Monday, 24 March 2008

Reflections on Gigi

This weekend I watched the movie Gigi, which is (as I found reading the credits) based on a novel by the French author Colette. I read a few books by Colette back in my wilder years and frankly I wouldn't recommend them to anyone - "disippated" is, I think, the best description. However, I wasn't planning on watching the movie with my kids, and I assumed the movie-making people would have toned down the sexual references quite a bit (as I am sure they did, although I have not read the novel and don't wish to, so I cannot compare fairly). It's rated G, and I would have given it at least a PG, if not an M, but then perhaps an entire plot revolving around sexual liasons between man and mistress with a central character who attempts to commit suicide is not enough to get that rating nowadays - or maybe the ratings people were fooled by the fact that Gigi is a musical from 1958. Yet the climax and ending of the movie provide some poignant lessons which ring true in light of today's lax sexual morality.

According to the blurb on the DVD case, "A home, a motorcar, servants, the latest fashions: the most eligible and most finicky bachelor in Paris offers them all to Gigi. But she, who's gone from girlish gawkishness to cultured glamour before our eyes, yearns for that wonderful something money can't buy." How has Gigi been transformed? Through the careful grooming in the wiles of a courtesan, taught to her by her great aunt, who was herself a "successful" serial mistress but is now a rich recluse, who has only her valuable jewels, gifts from erstwhile lovers, to comfort her in her age. In what context is Gigi offerred these materialistic delights? Gigi must agree to enter into a relationship with Gaston which, as Gigi states frankly, centres on her willingness to go to bed with him.

With the willing encouragement of Gigi's great aunt and grandmother, Gigi is offered to Gaston as his plaything (for the price of "gifts" of jewels) until he becomes annoyed, or bored, or interested by someone else, at which time she will be cast off. And yet Gaston has the gall to declare to Gigi that he wants her to be his mistress because he loves her. Gigi responds with complete outrage. If he loves her, she asks him, how can he desire her to enter this horrible, miserable life? Gigi's great aunt complains to her gradmother that she taught her too much of the negative and not enough of the benefits of life as a mistress - Gigi's grandmother (who lives in poverty) declares she doesn't know anything of the delights the great aunt speaks of.

Yet after thinking a while, Gigi calls for Gaston to announce, "I would rather be miserable with you than miserable without you." The new couple heads off for a night on the town, to culminate in... except it doesn't, because Gaston returns Gigi to her grandmother precipitately and in a fit of conscience (?) asks formally for Gigi's hand in marriage.

This movie shows exactly the situation many young women find themselves in today. Today, women are put into a position where, if they are to have any relationship with a semblance of romantic love, they must enter into a sexual relationship with no security. Often, these young women settle for the miserable, insecure life of a series of long term monogamous sexual relationships, some of which may offer the facsimile of marriage through sharing accommodation, a "defacto" marriage - one that looks from the outside like a real marriage (because the two people share a house and a bed) but on the inside has none of the loving, caring, giving and self-sacrifice of a good marriage. Defacto marriages today, like the arrangements between man and mistress portrayed in Gigi, are purely selfish contracts, entered into in order for each party to obtain the maximum they feel they can get. For the man, they offer freely available sexual relations; for the woman, a shadow of love through the regular presence of the man in her life. The saddest thing is that in a society where the secure bond of true marriage, sanctioned by the law, is denied to women, women will willingly enter a "defacto" marriage, just as Gigi chose, because this is the best they can get. It's a long way from "that wonderful something that money can't buy."

1 comment:

mom24 said...

I really like your reviews! Thanks for the insight on this one!