Eat Pray Love (Murphy, 2010)

(c) 2010 Columbia Pictures

The following is an excerpt from the August 2010 1More Podcast (Episode 6), dealing with backlash.


I liked the movie. One of the things I liked about it…the movie was stewed […..], and most Americans, I think, like their entertainment in a more distilled form. I found myself refreshed or appreciative of the fact that this wasn’t distilled [….] I think some of the problems the movie had [was] that it tried to take a book that sounds like it was more that way [stewed] — here’s my personal experience and here’s a long process of all of it, and were trying to push it more in the direction the audience would be comfortable with — which is a commercially narrative film.

I may just be on the anti-backlash backlash bandwagon […] because I did consciously find myself aware while watching the movie that…wow, there’s going to be a lot of people that really, really, really hate this movie, and I know some of them, and I know the reasons why I think they will hate this move, and…I don’t want to be that person. I want to distance myself from that person…one of them is along the gender divide [….] I think that there will be a number of conservatives or evangelicals who really hate the movie because they will perceive it as being anti-marriage.

I think this goes back to [the idea of backlash created by people who have] anxiety or conflict about other things. I think there is a segment of the masculine population [….] that is really struggling with a kind of resentment at having lost an amount of [privilege or security] that comes from there being less–although by no means none–stigma towards divorce and towards women who initiate divorce, and get out of marriages…and, so I think there’s a certain amount of residual frustration that often expresses itself towards feminism and the ‘evils of feminism’ and the way it [has]  changed our society…and then along will come an artifact, and that just becomes a convenient sort of anchor for a lot of this free-floating anger. I think there will be this [cultural or gender divide of] some people not even getting to the point of understanding her values or her experiences or trying to get at them, but who will just say ‘she clearly doesn’t share mine’ and therefore, somehow or another ‘I’m afraid that mine are being attacked or impugned in some way and I will just reflexively reject anything that [the film] has to offer.’

Eat Pray Love is not a perfect film. A fan of the book, who saw the film with me, called it “the book-lite.” Yet she also said it got “enough” of what made the book great (for some) to be a worthwhile adaptation. As someone who hadn’t read the book, I felt I understood intuitively what she meant. The weakest parts of the film were those elements imposed on the material by the structure of a commercially narrative film–but there was enough fidelity of the book to resist the momentum towards turning the story into one where the narrative resolution serves as the philosophical answer.

I was able to accept this not as a blueprint for how to live my life but as one woman’s story about how she chose to try to live hers and things that she learned while doing it. On that level, I think it works fine, just so long as the reader doesn’t try to extract from it the answers to life, the universe, and everything.

To hear more about my take on the film or what the other participants thought, check out the podcast at the above link or on Itunes.

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