My daughter and I had an argument the other day. Honestly, we often have arguments. This particular argument was about a movie we had seen. “Sweet Charity” from 1969 starring Shirley MacLaine. Spoiler alert- I am about to give you the basic plot of the movie, so be forewarned in case you ever want to dig back into the archives and watch it.
“Sweet Charity” takes place in NYC in the sixties. It is based on a Fellini Film our night in umbria or something like that- I’m too lazy to google the actual title. Charity is a woman roughly in her 30’s, who is a dance hall hostess, meaning, men pay to dance with her at a club. She has spent her youth giving her heart to men who are very undeserving of her love, or of anyone’s love. She meets a respectable, honorable guy and falls in love. They plan to get married…she quits her job…guy decides not to marry her because she has had too many lovers and he can’t get past it. She is sad for a tiny bit, and them she is literally singing in the park.
My daughter and I saw this film as a part of film festival honoring women in NYC who were tough and uncompromising and heroines. Other titles in the festival included “Working Girl” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Whenever possible, I try to expose my daughter to film, art, books, etc that feature strong, positive, female characters.
Ok- I know you all want to know about the argument.
Was this movie really about a woman who overcomes adversity?
Daughter: She’s basically a prostitute. Her job is to look attractive and get men to dance with her.
Me: She wasn’t having sex with them.
Daughter: but she was still in a subservient position to men, and her only way out was to get married
Me: Yes. But first off- you have to take the film for when it was made. This was probably revolutionary in the sixties. She doesn’t marry the guy and she tries to make the best of it. (she was probably relentlessly positive actually)
Daughter: You can’t appreciate something “for the time it was done”. You have to appreciate work in the context of the time you are watching it. Does it hold up?
And there is todays questions:
When you are watching, looking, reading something cultural, do you interpret it from the perspective of 2018, or do you look at it through the lens of when it was created?
Is it possible for my 16 year old (or any young person) to look at something and not view it through the eyes of the feminist world as it stands now?
What does it mean for something to stand the test of time?
When I am watching a movie, or reading a book or looking at art I always try to remember the context of when it was created. I put things in historical perspective. I think things need to be looked at contextually. Is this the wrong way to approach something?
We all know I am never wrong, but in this particular circumstance, am I less than right?
How do you approach something greater than a decade old? Appreciate the craftsmanship, or think of it through 2018 eyes?