Poetry and femininity

(First written on June 19, 2012) Dead Poets Society came out in 1989 and stars the unique Robin Williams, whose expressions constantly show a mix of amusement and deep sorrow. He plays an English literature teacher in a prestigious private all boys’ school in Vermont, USA. We never really learn what his background is. His teaching methods ignore the school’s strict rules and allow his students to discover their inner creativity and above all their previously buried imagination. The film also stars young Ethan Hawke who, in the picture below, performs an exercise. As he is shy and often embarrassed by the way he speaks, he is having trouble reciting poetry in front of the class. Williams makes him close his eyes and provokes a long tirade about a madman and a blanket to come out of him. Although the film has many moving moments, this scene in particular made me realise (again) how people who are guided by rules and obligations forget that they have fears and ambitions that, if not cultivated, can disappear. Also, it showed me that sometimes you just can’t do everything alone – asking for help, or accepting help is not shameful but courageous: the reason humans are social beings is because we all have something different to bring to the table. Therefore, we can all help each other in different ways.

Here is a nice quote from the film (John Keating, played by Robin Wiliams): “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

The Lebanese film Caramel reminds us of the joys and concerns of being a woman. The story tells of four (or five? or six? or… they keep adding up) women who work and above all live in a Beyrouth beauty salon. One is hoping to become an actress and wears way too much jewellery; one is falling in love with one of her female customers; one is getting married and one is trying to get her lover to leave his wife… unsuccessfully. The reason why the film is called after the sticky candy that is sure to give you tooth cavities is because the beauty salon uses homemade caramel to wax off hair. The opening scene shows various lips sucking on the caramel, showing pleasure, sweetness and beauty, but we later realise that this candy also hurts the hell out of you when your legs are being waxed. The guilty pleasures the ladies are involved in show that even though your friends and family are there for you, the pain you feel can be shared by no one but yourself. The female characters of all ages and the main actress’s make up inspired me to try out my different eye shadows last night and made me wonder: what is it that, underneath it all, makes us women?

I hope to answer this question one day.

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