Netflix can be a blessing or a curse.
Case in point – the other day, I loaded a movie called “Sexy Baby” into my queue.
The synopsis stated: This provocative documentary examines what it’s like to be female in today’s sex-obsessed culture from the viewpoints of three very different women.
And also depressing, frustrating, mind-boggling, rage-producing, and “I’m so over this issue” fatiguing.
The film centers around the completely separate lives of three women:
For reasons likely having to do with both interest and footage, the film largely hones in on Winnifred, who at 12 (she is 14 when the film closes) admittedly has the toughest challenges of her life yet ahead.
Near the end, she says:
I think this is the same with every teenager. You are going through so many changes, and it is so freaking confusing to figure out how you want to portray yourself. And there’s a lot of girls just exploiting themselves and putting themselves out there to be judged by guys and other girls. But at certain point, if you don’t want to become a prop in some guy’s life, you have to find a goal and a path. And I do want to change people’s lives. Um…and I’m not going to do that by being sexy.
Winnifred is right. However, the fact that she knows this, and can articulate it, at age 14, is an insight many teens her age likely yet lack.
As well, it is easy to forget while watching “Sexy Baby” that these three women are people first and “props” (for the filmmakers to explore an issue common to all three) second. There is a lot of nudity, no small bit of rank language, an uncomfortably bloody moment in the operating room (Laura opts to have her labiaplasty on camera), and a number of terms from the adult film industry all jumbled in with the human beings living amongst it all.
Yet each woman has her own life that she is doing her best to live with what she knows in each moment as it unfolds.
If you ask me, I think Netflix is one of the most wonderful inventions ever.
It has everything from nature documentaries to crime dramas to sci-fi thrillers – in short, all my favorites!
Since I find great mentoring through movies and television programs, this means a) I am choosy about what I watch, and b) I watch a lot of things to find what I am looking for.
Recently I’ve been absolutely hooked on a series called “Continuum.”
The central character is a young wife and mom named Kiera. Kiera is a “protector” – a cop in the year 2077. She takes her job very seriously (and has a whole suite of cool gadgets, including a metallic gold suit, to help her reel in criminals).
Then one day, in an attempt to prevent the escape of a group of convicted terrorists, Kiera gets zapped back in time to the year 2012.
Suffice it to say she finds this very challenging on multiple levels.
When I looked up the definition of continuum, my favorite one reads like this:
[A] continuous series of elements or items that vary by such tiny differences that they do not seem to differ from each other.
A runner-up favorite:
[A]nything that goes through a gradual transition.
I never used to think I liked time travel movies or television shows, but somehow this one really resonates. Perhaps it is because I see myself in Kiera.
Even in 2077, Kiera somehow seems a lone wolf, slow to trust, vulnerable to those she has allowed in to her inner world, with a warrior spirit she doesn’t always understand.
In the year 2012, watching her attempts to find her place in a city both vaguely familiar and totally alien reminds me of myself.
From the time I was old enough to call myself “me,” I have felt a little separate, apart, alone. I have struggled not to play the “lone wolf,” to accept my place here, to permit myself to bond, to connect, to fit in.
So as I watch Kiera struggle to make a place for herself, forge new connections, find patience with her situation, and work for good because that is how she is wired (no matter how much she misses her family and her home in 2077), something in me resonates.
When I looked up the definition of “divergent,” I found these interpretations:
a) having no finite limits (a mathematical expression).
b) tending to be different or develop in different directions.
c) farther apart at their tops than at their bases (of plant organs).
I was doing this, of course, because over the holidays I finally got the chance to watch the first film in the “Divergent” series, and I have been pondering it for some weeks since.
In the film (and the book series by the same name by Veronica Roth), there are five segments, or factions, of society.
These factions are:
But there is also a sixth faction – the “factionless,” or divergent, group of people.
These folks have strong elements of more than one faction present within them, and as a result, a) tend not to fit in, and b) tend to be hunted and destroyed mercilessly by those who do fit in.
I say this because I am divergent.
In my last post, I shared that so far, 2015 is a year of big changes in my life.
This time last year, I was still at the helm of MentorCONNECT, the nonprofit I founded in 2009.
This year, as of January 1, the reins are in the hands of a new group of leaders – people I know and trust, but they are still not me.
This time last year, I was broken up with my boyfriend, miserable yet resigned, stoic yet heartbroken.
This year, we enter a new year together and we are – remarkably – stronger than we’ve ever been.
And these are just two of the really big changes accompanying me in 2015.
A few days ago, a friend and I watched a movie called “Birdman,” starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.
Aside from an instant fondness for the title (feathers are always a win-win for me), I found the movie itself somewhat hard to digest.
For instance, there were quite a lot of scenes with dudes running around in their tidy white undies.
Also, actors were portrayed as (yawn) self-centered, a theme I find both overdone and unfair (i.e., are actors truly more self-involved, or does their profession simply cause them to be unable to so easily hide that aspect of our shared human condition?)
Plus, frankly, I really thought the “Birdman” costume could have been better.
All that aside, the most beautiful part of the film for me was a scene where Norton agrees to play “Truth or Dare” with Keaton’s daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone).
In the scene, she asks him – flirtatiously – what he would do to her if he was not afraid.
His answer was both violent and beautiful, and has kept me thinking for days.
In fact, in my first book (which is about mentoring for eating disorders recovery), Beating Ana, I included an entire section of mentoring tips based on my favorite movies.
Those movies are some of the best friends I’ve ever made in life.
Over the years, movies have taught me it’s okay to make mistakes. They have helped me learn about myself and the world. They have given me ideas for how to handle different situations with more grace than I would have otherwise.
