Laughing at Yourself

jamie_dAfter writing my last post on being a special Mum, concerned family and friends pointed out that some readers might not realise I’m joking. So please let me assure you I was joking. Of course there were elements of truth in what I wrote. I do sometimes drink smoothies and I even have a secret desire to make my own yoghurt. And perhaps I even fall into the trap of thinking I’m so very, very, very, special. I suppose in part my post was laughing at myself.

However coming from a family with four bothers, I’ve learnt from a young age to snap out of such nonsense. It’s not that healthy self-esteem wasn’t encouraged, but anything pretentious, or inflated was definitely to be laughed at. After all, this motherhood caper has been going on for centuries. You don’t become a special Mum because you start blogging about it.

My sister picked up  that my post was in part inspired by the character of Irene in the Scotland Street series, written by our favourite Alexander McCall Smith.  Irene’s character is a satire on helicopter parenting. She forces her six year old son to learn saxophone, take yoga and learn Italian. In fact he does so many extra curricular actives he has no time to play. She paints his room a lovely pink, as she wants to raise him gender neutral. For his birthday he wants a Swiss Army knife and instead she gives him a gender neutral doll. Irene is very educated and very irritating.

I remember when I heard the author speak at the Opera House I spotted one of my university lecturers in the audience. I was surprised because this particular lecturer had told us that she puts her little boy in a dress to allow him to pick his own gender. Not unlike Irene I would have thought.  Obviously she didn’t mind someone having a laugh at her lifestyle. We all like to laugh at ourselves to a certain extent.

As another example take Ja’mie, the absolutely obnoxious private school girl.  I’ll bet it’s the private school girls who are laughing the loudest. They get the joke even better than the rest of us.

Oscar Wilde was wonderful at getting society to laugh at itself. His plays were written for the English upper class and made fun of the upper class. They laughed wildly at themselves being ridiculous on-stage.

I truly hope satire can in some way be a force for good. Perhaps there was an English upper class twit, who after seeing The Importance of Being Ernest, decided that true love shouldn’t be superficial – you should love someone for more than their name. Perhaps their are private school girls who after watching Ja’mie have decided to be less of of a bully. I truly hope they at least realise that Ja’mie is a pretty poor example of humanity.

We can but hope…

Baz Luhrmann directs The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel (musical)

The Scarlet Pimpernel

If I were friends with Baz Luhrmann, I would tell him for his next film, he should direct The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

This melodramatic and wonderfully romantic novel, which was also written as a play, would be perfect for Baz. The novel is about romance, fashion, adventure and over blown situations and characters.

Don’t you dare cast Leo again Baz! I think Mathew Goode or Rupert Penry-Jones  should be the Scarlet Pimpernel and Marguerite, his wife, should be played by Marion Cotillard. James McAvoy could be Chauvelin. He’d have the perfect level of intensity.

When I was a teenager, The Scarlet Pimpernel was my favourite book – I couldn’t resist the romance. Sir Percy Blakeney, who disguises himself as the Scarlet Pimpernel, is an irresistible character. He seems all powerful like superman, broods like Mr Darcy, dresses as well as James Bond and has this carefree attitude to life that was dangerously charming to a 15 year old reader. I would trust Baz to bring The Scarlet Pimpernel to life in all its theatrical glory.

Baz Lurhmann was not the right person to direct The Great Gatsby. Fitzgeralds novel is subtle and full of ambiguity. Lurhmanns film completely trashes every hint of subtlety. Toby Maguire, as the narrator, explains away every ambiguous line and every symbol in the film. The film leaves nothing up to audience. I felt Lurhmann had taken the advice to heart that an English teacher might tell her students: “Assume the reader knows nothing.” The film assumes we know nothing and it also assumes that without visual and verbal explanations, we are unliky  to understand. Give us some credit.

I actually enjoyed Lurhmanns film – how could you not? It’s beautiful to watch, fun, exciting and vibrant. The acting was fantastic; Joel Edgerton was perfect. However this film just didn’t do justice to the novel. The novel made me think, or ponder, if I can use such a word. The film left me with a ringing headache.

