The Women 1939by Kara McLaughlin

“Don’t be bitter. It leads to Botox.”Womenposter08

The Women is a remake of the film, originally produced in 1939 towards the end of the Great Depression. Originally written as a satirical portrait of the wealthy ‘society ladies’.
The plot centres around Mary Heins (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer, who has  ‘everything’ any women could dream of;  a fancy country house,  rich husband, cute daughter, a maid, a nanny and even good looks (although according to her friends she is neglecting her appearance).

As the story develops Mary’s ‘world’ begins to collapse all around her. Her daughter complains that she is too busy organising charity lunches and the alike, her father fires her from his clothing design business and she discovers that her husband is having an affair with a ‘Spritzer girl ‘(perfume sales woman).

In the midst of grappling with her newly shattered life, Mary goes away to a self help camp. It is here that she meets the ‘Countess,’ a five time divorcee (Bette Midler). Late one night, while they are smoking a joint, the Countess gives Mary some advice that becomes the ‘turning point’ for her character. The Countess’ advice is simple, people say it is bad to be selfish, but it is not. Mary is advised to do things for herself.

This advice seems to awaken something within her and Mary’s transformation begins. She starts her own clothing design business and begins taking care of her appearance. Her relationship with her daughter is still on tender hooks, but when her daughter sees her fashion show, reconciliation and admiration begins. Her husband even comes crawling back, but by the end of the film (via a phone conversation) Mary makes it clear that he can only come back on her terms.

The film has a typically stereotypical ‘Hollywood-esque’ plot and characterisation. However, I watched this film shortly after we had been discussing the beasts of our culture at Sharrow Vale; specifically individualism (fulfilment is realised by living for yourself), materialism (life is defined by what you possess), hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) and consumerism (meaning is in our ability to purchase).

What struck me most about this film was its solution to Mary’s problem. As you were watching the film, the Countess’ advice appears to be the truth. Mary becomes a success, she is now living for herself. Isn’t that what was missing after all?  She seems to get what she wanted and it looks like she is going to live happily ever after.

It comes subtly, ‘fulfilment is realised by living for yourself,’ our culture whispers. We need to continually compare the solutions of the ‘beast’ with the truth of the Lamb, ‘If anyone wants to come after me, he has to deny himself and take up his cross.’