“What is the truth behind Mona Lisa’s smile? Is she happy? Does it matter?”
These lines are from the movie Mona Lisa Smile. I saw this movie a couple of days ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Mona Lisa Smile is a movie set in the 1950s in Wellesley college, a private, highly selective all women’s college in Massachusetts, USA. The students and faculty in the college are shown to be traditional and conservative and mostly belong to the elite society. A progressive arts teacher (Katherine Watson played by Julia Roberts) from California urges the girls to think for themselves and push the boundaries that have been set for them. It focuses on a lot of issues including pre-marital sex, freedom to choose your life partner, the importance of education and career for a woman, etc. It revolves around the lives of four girls in the final year of college and how Julia Roberts influences their attitude towards life.
I was most touched by how Julia Roberts decides to teach at Wellesley College because she wants to make a difference and how she strives hard to break the rigid societal walls. She urges her students to think beyond the box and urges them to realize the importance of their careers and dreams. A Woman’s role is not confined to house-keeping and bringing up children, there’s so much more to it. She is an individual who has as much right as a man to good education, career, and a happy life. Out of frustration, she says “I thought I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow’s leaders, not their wives!”
The movie also touches the issue of societal expectations from a married woman – especially if she belongs to an elite family. Betty Warren is married to a guy who is having an extra-marital relationship and doesn’t care about her. However, her mother doesn’t care and constantly persuades to stick it out and not create a hue and cry. It shows how sometimes people just care for societal perceptions and become indifferent towards the person who is actually suffering.
I think this movie partially reflects the conditions in the Indian Society today. How we still expect women to be responsible for the family’s well being, and how a career is only an option for some women and not a right for all. How young girls are married early so that they don’t get involved in relationships and spoil the ‘family honor’. How a girl who has intimate relationships with men is labelled a whore or slut while nobody cares about the man in question. How some women try to pull others down because they are trying to run away from their own demons.
Most importantly, this movie shows how every single person can make a difference. It is an example of how one person can touch a few lives and change them. And I think change is the result of a ripple effect. If you can inspire a few people to think differently, to broaden their horizons; they will further influence a few other lives and so on. This movie put my thoughts in front of my eyes – it strengthened my resolve to make a difference in my own way. I aspire to be like Katherine Watson, I always have. I just need to figure out a path that will take me there.