The Eat, Pray, Love Trailer: An exercise in first-world problems
July 26, 2010 § 6 Comments
I keep seeing the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love on television. I also keep on seeing promotions for an upcoming Vanguard documentary on how overpopulation is causing a lack of sanitation in countries such as India. The Eat, Pray, Love trailer is giddy: Look at this businesswoman! She is burnt out at work! She can’t remember what she ate for lunch! She goes to Italy! India! and Bali! She eats carbs! She talks with her hands! She stops wearing pants! Ohh look– elephants! And cute naked guys! Come see this movie!
The teaser for the documentary is grim. The host throws up, and says that crossing a polluted river is “unbearable.”
As hard to watch as the Vanguard documentary looks, I’d rather watch that than Eat, Pray, Love. I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on, but the trailer turns me off in so many ways. It should be called First World Problems. As unhappy as Julia Roberts’ character seems, she’s pretty damn lucky to be working somewhere where she can just jet off for a year of soul searching in “exotic” locations. And of all of the problems that women face in the workplace (harassment, healthcare benefits, the glass ceiling), not remembering what lunch was is very far down on that list. I’m not saying that feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and not enjoying things like a good meal, or learning to meditate are petty things. But the whole “women goes on a journey to find herself” trope isn’t new. And is rather irritating, in my opinion.
As controversial as Slumdog Millionaire was (especially when it came to provisions made for the young Indian actors featured in the film), it unflinchingly showed the many Indians that live in poverty. According to the trailer, Roberts’ character finds meditation to be so hard, and gets to pet an elephant. Even Italy, a first-world country, has plenty of problems (many of which stem from Silvio Berlusconi being a complete douche canoe), and isn’t all pretty architecture, cute men, wine and OMFG CARBS.
I would find this story much more compelling if this woman’s quest for enlightenment didn’t use “exotic” third-world countries as a quaint backdrop. After all, for the millions who can’t take a year-long trip to find enlightenment, learning to enjoy food, find peace, and fall in love take place in wherever they live. And unfortunately, things like being able to make and enjoy a satisfying meal, or take time to meditate are not possible because they can’t afford/don’t have access to fresh foods and have to work around the clock to pay for basic bills.
Now, if I got to travel to Italy, India, and Bali, I would go, because travel can be an enjoyable experience. But I would also spend time trying to understand what living in those locations was really like, as much as I could. I had to watch the documentary Life and Debt during my freshman year of college, and it changed the way that I looked at tourism to “exotic” locations, because frequently, tourism is the only industry in countries that have been negatively affected by colonization, and crippling loan agreements made with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
People don’t like to think about millions of people unable to have access to toilets. This is why the Vanguard documentary is airing on a small cable channel, and Eat, Pray, Love is a big-budget movie. But I would be more willing to spend money on a movie that did feature travel to countries like India, if there was a greater reason to film there rather than a search for an “exotic” location, with “exotic” (aka not white) people wearing “exotic” clothing.