homage to the Benevolent White Lady trope, wherein a Benevolent White Lady goes to another country/depressed neighborhood and makes all the sad foreign people/underprivileged youth happy with her inherent White Lady goodness. (See: Gilbert fixes an arranged marriage in crisis! Gilbert and all her yuppie friends buy a poor Indonesian lady a house!)
I hate movies like this. Not because they’re supposed to be inspiring or heartwarming or whatever, but because I hate what they inspire in people, namely gross selfishness. You might think going off to Rome, India, and Bali to find yourself sounds cool (I know I do), but what person with real problems can afford to drop out of their lives for an entire year? What person with real ties to the real world can leave their friends and family, their bills, their job, and their responsibilities to meditate for hours and shriek at Brazillian men on a beach because, goshdarnit, they’re just so lovable and they don’t know how to handle it.
We’re supposed to believe that Gilbert had to lose everything in order to jumpstart her journey of self-discovery, but anyone who’s ever truly been poor (I mean eating-ramen-noodles-over-the-sink poor) will quickly wonder how a woman who “lost everything” could afford three international plane tickets plus money for accommodations, food, sightseeing, and new “big lady pants”. So did she metaphorically lose everything? Because from what I saw, she divorced a guy she didn’t want to be married to anymore.
These are the kinds of movies that appeal to upper middle class white women like movie-Gilbert (I refuse to believe Elizabeth Gilbert is a real person) because it’s tempting to see shallow concerns and mild personality disorders as Real Problems. Gilbert had money, friends, and a career, but she still felt empty. Instead of spending a little more time paying attention to all of the other people who still seem to care about her, she decides to take a year for herself. Because nothing cures narcissism like a journey of self-discovery. I vomit into my neighbor’s popcorn bucket.
Along the way, the film tries to touch on some real problems. Movie-Gilbert laments that she’s been dating or breaking up with men since she was 15. And on her trip, she laments the fact that everyone she meets says she needs a husband. Of course, at the end, she hooks up with Javier Bardem. You go girl! And there are all kinds of half-hearted attempts at meaningful explorations of pain, loss, letting go, loving, and opening yourself up to change, but when Gilbert accuses a man at an ashram of speaking in bumper sticker slogans, she might actually be speaking to the screenwriter.
People are losing their homes, their jobs, their health, their sense of security. Some people who will see commercials for this film are literally losing everything. So, despite the fact that movies (and books) like Eat Pray Love are a slap in the face to folks with real shit to worry about and people who actually deserve a vacation, stuff like this will probably be repackaged and resold for as long as there’s a talk show host to hock this kind of empty inspirational garbage to mildly disappointed women of privilege. I vomit into my own popcorn bucket.