Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mona Lisa Smile

There are movies that entertain you, movies that make you laugh, movies that make you cry, movies that make you remember some memories, movies that you don't like... and there are some other movies that can change your perspective on certain things and can get to your soul, and those are the type of movies I like to write about.

This was a Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts weekend, so I watched "Love Actually", "Notting Hill", and "Mona Lisa Smile". All good movies, I sort of cried with the three of them, but the only one that really got me was the one I've just finished, "Mona Lisa Smile". I don't know if it can make it to my favorite movies, but it definitely makes it to one of the best movies I've ever seen, which is a completely different thing, I mean, the movie Crossroads, starring Britney Spears, is one of my favorite movies, but one of the worst Hollywood movies ever. The thing is, this movie really, really caught me.

If you haven't watched it, it takes place back in the 50's, the decade where stereotypes were created: men were meant to go to work every morning, and women were meant to take care of the house. A decade where the country was in fear of an atomic bomb being dropped by the Soviets. A decade of discrimination and racism. And sadly, a decade that was far away from revolution and change, two things that finally came in the 60's and later.

"Mona Lisa Smile" is about a woman, Katherine Watson, who gets a job at one of the best universities for women to teach "Art History" (something that I would like to do in some other life). She gets to teach to all of these girls who are brain washed by society, and are waiting for the first rich man to come and propose to them. Katherine comes with her feminist ideals and helps them to look at life with different eyes, letting them know how much they are worth it, encouraging them to be better, to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, to stop depending on a man, and to be independent. The movie is basically about how hard it is for them to understand this new perspective that Mrs. Watson is trying to show them. It is an amazing message that I wish women could have had back in the 50's.

"I thought I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow's leaders, not their wives!" - Katherine Watson 

But the idea of being independent is not shown only through the ideas of marriage and society. What I love the most about the movie was the respect that Katherine Watson has for her own self. At the end of the movie, the board of education of the school decides to call her back for the next school year, but they do not give her the freedom to give her message to her students, and the only way they are going to let her teach again in that school is by controlling her classes. Even though teaching in that school is her dream, she declines the offer, because she stays true to herself, to her beliefs, and to her biggest goal, which is to make a change. She gives up her dream for that simple goal, and she quits.

That reminded me of myself. I realized that right now, I am quitting my dream. I am on the right track that could lead me to everything I've ever wanted, but something tells me that there is something wrong with it. You know, someday I would like to get to the top, doesn't matter what I end up doing in college, whatever I decide, I want to be the best at it. Being in the USA means that I could go to a really good university, improve my English skills, improve my talent is certain things, meet the right people that could help me, and do the right things that could lead me to where I want to go. But there is something missing: freedom and happiness. I figured that I want nothing if I don't have the freedom to do whatever I want with it, and if I am not able to enjoy my way to the top, so I decided to quit my dream of being in the States, go back to the place where I know I'm going to have a good time, and take another way. At the end, my goal is the same one: be good at whatever I decide to do. I am just taking another road. It can be shorter or it can be longer, but I am taking the road that is not going to just take me where I want to go, but it is also going to make me happy, because happiness is not a destination, it is journey. Mrs Watson ended up going to Europe, not teaching where she wanted to teach, but at the end of the day, she did make a change anyway.

"Dear Betty, I came to Wellesley because I wanted to make a difference. But to change for others is to lie to yourself. My teacher, Katherine Watson, lived by her own definition and would not compromise that, not even for Wellesley. I dedicate this, my last editorial, to an extraordinary woman, who lived by example and compelled us all to see the world through new eyes. By the time you read this, she'll be sailing to Europe, where I know she'll find new walls to break down, and new ideas to replace them with. I've heard her called a quitter for leaving and aimless wanderer. But not all who wander are aimless, especially those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image. I'll never forget you" - Betty Warren

If you are wondering, the name of the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" is referred to looking happiness and smiling even when you are not happy at all. One of the characters, Betty, refers to this painting when she is talking to her mom about her husband, trying to let her know that just because she seems happy, deep inside, she's not, just like the Mona Lisa, who is smiling, but how do we know if she is really happy? How do we know she is not hiding any kind of sadness behind that smile?

Betty: Look at this, mother. She's smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren:The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty:She looks happy, so what does it matter? 

So that's it. This movie made me cry, smile, and learn a little bit more about myself and my decisions. And of course, it showed me once again, that women can do it all, the sky is the limit, and that education and experience can lead you wherever you want to go.

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