Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eat Pray Love: No Chick-Lit Story

By Margaret Curtis, PhD

The Un-American Dream appeals to viewers tired of money, money, money. That may be a hard ad to sell during this economic siege, but Julia Roberts begins this movie possessing advantages commonly envied in America: a glamorous job, marriage to a hottie, a retirement plan, and even a dream house. So, why does she start talking to God NOW?

“Hello, God….I’m in serious trouble….Tell me what to do,” she says. All the answers to her heavenly inquiries make no sense, beginning with her decision to divorce a man who loves her. Where will she find another? She finds one only too fast, and runs away again, fearing loss of self to her lover. Infatuation ruled her life: What will replace romantic obsession?

Her guru advises her to learn pleasure. Maybe she never knew its meaning any more than the Rolling Stones, who kept screaming: “Can’t Get No Satisfaction!” Wholeness in life enchants her; she finds no substitute worth pursuing. If Julia Roberts’ looks did not distract her audience, they would recognize the plot-line of this drama immediately: midlife crisis.

Her husband fights divorce because he claims she IS his “dream,” but fakery no longer possesses his fantasy female. Thus, she undertakes the road that leads to NOWHERE, the destination which readers of Samuel Butler’s novel EREWHON will recognize immediately. This book commonly functions as an entry in Utopian British Literature, but Butler dismissed that claim.

Wikipedia records Butler’s perspective on his treatment of supposed utopias, visions of perfect locations and societies: 

     “Butler developed the three chapters of Erewhon that 
     make up 'The Book of the Machines' from a number of 
     articles that he had contributed to The Press, which 
     had just begun publication in Christchurch, New 
     Zealand, beginning with ‘Darwin among the 
     Machines.’ (1863) Butler was the first to write about 
     the possibility that machines might develop 
     consciousness by Darwinian Selection.”

Eat Pray Love attacks the same dilemma from the opposite end: What happens when a woman discovers she behaves like a machine, and meaning has disappeared from her life, along with joy? No chick lit here—instead equal opportunity for men to discover the same —even if they must venture to the ends of the earth to return alive. If change appeals to political candidates, as well as voters, ironically this movie says: Change always begins with them—and it must come from within.

For a review of Samuel Butler’s treatment of Darwin and Evolution, see

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