Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!

January31

Nesko’s mom called him on Friday and told him to drop the baby off with her, which was AMAZING and AWESOME and means Nesko and I totally went on a DATE. Oh my GOSH can you believe it? We actually left the house together and went to do a fun thing. And then went grocery shopping after. A THRILL A MINUTE RIDE, YOU GUYS. When he called me to tell me he was on his way home and I needed to get myself and the baby ready, I was all “I don’t know, I have no clean pants! they are all in the wash!” I somehow managed to forget that… wait for it… I WAS WEARING CLEAN PANTS. I mean, they were actual trousers, not pyjama pants, and they had a working zip and everything.

We managed to get ready to go, drop off Niko, and squeak into the theater with just enough time to get popcorn. What magical movie did we see? Why TRUE GRIT of course! A movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time now.

The first movie, the 1969 version with John Wayne, is one of my favorite movies and my absolute favorite John Wayne movie. The book is excellent. I hadn’t seen the movie or read the book in a while, but I remembered good big chunks of both and I was very excited about the new version of the movie AND the reviews I’d read about it.

Bearing in mind that I was already primed to love this movie, oh my WORD, this is basically one of the most perfect movies I’ve seen in a long time. There were some weird additions to the movie, and some events were moved around, but in all it’s very faithful to both the events and tone of the original book. Did I talk along with some of the dialog (quietly)? You bet your ass I did. Jeff Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn (and managed to play Rooster Cogburn and not John Wayne, a remarkable feat) and Hailee Steinfeld was exquisite as Mattie Ross.

Oh, Mattie Ross. Along with Tamora Pierce, one of my first introductions to feminism.

What’s that, you say? A movie based on a book written in 1968, a Western no less, is feminist? Let me lay this out for you, if you are unfamiliar with the awesomeness of the story.

Mattie Ross, 14 years old and female, is the oldest daughter of hard working, relatively affluent land holders. She is smart, well educated, and knows her mind– her mother can’t “do sums or spell the word cat,” and it’s possible that Mattie’s status as only (or only surviving) child for so long (there’s a considerable gap between her and her brother, Little Frank) is why she is so highly educated. Not that no women were ever educated at the time, but at the age of 14 she’s essentially her father’s business manager and book keeper, and handles legal matters with the family lawyer. In many ways, she’s been groomed as the heir to the family business, the “man” of the house when her father is away. When her father is murdered and robbed in Fort Smith by a tenant farmer, it’s Mattie (again at the age of 14, alone and female) who travels far from home to take care of his business and get justice/revenge. Adults in Fort Smith are quick to underestimate her due to her age and her gender, but she shows a quick wit and steady head for business. She’s calculating, cold when she needs to be. She’s stubborn and persistent and insists on getting her due. She earns the respect of both Rooster Cogburn, the Marshall she hires to go after Tom Chaney, the coward her shot her father, and LeBoef (pronounced “LeBeef”), the Texas Ranger who is also after him for shooting a senator.

The novel– and both movies– are told in flashback. They’re narrated 25 years after the events of the story by an older Mattie– one who elected not to marry, one who is wealthy and powerful and knows her own worth and was not interested in marriage or being reliant on a husband. She refuses offers to write newspaper articles about her experiences for low pay, and also refuses to give her story away for free to journalists looking to interview her (although she’s willing to throw scraps to aspiring young journos, since she knows how hard they work and how rough the news industry can be). She speaks the truth without sugar coating it, and demands respect. Although her younger brother teases her about being in love with Rooster Cogburn, Mattie’s complex relationship with the man who saved her life and helped her avenge her father is not one about romantic love.

Mattie Ross, in short, kicks all kinds of ass.

I’ve always felt that “True Grit” referred to Mattie, although she tells Rooster that she’s heard he has grit and is looking for that in the man she wants to hire. It’s Mattie who goes into the unknown; it’s Mattie who changes and is challenged and grows; it’s Mattie who uses a dead man’s arm bones to keep herself from falling down a hole and uses a dead man’s hand as a flail to keep snakes from biting her; it’s Mattie who steps outside of her very narrowly defined role to take on a man’s business of money and justice.

It’s Mattie Ross who is my hero.

posted under books, feminism, life, movies

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