Images and inaccuracies

In our modern world of a zillion images, it is easy to take for granted what we see on TV and movie screens.

Take for instance the footage from Mars. Did you really stop to realize the miracle of such spectacular pictures any more than those of your favorite sitcom? The show is there and you have seen it and what went into producing the magic may have been much more than a hand held camera, but it is hard to stop and go beyond  the  “so what?” It came through the tube, like everything else.

When it comes to movies, accepting the scenes for what they appear to be is even easier.  Unless it is very well defined before hand, what we see is what we get, what we understand as being the truth. And we totally believe it with our own eyes, even when we are informed about what goes into productions with computer editing, for instance.

In more traditional movies too, the visible may not be all that clear.

Wonder where something that you like well was shot? You must stay through the end of the credits, all those extra minutes for a bit of quick info many will never know.

Then there’s the matter of accuracy. There is an invisible line that separates the poetic license and the fictional liberties, sometimes in annoying ways, no doubt.

When I called my mother in Brazil last week she said the movie Mona Lisa Smile was coming to town. (In fact, it opened in Brazil January 23)  Suddenly, we were talking some common ground here.  If you consider the distance between my home town of São João del-Rei, MG, and New England, Wellesley College is something like my backyard.

My mother has seen the campus and will appreciate the beautiful photography of something familiar.  Depending on the success of the movie, next time I come to town people will want to know about the place.    I will answer that with some pride because I adore the thought that things may indeed outlast the trends of the modern world and that campus is a good example. But I will dread the thought that people will want to talk about the reality of what the college represented, when the movie shows such a caricature of the times!

Wellesley College president Diana Walsh has expressed her views via the office of public affairs of the college.

“Our name is in the public domain and we could not have prevented its use had we tried, which we didn’t. Wellesley has become the iconic women’s college — for good and ill — and was selected for that reason as the setting for this work of fiction.”

I have heard that Wellesley alumni are unhappy that their alma mater was portrayed in such light. It is indeed unfortunate that so much exaggeration went into it because it is, in some ways, a great movie.

This past week I met a woman who can set the record straight about what was taught at Wellesley. She was there, class of 1950, and has been puzzled from the moment she watched the beginning of the movie.

“Talking back to the professors? That would never have happened,” said Charlotte Midwood, who was an Art Major.

Midwood also said that “nobody ever wore lipstick or mascara” to class. And the clothes in the movie were very far from the reality of the girls she knew.

“The clothing was much more casual,” she said. “I always wore blue jeans. I was looking for a pair of blue jeans the whole time and didn’t see it, except for a scene with Julia Roberts.”

Midwood also said that it is unfair to portray Wellesley College as a place that had only wealthy girls, because from the beginning it had girls who were there through scholarships. Oh, yes, they did talk about sex, she said.

But the big question of being there preparing just for marriage?

Says Midwood: “Of course many people got married right out of college, but many didn’t.  I got married ten years after I left Wellesley.”

And she was bothered that “This movie made it sound like it was a finishing school…. That professor of poise? That never happened. Absolutely never.”

Indeed, even Judith Martin, Miss Manners, class of ‘59, has written that Wellesley didn’t teach poise and etiquette.  Kind of unfortunately, she seemed to convey.

But for people like Midwood, the college was the best. She said the Art department was avant-garde and she remembers each of the professors by name, with a lot of pride for the inspiration they provided.  The movie was accurate in portraying the girls as top students, she said. She went on to work for an insurance company as a claims adjustor and so did several of her friends, because those companies wanted people who went to college.

“We were ready for the world, “said Midwood, “but the world was not ready for us.”

Este artigo foi publicado originalmente no Metrowest Daily News, em Framingham, Massachusetts, em janeiro de 2004.  O filme nunca mais foi assunto, mas o Wellesley College está em todas, como a alma mater de Hillary Clinton, que de vez em quando aparece por aqui. O que continua exatamente do mesmo jeito e com a mesma beleza de anos e anos é o lago do campus, Lake Waban, e fica bem no centro desta pequena cidade, escondido atrás das árvores, local de ótimas caminhadas.                                

Um comentário para “Images and inaccuracies”

  1. Miltinho, devo a você uma explicação. Em respeito à Miryam Wiley, uma das colaboradoras do 50 Anos de Textos, retirei a tradução que você mandou. Sabe como é aquela coisa – traduttore, traditori, como se diz. Só os autores podem autorizar uma tradução.
    Ou então eu teria que providenciar traduções para o brasileiro dos belíssimos textos do Manuel S. Fonseca. E traduções para o paulistês do mineirês autêntico do Fernando Brant. Já imaginou se eu fosse traduzir para o jornalês majoritário os textos saborosos do Valdir Sanches? E alguém para traduzir para a linguagem pausterizada normal os meus próprios textos, pessoais e intransferíveis?
    Melhor continuar como está. Cada um escrevendo em seu estilo, em seu linguajar próprio. O 50 Anos de Textos não é um site monoglota. Ainda bem.
    Um abraço.
    Sérgio

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