Capperino’s Romantic Inquiries: “The Secret Life of Bees”

I chose to watch The Secret Life of Bees after seeing it on a list of available movies on a recent airplane ride. But, to tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting to actually get through the whole movie. In fact, I was mostly hoping to have some white noise to fall asleep to on my plane ride. However, this movie interested me not only due to the fact that it was full of celebrities, but also because of the romance between the two main characters, Lily and Chris.

Lily is our main character, and her father is abusive toward her and her mother. This movie is similar to The Help due to the Southern background, the strong women, and the racial barriers that the innocent main characters do not see. The main theme of innocence allows most of the plot to unravel.

The opening scene shows the father abusing the mother. A minimal amount of violence is actually shown, but it is always shown in conjunction with alcohol. Lily accidentally kills her mother, which is a major cause of guilt throughout the movie. The father takes out his anger on Lily, causing her to run away. What would a normal response to this situation be? If that was the father’s true love, then how does he cope with being left alone with their daughter?

This whole situation reminds me of the Freudian theory in which a daughter is upset with her mother for taking away attention from the father. So is this feeling of jealousy more present than we think?

Oftentimes, I find that movies tend to greatly profit off of sexuality, so it is always easier to play it safe. I have not read the book version of this story, so it would be intriguing to see how exactly the author hints at sexuality between the father and the mother. Perhaps there was even some sexual abuse that was muted in the film.

There is also a tiny fling between Lily and Chris, one of the black workers on the ranch. The scene that shows Lily having her first kiss with Chris is heavily foreshadowed. Although, at the time, the Civil Rights Act had just been passed, the romance is looked down upon in society when they go out. During that same scene, Chris is beaten as Lily is taken back to the ranch by the police.

After that scene, Chris is absent from the continuing plot. Lily is upset at first, but it is not as deeply emotional as I would have thought. Since she is a bit younger than the average teenager, her inability to react as most of us would in the situation puts a damper on the whole movie. I felt as though her lack of reaction after five minutes was unrealistic for a girl who really liked this boy.

Her lack of options for romance also perplexed me. Since Chris is the only male that she is exposed to on the farm within a reasonable age group, would she have liked a white boy if she could? Do her hormones know what they like, or is her interest just dictated by the circumstances? Perhaps since she is the only white person on the farm, she trusts more African Americans. But I cannot help but wonder who her preferred partner would be.

Since Lily has not completely been exposed to racism or gender roles, she is unaware of why it is socially unacceptable to date Chris. Why are some of us attracted to someone completely different from ourselves? Is Lily naturally attracted to convenience or someone
that reminds her of something safe?

— Gina Capperino, Assistant Blog Editor

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