My Favorite Fierce Film Heroines Part I: Scarlett O’Hara

As you may or may not know, I am beyond obsessed with Gone With the Wind and Titanic.  Both feature spunky leading ladies who are played by amazing British actresses with studied American accents.  There are also insanely gorgeous leading men in both films aka Clark I-don’t-give-a-damn Gable and Leonardo Dreamboat DiCaprio each with impressively amazing hair.  Both Scarlett and Rose challenge society’s notions on womanhood.  Also they both have terrible boyfriends before they realize the heinous error of their ways and ultimately choose Rhett and Jack (although, I gotta say that Billy Zane had a pretty handsome head of hair himself).  Not to mention each has to survive some pretty crazy stuff like a giant boat sinking and the burning of Atlanta before they come out on the other end stronger, fiercer ladies.  In short, Rose and Scarlett are two of my biggest heroines.  Like, I wanna be just like them when I grow up with a dash of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey added when I’m an old lady.

BUT I’m 95% sure I won’t be anything like them.  In this two-part blog, I’ll break down why Rose and Scarlett (both named after shades of the color red…coincidence?  I THINK NOT!) are way more awesome than any woman alive and why I’ll never live up to them.

SCARLETT O’HARA

  • A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for.  As unattainable as a unicorn.

    A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for. As unattainable as a unicorn.

    First and foremost, Scarlett has a 17-inch waist.  I do not have the discipline (or probably the frame) to support that kind of petite waif-ery.  I’m from the Midwest and was raised on a diet of carbs and potatoes, so…ain’t nobody got time for that, ya know?  Even in a corset after the Master Cleanse AND P90x, I wouldn’t be able to hit that number.  After having a baby, her waist is like, what, 19 inches?  Then she COMPLAINS about it.  I MEAN, COME ON!  Can you even TRY to make us feel less inferior, Scarlett?!

  • Vivien Leigh.  I adore her, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, her acting is unreal, and she was married to Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor in the world.  Can you guys imagine anyone else playing Scarlett?  NO.  Because Vivien is perfect.  And no one else is.

    The only time I'm ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I'm at a gay bar with friends.  YEP I'M SINGLE!

    The only time I’m ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I’m at a gay bar with friends. This might explain why I’m still single.

  • Scarlett goes to the Twelve Oaks barbeque mostly to see Ashley Wilkes (ugh) and winds up surrounded by a bevy of hot Southern gentlemen who all want to feed her ribs and probably okra, but really they all just want to politely get into her pantaloons.  I’m going to be honest when I say I would mostly be going to Twelve Oaks for the barbeque, not the men, because I really love barbeque.  And unlike Scarlett surrounded by men, I would be surrounded by empty plates.  This is why I’ll never have a 17-inch waist and probably be single forever.  See?  No discipline.
  • Scarlett possesses an undying devotion to her family’s plantation, Tara.  When she finds herself in times of trouble, she always goes back to Tara.  After the war, she takes it upon herself to revive her land by working it with *gasp* HER OWN HANDS.
    "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again! " - Scarlett...and also me when my bank account is zilch

    “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again! ” – Scarlett…and also me when my bank account is zilch

    Keep in mind this is 1865, and proper young ladies only use their hands for delicate needlework or raising cups of tea to their mouths.  I’m so impressed Scarlett actually knew how to plant and pick crops even though she was raised to take afternoon naps and be admired.  I may have grown up in the Midwest, but I don’t know the first thing about real farming.  I can barely keep floral bouquets alive for more than a few days, so…saving a plantation?  Forgeddaboutit.

COMMON GROUND: the Ashley Wilkes problem

Here is where EVERY woman can identify with Scarlett: we all have or once had an Ashley Wilkes in our lives at some point or another.  You know, that one guy you just feel all the feelings for, and they’re kind of unrequited but also kind of requited which makes everything extremely confusing?  That’s Ashley Wilkes.  Scarlett throws herself at Ashley every chance she gets despite him being in love with his cousin Melanie (Was incest like, seriously a thing back in those days?  I mean gotta keep those bloodlines going, I get it, but…ick).  However, Ashley perpetuates the situation by constantly giving in to Scarlett’s advances.

"Scarlett, I'm just not that into you.  But I kind of am so let's makeout."  ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

“Scarlett, I’m just not that into you. But I kind of am so let’s makeout.” ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

After the war, he even makes out with her a little bit at Tara.  This is clearly not okay now or pretty much EVER.   Ashley is the kind of guy who likes all the attention he can get, even though he’s just not that into you.  I’ve totally been there; probably 75% of all the guys I’ve seriously liked were Ashley types, and it’s just not fun.

YOWZA.  Am I right, ladies?!

YOWZA. Am I right, ladies?!

Thank god Scarlett FINALLY realizes Rhett Butler is way hotter than Ashley, not to mention treats her like gold and truly loves her.  Also, let’s be honest: who would rather kiss Leslie Howard over Clark Gable?  No one, children.  NO ONE.