Most of all, they have offered me hope – hope to grow from my past rocky start into someone wonderful, someone I’m really proud to be and know.
One movie I have watched over and over (and over and over) through the years is “Contact,” starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey (yes, there is a chapter in Beating Ana about “Contact”).
The characters in “Contact” feel like “my people” – in other words, we don’t fit in, we try to pull off the impossible, we cannot resist wondering “what if?,” we are willing to give everything for life’s most meaningful experiences…..
So many nights when I would feel so alone, I would pop in that movie and feel better right away.
Now there is “Interstellar,” which (to me at least) feels like “Contact’s” younger, super excitable sibling (and in fact, there is an actual connection between the two films that goes back to Dr. Carl Sagan himself).
Such goes my favorite line from one of my new favorite movies, “The Sapphires” (2012).
The film is based on the true story of an all-girl singing troupe who entertained the troops during the Vietnam war.
As aborigines living in their native Australia, the girls were marginalized – even hated. They were not even classified as people by their own government, but instead were considered part of the “flora and fauna.”
A chance meeting with a white talent scout puts them on the road to stardom, but even before this occurs, it is so clear they already have what many stars-in-the-making (and people, for that matter) will never have – a solid foundation of self-esteem to live from.
In fact, when the film opens, one of the future girl singers has just been left at the altar. Even while crying it out in the presence of her mom and sisters, she looks at her face in a hand mirror and bravely says to her mother, “Who wouldn’t love this?” (technically, she names her former fiancé here, but one can substitute any name with the same effect).
And throughout the film, in similar fashion, the girls pull no punches with one another, their scout-turned-manager, or themselves.
They may be young….they may be inexperienced in the ways of the world….but they are not letting any of that get under their skin.
I don’t typically pay much attention to daily news.
This is because I know if really big news hits, I will hear about it from someone.
Such is the case with Nature‘s recent discovery.
It would seem our universe is quite a bit more vast than we may have previously assumed it was.
With study results titled, “this is the most detailed map yet of our place in the universe,” I eagerly scanned the results.
Then I wondered – with surprise – why I wasn’t feeling surprised.
Perhaps is it because I have watched and rewatched the movie “Contact” for years (this movie, of course, is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel by the same name).
In the film, budding scientist (Jodie Foster) asks her dad if there is other life “out there.”
Her dad wisely responds, “Well if there isn’t, it would be an awful waste of space!”
I guess this has always just made sense to me.
Several years ago a friend called and asked me if I wanted to go with him to see a film called, simply, “Milk.”
I like movies in general, and this one sounded innocuous enough. So I said, “Sure!”
I left the theater sobbing.
I was furious with my friend – for inviting me, for not warning me, for reminding me of how deadly stigma and fear can be.
I was furious with the whole world – how could such a bright light be permitted to burn out just when we need bright lights the most?
I was furious, period.
I have never forgotten the movie, and I will never forget what Harvey Milk posthumously taught me.
In his San Francisco mayoral election campaign, Milk exhorted voters, saying:
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better. [emphasis added]
In the film, he explains his strategy by saying that when someone close to you knows that you struggle with a particular type of issue, they are more inclined to vote favorably on that issue at the polls.
Their inclination has nothing to do with the issue itself, and everything to do with how much they care about you – one single person who struggles with that issue and will be helped by their vote.
In other words, when given a choice, people don’t vote for issues. People vote for people – people they know, people they care about, people they love, people they don’t want to lose.
As you may know, I suffered with anorexia and bulimia for 15 years before I started my recovery work. I suffered with severe, crippling depression and anxiety for another decade beyond that. So approximately three-quarters of my life to date has been spent battling one type of issue or another – and battling the stigma and fear surrounding it.
This has formed my belief that the specific type of issue I have, versus the specific type of issue you may have, versus the type of issue a loved one of yours may have, doesn’t really much matter.
We basically need the same building blocks to begin healing – love, empathy, an open door to share and be heard, laughter, friendship, a way to serve, a willingness to be served, and the awareness we are not – are NEVER – alone in our struggles (even if the names of those struggles may change from one person to the next).
Harvey Milk taught me this.
On that note, I have a very dear friend who struggles with bipolar illness. She is one of my oldest, closest friends, and I care for her very much.
You see, I work from home, so I don’t go out every day.
The other night I watched one of my favorite actors, Nicolas Cage, in a movie called “Joe.”
If you have seen the film, you know it is a bit, well, gritty.
Joe himself is rough around the edges (although at times he appears nearly genteel compared with some of his neighbors).
Why am I bringing up this particular movie in a column about mentoring and recovery?
The truth is, as I get older, I find hope in the strangest places, and often it comes in the form of a story of “mentee meets mentor.”
Joe and Gary may have appeared on the surface to be an unlikely mentor-mentee match, but they were a match just the same.
And when the movie ended, what I remembered most – and continue to remember – is that mentoring bond between Gary and Joe.
It is awfully hard to believe he is gone.
I am so very sad!!
In a recent Facebook post about his death, Williams’ friend, writer Anne Lamott, shared how sad she is, and also shared how she has always viewed laughter as “carbonated holiness.”
As a fellow depression sufferer, I too have found much-needed upliftment and release through laughter….and often through laughter at Williams’ antics.
He had that rarest of gifts – the vision to perceive exactly where the fine line lies when addressing serious subjects from a lighthearted perspective.
Two of my favorite Robin Williams movies are “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Good Will Hunting.”
But my current reigning favorite is this six-minute interview clip from 2011.
In the clip, Williams speaks about his work, his life, his kids, his childhood and young adult years, his fame, his addiction, his recovery…..and his fear.