Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Whining

Last week I saw Julie and Julia and it was great. My only false step was in eating theater pop corn and not having a good dinner plan, because watching all that beautiful food and then going home to cold cereal or leftover spaghetti was... well it was just plain tragic. The movie was great because of the performers and because of the food and the whole blog connection, it was a fun escape in to kind of a familiar place, with plenty of opportunity to laugh and relate. I very much enjoyed learning about Julia Child, not the one from SNL. Do I need to say Meryl Streep was supremely good? Well, yes, she was supremely good. So was Amy Adams; she's quite capable of bringing depth to the roles she plays.

The only criticism of the movie I have read is that Julie Powell "whined." She got a little self-absorbed and in her blog she hit "publish" when her failures and personal trials were getting the best of her. None of this is kept out of the movie and some critics take issue with the weakness of the character. I could take issue with it too... it's not pretty to see a grown woman cry over aspic or torture herself over what readers think or say or don't say. It's disappointing to watch a capable woman get needy and weak and flustered and overwhelmed and... oh wait... gee... maybe she's human. Yeah, I recognize how unpleasant our my human frailties are, but nonetheless they are real. I think when we don't share those same weaknesses, when we cannot relate specifically to why a spilt aspic is cause for tears, then someone else's whining can be irritating, but the thing is we do all have weaknesses of character and we do all at some point lose perspective or need to express our frustration. And for every person that does not understand Julie Powell's crisis, there is someone that can totally relate, someone that will feel connected to the honesty of the moment.

This is not a blow-up movie with hostages or aliens, neither is it presented as a documentary about the ideal heroic figures of the last hundred years. I am not saying it is a movie above reproach, but the criticism that Julie Powell behaved like a flawed person is weak, it lacks empathy or an ability to see and accept a person in full light. And maybe it helps to understand blogging to understand the movie and the character of Julie Powell. Like Julie Powell I started blogging in 2002. We weren't the earliest pioneers, but the Blogosphere was a pretty wide open frontier in those days. Blogging is not journalism... well, it can be journalism, but most of us bloggers are telling a personal story. Blogging is new frontier in writing and it does not have the same parameters or rules, as we expect from traditional essays, magazines or short stories. Blogging can be raw and honest, it can be personal and newsy, and it can be insightful and intelligent and I could go on and on with more examples, because blogging is anything.

Because blogging is anything, there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to me, so I don't read it. And there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to you, so you know... don't read it. It's interesting to consider what "should" and "should not" be published in a blog. Remember there are no guidelines or definitions in this medium and though critics may decry all the "whining," there are many who embrace the open and honest conversations about the small joys, personal trials, doubts, fears, successes and reflections. I think it is interesting to see how all of this publishing and expression will get sorted out. Blogging presents a tremendous shift in our social culture and our ways of communicating. A lot of bloggers are unlocking their diaries and leaving them out on the coffee table... this is weird stuff, and some of it is very interesting. Anyone uncomfortable with vulnerability and emotions might want to be careful when navigating the Blogosphere. And I know as a blogger I am constantly feeling for the walls, for the limits of what to say and what to keep to myself, and I have hit "publish" when I was less than heroic and then regretted it because I felt whiny and wide open... but then someone says thank you or I understand and then it makes sense to be honest, to reach out and admit how human I am.

We are accustomed to getting our news and information from "real publishers," from established sources like magazines and books, but I think those sources are a bit untrustworthy... untrustworthy in the sense that their ultimate objective is to sell you something. I am the first to admit that a glossy layout from Martha Stewart makes the world seem shiny and bright, but the luster fades when I try to apply the stylized, censored, edited version to my real life. Oprah's publication is loaded with advice and pearls of wisdom, but every other page is a sales pitch for favorite things and Fall fashions and stuff to sell, and that doesn't included the actual ads, so all the feel good messages, for me, get lost in translation and ultimately I feel disconnected. I'm cool. I like buying stuff and I like to wishfully plan a beautiful meal or decorate my living room for success and aesthetics, while saving the whales, but I need other sources and resources too. I like to read about the real experiences of people, their setbacks and successes. I like to know that there is a greater possibility that what I am reading in someone's blog is true, their truth, and that I am not getting a filtered version with good lighting and heavy content editing.