Three reasons to be grateful

Have you ever had one of those weeks when you have too much to do? This is my week. Pressed for time, I even resorted to getting a coffee from the drive through at McDonalds. A new low I felt. However life’s not too bad; here are some good things happening.

1. Soup: this months Donna Hay magazine has some truly delicious soups to try. My favourite so far has been the pea and ham; the bright green soup puts me in a better mood. The recipe calls for sour dough bread crumbs to be sprinkled on top – this is an inspired detail!

2. Inspector George Gently: I’ve recently rediscovered this TV show and am loving it. It’s brilliantly written and you’ll laugh and possibly cry with each episode. I also like feeling I’ve just had a history lesson on 60’s social issues with murder solved. Haven’t had much time but there is a long weekend coming up…

3. Jane Austen: my drama students are performing some scenes from Austen and their enthusiasm is awesome. At first they absolutely HATED Mr Darcy when he snobbed Lizzy. Then they LOVED him when he told her how much he “ardently admired and loved her.” It’s so wonderful for them to be 17 and truly discovering Austen for the first time. I’m grateful to be part of that.

So chin up. Life’s still pretty good.

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Are movies too beautiful?

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s  – what’s that film about? My cousin summed if up for me last week by saying it’s about consumerism. Whilst it’s a critique on superficiality, one of the main reasons we celebrate that film is for its fashion and style.

That’s the trouble with films, they tend glamorize the very thing they intended to critique.

Take for example The Devil Wears Prada. I’m just finishing the book and it leaves me in no doubt that the fashion world can be outrageously superficial. It emphasizes  that Miranda Priestly is feared and adored out of all proportion to any merit she might possess.

In contrast, the film bows reverently to fashion. The heroine Andrea, is taught a lesson for not “respecting” the fashion world. She looks foolish and ignorant and for that reason decides she needs a make-over.  In the novel, Andrea slowly decides to make over herself because  of the bullying and snide comments she receives at work.

The fuss around The Great Gatsby movie, similarly shows the power of film to completely gloss over the more serious messages contained within a story. Will we walk away from that film wondering how the rich can be so thoughtless and careless with the lives of others? Will we see the tragedy of Gatsby’s dream?

Or will we be thinking about the fur, the sequins and flapper style fashion we wouldn’t mind incorporating into our wardrobe?

I must apoligise for the negativity of this post! Are there any films out there, that critique superficiality without being a total sell out? I honestly can’t think of any.

Clothes might take away stress

emma11Women love talking about weight. Or we talk about fat, sugar, ‘food guilt’, our legs, arms, bum, breasts, hair, skin, tan and so on… It can be quite boring.

When I was a teenager, I loved watching movies and TV set in the past. Looking back, I liked the way they represented women.

In these “costume drama’s” the emphasis was on a women’s personality rather than her body. These women spent time worrying about being a better person; they wanted to be more kind, confident, rational and wise. All my favourite female characters were witty and intelligent; they could hold their own in any verbal battle. You really can’t get any better than Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse!

These women were also beautiful, however their beauty wasn’t about having perfect legs. They could even be beautiful with clothes on. Their clothes covered quite a lot of their body.

Do you remember the moment in Clueless, which is an appropriation of Jane Austens Emma, when Josh realises he loves Cher? She is walking down the stairs, wearing a dress no bigger than a pillow case. And you can tell by his face that he suddenly realises just how ‘hot’ she is.

I always hated that part of the movie. Mr Knightly, from Emma (pictured above)didn’t need to see Emma in a “pillow case dress” to fall in love.

Some people have told me it can be quite empowering to wear less clothes. They say that wearing a shirt that barely covers your undies, or a top that lets your breast nearly topple out, can really show your confidence.

Honestly, that has never rung true for me.

Women, who lived in a time when they covered up, must have been less self-conscious about their bodies. It just makes sense. With more clothing coverage, you wouldn’t have to worry if your tummy was a little flabby or your thighs were a little wide. Contemporary clothes can be quite unforgiving on anyone with womanly curves.

When the average Australian girl spends her summer wearing the teeniest shorts possible, she has so much to worry about. Her legs have to be tanned, toned, waxed, skinny and long. And that’s not taking into account all the other grooming she will need to do on the rest of her body. This is a lot to achieve every day of the week. It might leave little time for having fun and developing her brain power.

