JR Reviews: Love, Simon

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Love, Simon is a film that Jasmine and I have been waiting to come out (so to speak) for a while and last Friday, we finally got to see it. We loved it and all it is doing for LGTB representation in media.

Here is our review of Love, Simon 

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J.A.R Reviews: Tulip Fever Review

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I started a Youtube series called J.A.R reviews where my friends Jasmine, Ashley, and I talk about the movies we watch together. My choice for our first video was Tulip Fever (2017) which was recently added to Netflixs.

Tulip Fever is set in 1630s Amsterdam during the “Tulip Mania,” when tulips, then an exotic novelty, caused the first recorded speculative bubble. Sophia (Alicia Viksander) a young woman married to a wealthy and much older merchant (Christophe Waltz) begins a risky affair with Jan (Dane Dehann) a painter hired to do her portrait. Meanwhile, Maria (Holliday Granger), Sophia’s servant, becomes pregnant and is separated from her lover. Sophia and Maria plot to pass off Maria’s baby as Sophia’s and Sophia and Jan speculate on the tulip marker in order to get money so they can run away together.

I am a huge fan of the art and aesthetics of 17th Century Holland and the production design of the movie looks straight out of the paintings of artists like Vermeer. It’s a beautiful looking film and its a shame it tells a love story I couldn’t bring myself to care about.

Here is the link to our review video

Eliza Schuyler and Female Powerlessness

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The theme of female powerlessness which is woven throughout Clarissa also come into play in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit hip-hop musical Hamilton, which is based on the life and loves of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Hamilton’s demure and virtuous wife, and Angelica Schuyler Church, her feisty and self-confident sister, best-friend, and confident, bare a number of similarities with Clarissa Harlowe and Anna Howe. They start off as young women whose beauty, wealth, and social position attract a lot of suitors. The musical number A Winter’s Ball shows how the ambitious young officers of the Continental Army are all smitten with the Schuyler sisters and wish to marry into the influential Schuyler clan. Angelica, Eliza, and their younger sister Peggy have their pick of eligible gentlemen and who they choose defines them as characters.

Eliza’s first solo number, Helpless, initially paints her as a passive figure. Whereas Angelica’s first solo number, Satisfied, is an emotionally, lyrically, and musically complex look into her psyche and moral dilemma (Angelica helps bring Hamilton and Eliza together, despite having feelings for him, herself, and doubts that she made the right decision), Helpless is an upbeat R&B love ballad which follows the progression of an apparently straightforward boy-meets-girl romance. Eliza waits on the sidelines for Hamilton to notice her and relies on Angelica to introduce her to him. Her own timidity and the confines of eighteenth-century etiquette prevent her from making the first move; for Eliza to approach Hamilton or for Hamilton to approach Eliza without someone to make the necessary introductions would have been a breach of propriety. The historical Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler were engaged within less than a month of meeting, so Helpless feels like a countdown to the inevitable wedding. The main hurdle to their union is gaining the approval of Eliza’s father. As an eighteenth-century woman without a legal identity of her own, marriage for Eliza would have been essentially being passed from her father to her husband.

A closer look at Helpless shows that Eliza is more than simply a bashful wallflower. Upon first seeing Hamilton, she tells Angelica “this one’s mine” and frequent sings “that boy is mine” and in a sense singles out Hamilton as her future life mate rather than the other way around. Her choice of Hamilton (an attractive and dashing but penniless upstart with a questionable background) is based on love rather than ambition or social obligation. Despite spouting a number of proto-feminist catchphrases, Angelica follows the more conventional path by marrying the wealthy but dull John Barker Church, the Mr. Hickman to Hamilton’s Lovelace.

The word “helpless” defines Eliza as a character throughout most of the story and takes on several different connotations. It first describes her overwhelming love for Hamilton and then her unhappiness at being constantly neglected by him. “Helpless” is later appropriated by Maria Reynolds, Hamilton’s mistress, who uses it to lead him astray. Taking Eliza’s signature word highlights this betrayal.  The Reynolds Affair causes Eliza to re-examine her relationship with Hamilton and her decision to marry him. An eighteenth-century wife was expected to grin-and-bare and turn a blind eye to any affairs their husband might have, which were not considered insufficient grounds for a divorce. Obtaining a divorce would have been winning the battle but losing the war, since as a divorcée, Eliza would have forfeited custody of her children and been ostracized from polite society. Stuck with a selfish and reckless man who never really loved her who then dies in a duel, leaving her with substantial debts and a large family to support, Eliza truly is helpless. But she shakes off this passive attitude and forges an identity, independent from her husband, as a philanthropist and proto social worker. She outlives Hamilton by half a century and dies a well loved and respected figure.

It is unclear whether it was Eliza or Angelica who made the better choice. Eliza marries for love but is stuck with a man who betrays and humiliates her. Angelica marries a rich man due to social obligations and is whisked away to live a glamorous life in London. But in the cut song Congratulations, Angelica describes her marriage as “loveless” and we are given a sense that she is unsatisfied despite her glittering lifestyle. The experiences of both women show how women in the eighteenth century were vulnerable to the whims of whatever man they were attached to. It is only after she is widowed that Eliza is able to live a fulfilling life, free from the man mistreated her.

 

Clarissa Book 2: The Perfect Guy

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*** WARNING: SPOILERS***

Much of the first two books of the novel Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson is taken up with letters written between the heroine, Clarissa Harlowe, and her best friend, Anna Howe. The contents of these letters frequently discuss the most complicated and important question that young women in the eighteenth century would have to deal with: who they should they marry?

Clarissa’s main conflict so far has been whether or not she should bow to family’s pressure to marry the rich but repulsive Rodger Solmes or accept the protection of the dashing but rakish Robert Lovelace. Rejecting or accepting suitors is one of the few areas where a gentile young woman like Clarissa had a say in their life and often that was not even the case. Marriages were arranged by your families and dictated by the demands of your position in society with the feelings of those involved given very little consideration. What Clarissa is going through is an extreme example of what many young women in the eighteenth century went through: pressure to marry someone they do not love or even like.  

The central conceits of the story, which Richardson is trying to subvert, are the old adages that all girls want bad boys and a reformed rake makes the best husband. Clarissa insists that she was no particular interest in Lovelace but always comes to his defense when people bad mouth him. This shows the complexity and ambiguity of  Richardson’s writing. Because the story is told through letters, Clarissa and Lovelace’s relationship has a “he said/she said” element to it. Despite her protestations that she is not attracted to Lovelace, we get a sense that she is lying to herself. Lovelace is a man who has seduced and ruined the reputation of many women while Clarissa is a woman of great virtue and integrity. She does not want to admit that she has fallen for Lovelace’s charms. Lovelace uses the implication that her love can reform him to try to woo Clarissa but we can tell that this is only a ploy. Anna Howe is being courted by the respectable and devoted but dull Mr. Hickman who she, proto Jane Austen heroine that she is, enjoys making the victim of her sharp tongue: “If a man is rash enough to woo me, he must take me as I am.”  Hickman is the suitor encouraged by Anna’s mother and he is framed as a good man who would make a good husband. 

Upper Class women like a Anna and Clarissa would never have to work or be able to pursue a career, so choosing a husband would be decision that would define the rest of their lives. Marrying a good man with a comfortable income would lead to a happy and stable life while the opposite could lead to a life of misery. Through the letters written by Anna and Clarissa, Richardson explores what makes a man a good suitor and how a girl should choose who to marry. Should she follow her heart or the demands and expectations of her family? Should she chose someone attractive and exciting like Lovelace or someone respectable and reliable like Hickman.