No offense to Leslie Howard, but Gable is sheer sex with a fab mustache.  I like tall, dark, and handsome, not blonde and wishy-washy.  And don’t forget Rhett paid an exorbitant amount of money to purchase a dance with an in-mourning Scarlett because he knew how much she wanted to dance.  Back in those days, if a lady was in mourning, she wasn’t allowed to have fun, so Rhett and Scarlett basically committed social suicide just by waltzing around.  If that’s not a sign of devotion and ballsy-ness, I don’t know what is.  Ladies, hold out for a Rhett.  Ashleys are just not worth it.

Rhett's the best, y'all.  Hold out for a man who'll dance with you even if you're in full 1860s mourning.

Rhett’s the best, y’all. Hold out for a man who’ll dance with you even if you’re in full 1860s mourning.

  • Scarlett pulls a Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey and works as a nurse in a Civil War hospital.  Okay, so we all know that Melanie really is the Lady Sibyl of Gone With the Wind because she’s super nice and selfless and quietly volunteers herself to help with everything whereas Scarlett begrudgingly helps so she LOOKS as selfless as Melanie. But Scarlett does start to suck it up and get the hang of it (even though watching an amputation makes her sick…but who wouldn’t want to vom after seeing someone’s leg cut off?).  She sweats and gets blood on her and still looks amazing and beautiful.  Like, her hair looks even better than all those beauty queen doctors on Greys Anatomy (does no one EVER look frazzled on that show?).  While initially I would be gung-ho about helping with the “War Effort,” the minute I saw someone cutting off a limb or scarred worse than Freddy Kruger, I’d probably faint and then hightail it back to Aunt Pitty-Pat’s where we’d discuss her getting a new nickname because Pitty-Pat suggests spinsterhood, cats, and too many hours spent crocheting things.
  • BIRTHING BABIES.  Since Prissy is an idiot (and with a name like Prissy, how could she NOT be an idiot?  My apologies to any Prissys out there because you probably would at least be able to dial 911 in case of a birthing emergency), Scarlett is forced to birth Melanie’s baby while Atlanta is literally burning down around them.  I mean has there ever been a bigger drop-the-mic moment?!
    I don't know nothing about birthin' no babies...or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER.  Basically, I'm worthless.

    I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no babies…or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER. Basically, I’m worthless.

    Like, Scarlett births that baby then flags down Rhett in a carriage and gets Melanie and the baby inside before hauling ass back to Tara.  Hi, my name is Scarlett O’Hara and I birth babies, save people from mass fires, and drive a carriage by myself back to my home plantation.  [drops mic]  Even Jay-Z couldn’t do that…but I bet Beyoncé probably could because she’s a fierce diva like Scarlett.

  • Taking down a Civil War burglar.  Technically, Melanie is the one who shoots him, but Scarlett gives him a whole lotta shade and sass.  Ladies, THIS is how you deal with would-be rapists and plunderers: grab your shy BFF and make her shoot him for real while you just shoot daggers with your eyes and yell things like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU VARMIT!  (Side note: let’s all make a pact to bring back the word “varmit”)  That’s what I’d do…and also call the police, because God knows Prissy sure wouldn’t know how to do THAT either.
  • The curtain dress.  Only two ladies in history have ever gotten away with this drapery couture: Scarlett O’Hara and Maria from the Sound of Music (okay and those VonTrapp kiddos).
    The best in curtain couture

    The best in curtain couture

    It’s a tricky business wearing your own household decorative items, but Scarlett makes it look like literally the best thing in the world.  If Vogue had existed in 1865, Scarlett would have been on the cover in that thing.  I can barely get away with wearing bedsheets at a Toga party, so there’s pretty much no hope for me wearing window drapes.  Also I don’t have any luxurious, long curtains anyway, so I’d wind up in my window blinds, which would probably come off more Lady Gaga and less Lady Cora Crawley.

  • Face it, ladies: none of us will ever find a man as dashing as Rhett Butler.
    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler.  ANY TIME.

    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler. ANY TIME.

    That whole “you should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how” thing makes me weak in the knees.  Men, you have your work cut out for you.  Always be a Rhett, never be an Ashley.

Basically, Scarlett is the bee’s knees.  Also Mammy because she always gives Scarlett the lowdown when she’s acting like a major beyotch.  Anyway, I’m sure there are a million other reasons I’ll never be as cool as Scarlett, but I’ll think about it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day…

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO: Rose’s Turn!

Rose

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Just Kidding Around

I love Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan so much I could cry...IF there was crying in baseball.

I love Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan so much I could cry…IF there was crying in baseball.

