Amélie, 16 years later


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I was already charmed by Audrey Tautou within seconds of seeing her in Amélie because I was already smitten by Juliette Binoche by way of Krzysztof Kieślowski. I am certain that Audrey and Juliette consider themselves very different people and such fact might be considered an indicator of just how ignorant my musings around Amélie will be.

When I first saw Amélie I was far less informed about how the women around me in my actual life lived their lives. My feelings about this film, in line with my perceived intent behind the film, represented my youthful optimism about how people—and by ‘people’ I mean women—can change their lives through inner work and direct action.

Almost every woman I have met on a mutually-consenting personal level, were stopped cold in childhood before even beginning to develop the deterministic skills we see in the exquisite Amélie fantasy. My situation may be aggressively considered unusual, but these women who fell into my little world were inhibited by the mother figure(s) in their life—and the fathers (and, for many, father figures) were totally absent. Amélie does not even recognize “my” little women by killing off the mother and keeping a non-raping Father role securely in place to swaddle the protagonist.

Amélie can also be considered a romantic comedy set in a socialist utopia, populated with people who are not debilitated by economic oppression (which can be said of most Western films about “people”). Tautou’s character has tremendous amounts of leisure time to work with her problems. “My” women are always preoccupied with maintaining basic income. Their fear and insecurity (masked with a cool Western exterior barely concealing the next irresponsible outburst of emotional violence) leaves no patience or personal wealth to even think in detail about other people, starting with other women.

Sixteen years later, Amélie is totally a fantasy to me. It is a fantasy for the economically sheltered and most young adults from functional, Euro-centric households. In full view of the explicit references to sex (which I do not find lustful film-making), I still strongly recommend this (Euro-centric) film for my teenage daughter which implies that my optimism is not gone—I just passed loads of it down to my children.

(Sidebar: there is a CGI sequence in this film where Tautou’s character dissolves into a pillar of water, turning into a wet patch on the floor. This scene reminded me of Yoruba, river-rain goddess imagery. I am not accusing the makers of this film of cultural appropriation in any way. I am just saying… things like this to may daughter because we always got to be talking back to the picture…)

The real-world childhood of Amélie would have likely produced a selfish person unable to sense the needs of others, rather than the opposite seen in the film. Blues experience informs me that Amélie would have hated her father and despised her mother with a condescending, self-enslaving enmeshment confused with “love.” (These observations, by the way, fuel the surprising negative reactions from females a male artist might get for making “positive” work about fictional women.)

This Blog post is just another thinly veiled excuse for me to write this: most Black women (descendants of slaves) that are not growing up in some form of neglect are not allowed by their mother to be independent people of any kind. This Black slavery is a variation of the fetters placed on most brown girls around the world: they are not allowed to think about having anything for themselves—including sexual relationships—without first consulting/enmeshing/sublimating household authority figures. My real-talk, brutal simplicity here could be used to distinguish the “white privilege” around being a young woman of the most minimum economic self sufficiency.

Speaking of brutality (and thinly-veiled excuses), because I am heterosexual male (framed within the fashion trends of the American 21st century), I am not supposed to give a fuck about the enslavement of Black and brown women. I am supposed to be trying to (on one extreme) insinuate myself into the household of a “privileged” woman (of any skin color) or on the other extreme, economically and psychologically dominate a lower-caste woman.

A third option is the fate that Amélie was meant to escape so the film would have a happy, socialist-utopia ending. This third option was that of Michel Robin’s character: dying alone. My years of experience informs me that this happy ending is just the beginning of a drama between an older woman guilt-tripping a younger woman to make her fall down and stay in the safehouse. The elder would be trying to frame the junior’s new relationship with a “strange man” as foolish selfishness.

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