Star Wars meets a 4 year old feminist!
I felt the urge to write today. So I made a pot of coffee, I'm eating a really gross peach yogurt from Ralphs, and listening to the buzz of the dishwasher. I'm not quite sure how to collect my thoughts on the topic that's inhabiting a lot of space in my mind. Isn't funny how sometimes the things we think about the most are the hardest to explain?
I'll start with what's happened outside of my brain, and go from there. I'm teaching a class this semester called "Grease Meets Star Wars." And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds! I basically wrote a mash up musical of the two classic stories and I'm now directing the show with some amazingly hilarious and enthusiastic 4-6 year old all stars. All they really want to do is dress up in the costumes and run around and play pretend...but really, isn't that what acting is all about anyway? They're learning the songs and begrudgingly learning the lines one at a time. Ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong!
Most of the kids in the class are boys. Smelly, dirty, hilarious, fart-loving boys. Seriously, I have never heard so many unabashed, live out loud, fart sounds in my whole life - and I grew up with 5 brothers. I guess that's what being a little boy is all about! Then, I have two little girls. One who is blond and loves wearing pink and only pink. And one who has wild curly black hair, batman shoes, dirty knees, and dresses like one of the guys. For purposes of this blog, I'll call her Emma. I could tell from day one that Emma wanted to do all the things the boys did. She liked to pretend punch & kick and knew all about the Star Wars series! Her favorite character was Luke Skywalker. But when it came time to cast the show, Emma was my strongest leading lady. She has a beautiful voice, great acting skills, and I knew she would make one KICK ASS Princess Leia. So, I cast her as Leia, and waited to see how it went over.
It didn't go over that well. Her mother had some issues with the tone of the script and the motives of Leia's character. She felt it sent the wrong kind of messages to her daughter about what a strong woman is. I had mashed up Sandy from Grease with Leia from Star Wars - so it was a mixture of two different classic female characters - ones that you often meet in fairy tales and contemporary fiction. These are the damsels in distress and sexy, bad ass rebels. Whether they're kicking ass, using their sex appeal to get what they want, or innocently waiting to be saved, they know what they want, and what they want is a man - to love them, to notice them, to save them. They dress, speak, and act for a singular purpose - get a guy. Just look at them!
Our show is obviously a new take on the stories. Princess Leia steals the evil blueprints for the death star in an attempt to win Han's attention. She gets captured by Darth Vader, and Luke & Han & crew sweep in to save her.
Unknowingly, I had stripped Leia of a lot of her bad-ass, rebel, in your face, I don't need a man-ness, and replaced it with Sandy's weak, pretty-girl, hope-lessly devoted-ness. The character was dependent on a man in everyway.
Needless to say, I changed the script. Leia steals the prints for the Rebel Forces! Quickly puts any guy in their place if they try to tell her she needs to be saved. We made her bad ass again.
I put myself in that mom's shoes. Do I want my daughter, when I have one, to grow up feeling as if the only motivation in life to succeed is to win the favor of a heroic man? No, I don't! In many ways, is that what I was brought up to believe? .... yes.
How can you escape this message? I give the mother props for protecting her daughter's psyche and allowing her to be as bad ass and butch as possible. But pick up any book from any period of time, watch any film, check out any tv show, and what you will find are women characters - strong, weak, ugly, pretty, smart, dumb, young, old - searching for that pot of gold - A MAN. I have never truly realized how HUGE this is ingrained into me until now. Just take the most iconic female centric TV show of the past 10 years, Sex in the City. The entire show was about strong, smart independent women with money - who can't talk about anything else but trying to find a man. WTF!
Men have such different measures of success. They look for paychecks, education, jobs, living situations, muscles, notches on their bedpost. But for women, really, what is the measure of our success? Is a woman ever going to be truly considered successful until she lands a good man? I wonder. Isn't what we value most in women, still to this day, in 2011, their looks and their marital status.
Where does that leave us women? Because we can achieve all kinds of success on our own. We can have careers, education, homes, babies, masterpieces, health, spiritual growth, and more. On our own. And yet, without a man, we are still somehow missing the mark. But we still live in a society with antiquated traditions around dating - men do the asking, men pay, men propose, etc. So we are still damsels in distress. Breathlessly waiting in a tower for our princes.
Well, this conditioned mental state has caused me a lot of pain. And I'm done with it. It's over! On a spiritual level alone, I can no longer live my life thinking that something OUTSIDE of my heart and soul will make me happy or worthwhile. My worth cannot come from a man. My joy cannot come from some arbitrary circumstance! Who has the time or patience to wait around for happiness anyway?!
Getting hitched is no longer a given, ladies. Men & women are all sorts of mixed up about how to get together these days. We are no longer forced to marry because of economic or social standards. So maybe we won't.
But we MUST find a way to live - happy, joyous, and free - with or without a man! We are not missing a piece of our body. We are whole and complete. WE are the heroes of our own lives! WE do the saving. WE do the loving. WE can make ourselves feel beautiful. WE can make our dreams come true. And WE can learn how to love and choose a wonderful partner when the time is right.
But I'll say it once for me and again for you. My worth is not dependent on my ability to snag a man. My worth is intrinsic. It is and always will be.
So Leias be damned, and Sandra-dees can take a hike! We need a new model. We need a new heroine for 2011. If you know of any - authors, singers, film makers, activists, etc. - women - who are smashing this old stereotype and living with a new purpose in mind- send them my way!
I'm reading an awesome book right now by one of these women called "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress" by Susan Jane Gilman. This is from the author as the introduction: I've written this book, in part, because it seems that all of us could use a good laugh these days. Yet I've also written it because so many of the stories women are currently telling are all about getting a man. Or about getting over a man. Or about getting laid. Or about not getting laid. Or about not getting laid and not getting a man, but deciding we're okay with it.
Having spent criminal amounts of time sleeping with inappropriate men myself, then bragging about it, I love hearing about other people's romantic and sexual ineptitude as much as the next person. Yet ultimately, there's so much more to women's lives that's worthy of attention and ridicule...It's my hope that these "coming of age" stories will make readers laugh, and prove once and for all that a girl doesn't need a guy in her life in order to act like a complete idiot. Certainly I, at least, never have."
Here are two young ladies living the dream! I'm sure tons of you have seen this. I can safely say neither of them have a man on the brain. It's all about the joy of being a woman. LIVE LOUD AND PROUD, LADIES!