Editor’s Note: Below is an essay written by Film Blogger Ashna Sran on Charlie Kaufman’s 2004 film, where she explores the portrayal of women and relationships in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and common tropes in the Romance genre. Sran originally wrote this piece for her Intro to Film Studies class with Dr. Simone Muench.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film written by Charlie Kaufman at a time which many considered the peak of his career due to Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Kaufman is a writer who is not afraid to step out of the conventional and explore ideas of a more weird and hypothetical nature. The movie is a romantic movie that is unlike any other. It portrays realistic characters and shows a side of them that not many other movies in this genre demonstrate. Often romantic films fail to follow common logic and display unrealistic actions done by the main characters. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the characters don’t throw caution to the wind. The characters share a passionate, yet often painfully incompatible romance. This film navigates love, loneliness, self-esteem, memories, the fight to make something work, and the loss of the battle to do that. Something that the movie accomplishes is the destruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope, which deals with an eccentric female (or male) character whose purpose is to guide the protagonist to happiness and self-realization without ever having independent goals of their own. This trope has been seen in many projects, whether they refute it or try to redeem it, such as 500 Days of Summer (2009), The Fault in Our Stars (2012), and Garden State (2004).
It is incredibly important to portray women accurately in movies as not doing so can lead to many self-image problems in women and young women in the audience. Often the MPDG trope lumps together all individuals who are quirky and creates one-dimensional female characters who don’t have problems of their own and devote their lives to making the protagonist happy. The trope is highly unoriginal and belittling to women that may resemble a similarity to the common MPDG. In recent times, representation in media is increasingly important, and having a character that reduces an individual to their most basic form is offensive and challenges how young girls may see themselves growing up. However, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an amazing film in which the complexity of the central female character is explored, and her humanity is highlighted.
Working hard to succeed in a given career is not a concept new to people, yet why are women villainized for doing so? In a cutthroat, money-generating field such as fashion, every position demands excellence. There is no room for error as millions of dollars are on the line, yet women remain denigrated while putting in the effort to achieve preeminence. Then, when a woman does achieve perfection and attain a position of power, she is regarded as evil and devilish due to her demanding nature. A concept such as this is showcased amazingly in The Devil Wears Prada. Often regarded as THE fashion film, the movie has achieved classic cult status. Patricia Field, the costume designer, had worked previously with David Frankel on Miami Rhapsody (1995) and Sex and the City (1998-2004) and knew that the costume design would make or break the movie. With a starting budget of $100,000, Field enlisted the help of multiple high-end fashion brands, ultimately reaching a final budget of at least $1 million worth of clothing. The enormous costume budget was worthwhile, as all of the outfits have kept their excellence over 14 years. That said, there is a lot that the movie does right. The Devil Wears Prada is a 2006 film directed by David Frankel and produced by Wendy Finerman. The story originates from a 2003 book of the same name written by Laura Weisberger. The author wrote the book after a stint at Vogue Magazine, where she worked under Anna Wintour.
Unless you died before consumable media or you live under a rock, pop culture is a phenomenon that everyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, encounters on a day to day basis. I can guarantee with confidence that at least 99.9% of every person on this earth knows something about pop culture. Pop culture is what molds our personalities and makes us the way we are. It is what we talk about to our friends, family, and strangers, and it is what many people around the world dedicate their entire lives to. Starting at a very young age, we take preferences for particular media. It could be books, film, television, music, fashion, or art, but we all begin our journey in life by liking something. It is with time that our interests grow and define us. In other words, the impact that pop culture has on us helps make us who we are. In this blog, I want to talk about women in films and TV shows that have had the most significant impact on pop culture. The reason I want to focus on women’s roles in media is that I want to advocate for equality and allow others to recognize how significant some characters are to our culture today.