Nora Ephron: Writer, Filmmaker, Feminist Wit

Excerpted from The Nation blog, see:


by Katha Pollitt, June 28, 2012

Nora Ephron died on Tuesday ( . . . ) As a writer and a filmmaker, she was charming, acerbic, shrewd and hilarious. She was honest about things women often keep quiet about. She wrote about having small breasts and wishing she didn’t. She gave the last word on fake orgasms in the immortal scene of Meg Ryan in the deli in When Harry Met Sally. In a triumphant example of making literary lemonade out of a big fat extra-bitter lemon, she wrote “Heartburn,” a deliciously vengeful roman à clef about the breakup of her marriage to Carl Bernstein – the husband who “was capable of having sex with a Venetian blind” ( . . . ) Nora Ephron wrote about her own life and women’s lives in a way that was passionate and brave and also very, very funny. Her success, indeed her very existence disproved so many canards—women not funny? Movies about women can’t succeed? Rom-coms must humiliate the female lead? I love it that Julie and Julia used cooking as a way to talk about finding one’s passion for meaningful work, for mastery and challenge and expertise ( . . . ) When is the accommodating spouse the man? When do we see the work and life of one woman nourishing the work and life of another, as Julia Child inspires the young blogger Julie Powell?

Some criticize Ephron’s movies as fantasies for the comfy classes, but  there was more to them that that: they were clever, urbane, worldly-wise and put women at the center—which in today’s Hollywood is practically a revolutionary act.  And what’s wrong, anyway, with the fantasy of running a sweet independent bookstore like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail?  ( . . . )  As Ephron pithily said, for the men who run Hollywood, “A movie about a woman’s cure for cancer is less interesting than a movie about a man with a hangnail.” Nora wrote that as a girl she wanted to be the only woman at the table of wits, like Dorothy Parker, but she was no queen bee: her life was full of women friends and colleagues ( . . . ) (P)rofessionally she was a feminist in a man’s world—two men’s worlds, actually, journalism and Hollywood. Maybe that was what produced her way of getting right to the point: neither world has a big attention span for ladybiz. In  a roundup of responses to the question “Who Gets to Be a Feminist?” ( . . . ), she wrote, “I know that I’m supposed to write 500 words on this subject, but it seems much simpler: You can’t call yourself a feminist if you don’t believe in the right to abortion.” Bada-bing! (How prolix my own answer, by comparison.) In a 1996 speech she told the graduates of her own alma mater, Wellesley, to be “not the victim of your life but the heroine.” In every way, Nora Ephron was the heroine of her life. That’s feminism.

~ by artpoped on July 8, 2012.

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