I don't think Julie Powell whined too much. She just told her whole truth, and sometimes it was less than glamorous and sometimes we wanted her to be a better person, but I think an honest person is better... better than a fictionalized, dressed up version of the truth. Not all obstacles are in a battlefield, not all battles are fought in trenches, and not all stories are tragic or meant to change the course of justice or include a huge pointed message about the will to live. Thank goodness.

All week we have been swinging from crisis to crisis and I have been less than glamorous, and I just thought I would point out that I have not posted a single whiny post. I am so proud. And yes, I do appreciate that *bragging about not whining* is almost as irritating as actually whining, but it's my blog. So there.


nikkipolani said...

I think you've hit the reason people enjoy blogs. It's one thing to have the ideal in glossy magazine pages, and quite another to see it pictured on someone's kitchen counter, to hear how their family liked/didn't like it, to see how it worked out for them. Like real life. Speaking of which, hoping the house thing is still working out for you.

Cathy said...

I've been enjoying reading your blog and "getting to know" you and your family. I think knowing that other people are also experiencing the normal ups and downs of life makes it easier to deal with my own. And it's also fun to "share" in the joys and triumphs you see others experience. I'm fairly new to blogging but I find it a fun way to keep my family and friends updated on life at our house. I also wish you good luck on your home purchase.

Jennifer said...

I read the book and wasn't sure about going to see the movie, only because I really enjoyed the book as another blogger's adventure and I wasn't sure how/if that part would translate to the big screen. Movie critics in general as well as our overall culture have a problem with weak women AND a problem with strong women, which leaves us in a real void about who we real human beings turn to for inspiration.... (I don't feel I'm expressing this very well but I hope you know what I mean). I met Julia Child once; I took a cooking class that she taught with Jacques Pepin (sounds much more grand than it was -- a one-night session in a large theater-style classroom at Boston University). Anyway -- she really was a hoot, and larger than life.

Sara said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie.

Thanks for your honesty and excellent thoughts here about blogging. Life is messy and I like that in many blogs you can see that it's not only your own life that's messy; everyone has things to deal with. That's just the way it is. Never mind those glossy magazines and their idealized version of how it should be! Your post is refreshing, as are all your posts.

Yes, I was wondering about the house thing too, as nikipolani mentioned. Everything moving along ok?

judy in ky said...

I like what you said about blogs. When I read the "glossy" blogs I am left untouched, and feel like I don't know the person behind it. When I read blogs based on truth, I feel like there is a real person behind it, sharing the kinds of successes and failures that we all experience in life. Your blog reflects who you are, which keeps me coming back.

As for Julie Powell, I thought Amy Adams made her so charming that I barely noticed the whining. But at least she herself admitted it after Eric pointed it out to her. Also, having worked in a tiny cubicle answering phones all day, I could understand her wanting to break away and accomplish something.

Laura Jane said...

Its your blog and you can whine (or keep it to yourself) if you want to....but you knew that already.

To whine or not to whine? That is a question....but do I love it? I certainly love having a blog, about my real world, if that's what I wish to discuss. Or not.

I think this movie sounds interesting, I haven't read the book. Lesley and I saw "Septeber Issue" yesterday - it was a doco and quite fascinating, and full of real women (who often whined, and for good reason).

Hope your crises settle down, mine are...settling.

~KQ~ said...

your post: brava.
your life, just now: hang in there, wait for the corner, bless you.
thanks for writing what you do!

tara said...

Keep on keepin it real. I guess we could all read sculpted sanitised educational literature. Would there be a quiz after?