This is not a movie review.
If you have yet to see the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which opened in theaters August 13, don’t worry; you won’t find any spoilers here.
This is my attempt to deal with guilt in a blog post.
I’m not supposed to like Eat, Pray, Love. Why? Well, I think Sandip Roy, writing for New American Media, explained it best saying, “as someone who comes from India…I have an instinctive reflex reaction to books about white people discovering themselves in brown places.” Roy goes on to write:
The story is so self-involved, its movie version should’ve been called, “Watch Me Eat, Pray and Love.” In a way I almost prefer the old colonials in their pith helmets trampling over the Empire’s far-flung outposts. At least they were somewhat honest in their dealings. They wanted the gold, the cotton, and laborers for their sugar plantations. And they wanted to bring Western civilization, afternoon tea and anti-sodomy laws to godforsaken places riddled with malaria and Beriberi.The new breed is more sensitive, less overt. They want to spend a year in a faraway place on a “journey.” But the journey is all about what they can get. Not gold, cotton or spices anymore. They want to eat, shoot films (or write books), emote and leave. They want the food, the spirituality, the romance.
I didn’t read the 2006 bestseller back when it seemed like every other woman in the world was. I was being too cool for school. But when I learned the book would soon be a major motion picture I headed to Barnes & Noble to pick up my copy. You see, I knew I’d want to see the movie (I’m a sucker for chick flicks) but when someone asks if I saw a film adaptation of a book I love to reply “Yes, but the book was sooo much better.” (I can be a snob that way.)
While reading the book I constantly told my husband, “This book is really good but it’s going to be a terrible movie.” I just couldn’t see how you could depict a spiritual transformation on film. The book is captivating because Gilbert is an excellent writer, but the story is in now way driven by a captivating plot. The movie, however, turned out to not be boring. Unfortunately, this is because it deviated from the book, which meant watering down the spiritual enlightenment.
But like I said, this isn’t a movie review. This is my attempt to explain why I’m a fan of a book that one could argue is a self-indulgent celebration of white privilege.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie involves Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, deciding that she will enjoy a delicious pizza and just buy a pair of “big lady jeans.” She tells her friend, who is fretting over weight gain, that she’s not interested in being obese, but that she’s just done with the guilt. Yes, I know eating an entire pizza is not a good idea but the reminder to ditch the guilt, as trite as it might sound, was one I needed to hear (and was surprisingly effective even coming out of the mouth of the annoyingly perfect Julia Roberts).
People close to me know I have food issues. I think the health care field would officially call it disordered eating. Honestly, I’ve gotten better. There were days (and this is the first time I’ve admitted this publicly) when I would make myself throw up after feeling guilty for eating a large meal. I convinced myself it was okay, that I didn’t have a problem because I didn’t do it often and because I simply did it so my stomach wouldn’t hurt from being stuffed. But we all know that was a load of crap.
I haven’t purged in years, but the weight I’ve gained in my late 20s has thrown me into a vicious cycle. If I eat a cupcake, or two, I feel guilty, but then to sooth my sadness I eat more cupcakes! Then I spend the next few days calling myself all types of disparaging names.
I’m not saying Elizabeth Gilbert has cured me. That would be absurd. But sometimes you need a friend to simply tell you “Eat the pizza and buy some big lady jeans,” not so that you can binge on Italian food but so that you laugh, relax, and realize food is not the enemy and should always be considered a blessing.
What left me singing Gilbert’s praises most of all, however, was the primary lesson she learned from her time in India: “God dwells within you as you.”
I can’t be reminded of this concept enough. I believe God loves me, but I’m not really convinced my Creator likes me all that much. I worry that I need to change, that Christian feminist really is an oxymoron, that my love of fashion and knowledge of pop culture really are evil. But maybe, just maybe, God made me this way for a reason. Perhaps the task He has planned for me can only be completed by a feminist, pop culture loving fashionista. And with that, I’m off to eat pizza.