11 August 2008

The Golightly Complex

In high school, a friend of mine declared that she had a "Scarlett O'Hara" complex. Since Scarlett is possibly the biggest brat of all time with hardly any redeemable qualities, I pretended that it was based on Scarlett's attitude towards her waistline, and not on my friend's desire to get away with anything.

Hopefully there aren't many out there who pride themselves on being Scarlett O'Hara or one of the Daisys (Buchanan or Miller - I'm very glad my parents decided against naming me Daisy, lest I be fated to turn into one of these horrors.) The more pervasive complex that has afflicted girls for almost 50 years is that of Truman Capote's Holly Golightly.

Is this subject at all timely? Nope. But I was thrown into a rage last night when browsing photos of Leighton Meester in an attempt to rationalize why she looks amazing as Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, but uninspiring to cringe-worthy in her real life public appearances. I found this photo (left) from an episode of Gossip Girl. In Season 1, Blair is often shown in dream sequences (well, 2 or 3 times) where she is Holly Golightly...looking for Cat in the rain or gazing into the Tiffany's display case, coffee and pastry in hand...and I can't understand why.

Is the show trying to tell us that, like Holly, Blair is really just a phony, lost in a dream world of repressed sadness, cocktail parties, paying suitors, and a manufactured identity? Blair might be lost in her own sort of dream like world, but her wealth, status and privilege are very much a reality. Her issue is ultimately an inflated sense of control over her own world (which makes her more like a bitchy Emma if anything.) Blair isn't a glorified call girl or a mafia informant. She doesn't have an impoverished country background, a creepy rube husband or a questionable childhood. And her financial situation seems pretty solid. So all I can conclude is that Blair loves Holly because she is elegant and brunette, showing a complete misunderstanding of both characters.

The perennial lost girl, Holly was glamorized by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film adaptation of Capote's novella, and her rich, bizarre character was forever ruined. Women today (like Blair and the Gossip Girl writing staff) see Holly as a stylish, quirky gamine....traipsing around Manhattan in her over sized hats, pearls, and Givenchy dresses. And who can blame them? Ms. Hepburn's beauty and grace make it easy to overlook the tragic nature of Holly's character. It's kind of infuriating that she was reduced to this family friendly character, where her affairs are only alluded to and ultimately seem quite innocent, and she just sort of wafts through life in a Technicolor haze. The film Holly isn't immune to tragedy, disappointment, and reality, but everything does seem to work out since she gets an inexplicable happy ending with the emasculated George Peppard (does anyone actually think they'll stay together?)

To be quite honest, I don't know that Holly's fans don't understand the nature of her character. Maybe they get it, and love her in spite of the flaws, or in fact because of her delusions. It might explain the persisting allure of Edie Sedgwick.

Anyway, I think we can do better than this. And if we're choosing a new, New York girl, let's not make it Tinsley Mortimer.

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