I started training for a new job recently.  In a bout of financial exasperation a little while ago, I combed through the job pages on Craigslist, and on a whim, applied for a job assisting with youth baseball classes on the Upper East Side.  The ad said they were looking for twenty and thirty-something actors who loved baseball and liked kids and wanted some extra money.  I haven’t played baseball in a team setting since about second grade, but I’ve always loved watching the game; not to mention A League of Their Own is one of my favorite movies of all time (For the record, I still get mad that Geena Davis’ Dottie Henson chooses to drop the ball so her sister can win at the end).  For two months, I’ll be helping kids aged 3-6 learn how to play baseball in the sunshine and urban oasis of Central Park.  It’ll be a nice break from office buildings and audition rooms; a return to the simpler days of recess and moms telling their kids to “go outside and play.”

In starting to interact with these kids during my training sessions, it’s gotten me thinking a lot about barriers and inhibitions; the process of covering up our true identities in order to be more socially accepted or “cool.”  We care so much about it that from our teen years on, we never stop trying to be part of the “in crowd” or at least get their nod of approval.  Music, fashion, technology, movies; these things are all built around the here and now, the new, the “it factor.”  They are, as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous would say, an “industry of cool.”

"...an industry of cool." Philip Seymour Hoffman doling out sage advice in Almost Famous

“…an industry of cool.” Philip Seymour Hoffman doling out sage advice in Almost Famous

The kids I’ve been working with fall anywhere from three to six, and most of them are boys.  When they come in to class, they all want to tell you about their pets or the crazy thing they did at recess.  Several of them do very impressive (and accurate) impersonations of Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas & Ferb.  They’re willing to try anything and everything you suggest (for the most part), laughing when you make a silly face or do a weird accent.  They have vibrant, vast imaginations.  These kids run on raw instinct, energy, and emotion; every action or feeling is big and bold, no hesitations.  For them, “cool” doesn’t exist yet nor do these layers and masks we pile on as adults to keep people from seeing our weird, wonderful inner-selves.  Kids are beautifully unfiltered creatures, feeling and exploring every nook and cranny of the world without fear or rules.  It’s all play and no work.

What happens to us?  What is the trigger for this gradual switch from uninhibited and thoughtless expression to secrets and suppressed instincts and feelings?  Somewhere in our formation as human beings, we forget how to do things because we want to or express our thoughts because we must.  We become self-conscious about every word, every outfit, and every action because we’re looking to be accepted by everyone else instead of accepting ourselves first.  Kids don’t understand that, but somewhere, somehow they learn this behavior.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Mad Men.  The very core of the show is about Don Draper struggling between who he was and who he’s become.  Much of Don’s struggle with identity stems from his childhood; in many ways, it’s always the thing against which he battles the most.  He is a self-made man, crafting a new, slick identity to cover up his past as an unhappy nobody.  But the kicker is that the more Don tries to convince himself that is happy with his “new” life – whether that be landing a huge ad account, wedding a young secretary, or ordering around his creative team – the unhappier he ultimately becomes, because he’s spent most of his life pretending to be something and somebody he’s really not.

Who IS Don Draper?

Who IS Don Draper?  I wish I could say an Emmy winner (at least for Jon Hamm).

Don Draper is an enigma; he’s a master of disguise.  He’s the perfect example of the suppression of desires, because he proves the more you squash those instincts, the unhappier and more unfulfilled you become.  As a result, when he DOES give in to his raw instincts, the outcomes are often explosive.  That’s part of what makes Mad Men such a delight to watch (other than the fact the acting and writing are superb; SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE JON HAMM AN EMMY ALREADY).

I took my very first meditation class yesterday, and at risk of sounding like a total cliché, it was a fairly eye-opening experience.  My fabulous acting teacher, Robyn Lee, put together what she calls the “Color Spa,” which is an interactive meditation class using colored lights and principles of the light spectrum to re-calibrate the mind, body, and spirit (to find out more about this event or her upcoming NYC acting classes, hop on over to HERE).  It may sound New Age-y, but instead of judging how weird I may or may not have looked, I let myself succumb to the experience, using my imagination and body without limitations.  In allowing myself to act without restraints, I felt fresh and stripped bare of all the clutter I’ve accumulated for so long in my body and mind and even heart.  It was almost out-of-body; I felt like I was seeing myself in a different light (no pun intended).  I realized how much I personally judge and edit my words and actions before I put them out into the world.  Why do I spend so much time editing myself for the world?  What happened to really, truly being yourself?

I think most of us take that whole “look before you leap” thing too seriously: we spend so much time on the looking that we often don’t leap at all.  Kids, on the other hand, usually leap first and deal with the consequences later.  What we should strive for is something in between: being flexible enough to know when to just leap and have faith we’ll land on solid ground and when we should look first to see whether the leap will be worth it.  We can all learn something from these kids who so lovingly and willingly give themselves over to their rambunctious spirit.  We can all choose to let go and just be like kids do every day, taking the ins and outs of every day life with aplomb.

So I’m looking forward to returning to my youth as I work with these kids, running around and doing silly voices.  No judgments or editing.  No Don Draper emotional layering or looking before I leap.  After all, if you never leap, how can you know whether or not you can soar?

“From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,

Listening to others and considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.” – Walt Whitman