gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: aristocracy

Belle

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Belle is a beautiful period piece with a message and emotion. I might add that it is directed by a woman, Amma Asante, which I think attributes to why it’s so good. The opening scenes are beautiful and can stand alone as photographs (a quality I always love and look for in movies). Based on a true story, it chronicles an African-American woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood as she is taken in by an aristocratic family in England. It is not that they take her in out of pity, but rather because they are related by blood. Her father, a Royal Navy Captain and the nephew of the family who takes her in, had an affair with a woman during his travels who dies and leaves the child uncared for. Landing in good fortune and good care, she navigates her way between the wait staff and her new family, constantly trying to prove herself and deem herself worthy enough to properly belong. So not only is it a movie about social injustice and the the struggle against slavery, it is a movie about female empowerment and advancement. This is especially emphasized when the family has a portrait made of Belle and her white sister, Elizabeth, in which Belle is depicted as equal to, if not more powerful than, her sister.

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The film is also about the human heart and the various suitors that are after both Belle and Elizabeth. Interestingly, when it is time for the two of them to come out as ladies in society, Elizabeth is encouraged to do so, while Belle is not because of her skin color. This drives them apart, whereas they were previously close friends and sisters. Elizabeth would be the obvious ‘preferred’ of the two because of her delicate beauty, however she is not because of her financial standing, or lack thereof. Belle, on the other hand, not encouraged to have suitors because of her ‘lesser value’ has a huge inheritance from her father who passed away at sea, which makes her desirable despite the color of her skin. She has one suitor whom she originally takes a liking to, but later realizes that he is not the one for her because his family does not respect her, as becomes evident when his brother, previously interested in Elizabeth but casts her aside when he realizes that she doesn’t have any money, assaults Belle and holds his brother in poor regard for his interest in her. All along, Belle has actually been in love with John Davinier, an aspiring lawyer who fights for the oppressed, slaves in this case. Despite resistance from her family who oppose their relationship because of his low standing, financially and professionally, they finally come around and even take his side in regard to his social and political ideals.

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A beautifully done, captivating film that I think definitely merits a viewing. It will keep you intellectually engaged, emotionally hopeful, and visually awed.

Our place in societal roles, influenced by Downton Abbey

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It’s hard to know what to value in life and how to feel about societal roles when we’re in between a proper, aristocratic mindset and have taken on a more modern, liberal and informal attitude toward things. Perhaps we are no longer in between the two, but rather pretty far into the modern mindset. But as I like to think of the past, I do still care about propriety.

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I was reminded of this recently when I was watching the third season of Downton Abbey, which takes place in the early 1920s when things are shifting away from the older aristocratic ways to a more open-minded attitude. Various people in the family have differing opinions – some clinging onto propriety, others (women especially) breaking out of the traditional roles in the home, and others still being pushed in one direction or the other by fellow family members (whether or not they agree is another question).

So as I watch Downton Abbey and observe how each character approaches what is proper and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t for a person of their stature, and how they find their place in the changing world around them, I think about my own attitudes towards important things that define our lives and the way we value things like money, education, family, manners, etc. I like to think that these things are still important, despite the shift for a more relaxed attitude towards life. I certainly embrace the positive advances we’ve made, particularly when it comes to the advancement of women, but holding onto a little bit of the past and what was valued in the past, such as Downton Abbey’s setting, I like to think that there are still some things which hold a certain amount of importance, like manners and cordiality, that we should not criticize. People may think of this stance as snobbish and elitist, but I don’t think it is. I think it is merely valuing the basic, important things in life that make us dignified people and there is nothing wrong with that.