Emptying the hands…
CW: eating disorder mentions (in relation to film portrayals)
I had a post drafted about how most of this year I’ve felt like Don (past his own edges), Ken (“It’s my job!”, *tap dancing 4evr* ) and Dawn (…speechless…), in Mad Men, S6 Ep8, The Crash.
The season is deftly rooted in extremity, and even the acting performances are an expression of that. Themes of Heaven & Hell, drugs and hallucination, utopias, hedonism, campiness, the sublime, over exposure… It’s like the karmic bill for the late 60’s and the Summer of Love has been delivered. Manson & Nixon are at hand.
But then, last Friday happened, and suddenly a great deal gave way or shifted for the better. For many months I have been picturing a shield-like bubble around our company and a situation that’s existed since January (and really before) being ground up like brittle rust between two fingers. That’s essentially what happened. It was a big win. I’m exhausted. But everything feels clean, and taut; good change can again unfold and many long stagnant factors can hopefully begin to find their places.
I’ve been celebrating by frequently staring at the toddler crafts H- and I made last Thursday on a really rainy day. It’s a pretty great memory. Every time he dipped a puff in glue he said: “…dip…” very softly to himself.
The greatest feeling I experience is holding that child in my lap before putting him to bed, and talking to him about his day. Every day I ask him what his favorite part of the day was. And every day he answers the same: “pie.” But he rarely has pie so it’s sort of wishful thinking crossed with hopeful suggestion. I love that child so terminally. It’s a constant ache.
An odd thing is that while I swing widely with the music I listen to with H-, we do end up listening to a good bit of music I did when I was his age. I’m not totally sure why this is, but I see a lot of parents do it. It feels more complicated than nostalgia, more like being emotionally triggered by his age and development. So we listen to Jim Croce, America, Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks, Bill Withers, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills and Nash, hits of the 70’s, etc.
What’s surprising to me is how differently I hear the music at this age versus how it exists in my memory, and also what I don’t turn off or skip past, and what I genuinely like but had forgotten about. I’ve also discovered I’m kind of a Bruce Springsteen fan?? Is this middle age? Is he a gatekeeper?? I mean, Born to Run is a gem, but this seems to be bigger than that. Like, I’m on Fire is a stunning song. His consonance keeps a fleeting song sparsely but firmly anchored. H- tends to favor The Fugees, TLC, and Johnny Cash thus far. That said, he has started asking me to sing, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence,’ because it mentions pie… I’m not going to introduce him to Don McLean.
A few days before the resolution on Friday, I dreamed about a small piece of peridot I have. The suggestion was clear that I should be carrying it with me. It lived in my pocket for the remainder of the week. And then Saturday I dreamed about pulling stones that I didn’t realize I had from out of a bag. Some I didn’t recognize, but also a piece of smoky quartz, then a piece of rose quartz about the size of a quarter. It was sort of a natural heart shape, but had a decent sized chip off the bottom right edge. The chip looked calculated, almost like someone had started to try to shape it like an arrowhead… I guess this is what I get for the nearly the entirety of my social life consisting of taking my son with me to rock and mineral shows and museums. I’m always curious what will catch his eye. So far he favors yellowish agates.
Aesthetics of hunger stuff… feel free to move along.
(Since portrayals of eating disorderd characters are supremely appealing to me, I have to take this film to task. The director really should have watched Angel or Mad Men first for a list of pointers.)
I watched the movie ‘Hungry Hearts.’ I’m pretty certain that I’m really angry at it because despite trying, I can’t find evidence that the film’s aware of what it’s doing. If it is, but didn’t control any part of the thematic delivery and some of its implications, then it’s not only sloppy, but harmful.
First and foremost the characterization of the eating disordered “Nina” (Alba Rohrwacher) begins as a primary viewpoint along with Adam Driver’s “Jude,” then fades to secondary, unreliable, and “other” while Jude mostly remains reliable and emerges as the film’s protagonist, creating an erasure around Nina’s character and role.
There’s no clear statement about Nina’s eating disorder before her pregnancy and labor so we assume a tipping point was reached due to the trauma of the birth or delivery, or that a disorder she was managing became unmanageable. To set up a new mother as eating disordered with almost no exposition into her character is to create an unrelatable, anomalous character for most to the audience. And it deals damage to those afflicted with eating disorders by painting them as monsters, since Nina then begins to starve her baby.
Despite being in NYC in present day, no one (including Nina) seems to have heard of or watches for postpartum depression. The phrase is never even uttered, even by a therapist. Her husband never does a single Google search or stumbles on a mothering forum, he just lets his wife and child dwindle for 7 months before considering there might be a problem.
So here’s a thing in real life: When you become pregnant and go for prenatal appointments, which we know Nina did, the conversation starts nearly immediately–post partum depression, signs of it, the normalcy of it, possible behaviors or feelings. So watching the movie, as a woman or parent who has read anything in the last 20 years, there’s no way to suspend that much disbelief. The film even makes the point of showing Nina advocating for a “natural” birth at a natural birth center (the movie does this with barely veiled rolled eyes), which is a prime place both Nina and Jude would have been made aware of PPD more than once. More unbelievably, Jude’s mom has the least amount of care and compassion for the new mother. She instead calls her ableist names and slurs.
It’s presented vibrantly that once Nina has a child, she’s almost no longer a person who matters. Any personhood she had, has been erased by becoming a mother. And that would be an adept criticism of how our culture treats women, except the film does not state this critically. Instead it’s subscribed to, and underlined.
It’s an epic fail of the filmmakers (see: male director) to not consider or present that the child needs the mother. And Jude is so wholly flawed (though this is never concretely stated… he apparently gets a pass) that he is fairly willing to dispose of his previously beloved wife and his child’s mother, once she has had the child. Any investment into her health and well being is seemingly too problematic and burdensome. The film and characters don’t seem to acknowledge or be aware that her health IS the infant’s health. For the film there’s no grey area possible, such as getting the mother and the child help–just choose between the two and throw away the one with greater, more complicated needs.
Watching a child starve and become damaged because its mother believes she’s doing what’s best, is a brutal story. But watching the child and the mother starve while their only other family member sits on his hands, is inexplicably paralyzed to advocate for his family, and is only capable of taking black or white stances towards his wife (in his eyes she’s all good, then all bad, but never ill) should suggest a different type of “villain,” or create at least balanced implications. But as 2/3rds of the family declines, the film won’t walk near it. Nina is the monster, rather than simply a new mother suffering from what’s at least partly post-partum related mental illness. So when Nina meets a violent end and the child becomes motherless, the story actually concludes far worse than the gold-toned ending of father and son walking on the beach communicates. The kid’s okay and he’s with his dad so what’s a few broken eggs, eh?
There is also a completely strange interpretation of what an eating disorder is (spoiler alert: it’s not veganism, gardening, or choosing naturopathy… wtf?) and why it exists, but that’s a far longer rant.
If the film was trying to make a greater, more intelligent statement, it horribly failed. And if it’s wasn’t, then it’s refuse, but with a great performance by Rohrwacher and a solid one by Driver.
Happy full moon in Aries, all.