She might become very competitive, but it’s not whilst playing sport or doing an exam, it’s about comparing legs.

One of my students told me she used to get up an hour and half earlier in the morning to put on her tan, straighten her hair and do her makeup. She rarely found time do her homework.

Obviously female clothes should be functional; I’m not saying we should return to wearing corsets. However there is so much pressure on women to expose and sell their body. Clothes should just make us look even more beautiful.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful if women could spend less time fussing about their appearance? Imagine what we could achieve.

Saturday Movie: A Letter to Three Wives

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Your good friend has run away with your husband. What would you do?

This clever film centres around three wives who have been sent a letter by their friend. She tells them she has run off with one of their husbands. This friend, Addie Ross, neglects to say which husband.

We never see Addie, but from all the women say, we know she is beautiful and charming. Her friends dislike her immensely.

The three wives, off on a children’s’ picnic all day, are forced to reflect on their marriages, wondering if their husband could have left them.

How does it end? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

The stand out character in this film is Rita Phipps (played by Ann Sothern).  She is witty, down-to-earth, kind and has a terrible temper. Rita and her husband (Kirk Douglas) fight with great enthusiasm and somehow their relationship seems the most genuine and loving.

All the female characters are strong in this film. I love the scene where we see Linda Darnell’s first date with her husband. He is a very wealthy man and arrives outisde her home and beeps the horn. She coolly lets him wait  He beeps it again. Eventually he is forced to come inside and she makes him wait even more by finally going to get her handbag.

The 1940’s fashion is fabulous and so empowering. Perhaps I’m being nostalgic but these women, dressed in their gorgeous, perfectly fitted outfits seem so confident. Sometimes I think jeans and t shirts, while very comfortable, can make us so self-conscious and sloppy.

In A Letter to Three Wives  each wife must consider what could be driving their relationship apart and if there is enough happiness to keep them together. Outwardly they all blame Addie Ross for being the type of woman who would steal a husband however the movie delves into their memories. They suddenly face up to the conflicts and misunderstandings in their marriages and realise they have nothing to do with another woman.

The film seems to suggest that Addies malicious letter actually does them a favour.

This film can be bought for nearly nothing on Amazon or downloaded. As my younger, more techo savvy sister scoffingly says – “everyone downloads films these days. ”

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3 Questions for a Dentist

Going to the dentist seems to me like visiting the demon barber of Fleet Street. A ridiculous thought because the modern  dentist is thoroughly hygienic and nearly pain free.

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As a child I found them frightening because they wore a mask. What were they hiding? And then they always seemed to ask me so many questions when my mouth was full of cotton wool. I’ve had the works – braces, a plate and all four wisdom teeth pulled out.

My grandparents’ stories of the dentist are horrific. If in doubt the dentist would just pull out your teeth, with very little pain relief. Now my dentist even numbs the pain of the needle which will numb even more pain.

My sister-in-law Siobhan is a dentist. She is nothing like the demon barber. Recently she told me that the first thing most of her patients say to her is: “I hate dentists!”

Poor dentists. They do get rough treatment from us. Imagine if you went to the hairdresser and said. “I hate all hairdressers . They might be forgiven for dying your hair blue or something nasty. But dentists just have to grin and bear it.

Recently I plucked up the courage to ask her three questions I have always wanted to ask a dentist.

  1. For how long should we clean our teeth?

Twice a day for two minutes.

(Two minutes is quite a thorough job I find. I remember as a kid being quite satisfied with a achieving a minty freshness. Lucky for the old walk around the house, have a chat to anyone watching TV, otherwise that two minutes could get quite boring…)

  1.  On a scale from 1 to 10 how bad is the average Australians breath?

I don’t really notice because I have my mask on. I only notice when I have a patient who hasn’t brushed their teeth for 6 months.

 

  1. Is there a certain enjoyment in pulling out teeth? What would you compare it to?

It’s completely neutral and you can’t compare it to anything. It’s all just part of the job.

I was impressed with her truly professional answer. Personally, I think it would be quite satisfying to pull out a rotting tooth. There would be the juicy twist and delightful pop as it’s wrenched out.

Perhaps it’s lucky I never felt the calling to become dentist.

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