February 8, 2015

Success is in the Eye of the Beholder: Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Monalisasmile.jpgEveryone has an idea of what they think success looks like. For some of us, the picture of success may have something to do with money, power and respect. Yet for others, success may include a beautiful healthy family. Even still, some may want both. The thing is, we all have the right to define what success should look like for ourselves. No one nor should the society we live in dictate something so personal to each and everyone one of us, male or female; but particularly for us females.

Though there have always been women who have challenged the status quo prior to the Feminist Movement in the late 60s and 70s, they were often met with personal attacks in an effort to downplay the significance of their argument; which was to get other women to see that they had a right to define success for themselves. The only problem is that women who felt this way were often too focused on getting other women to become career focused that they overlooked the possibility that some women may want to be raising a family at home, and that's ok too. Success then is in the eye of the beholder. The movie Mona Lisa Smile (2003) is a great reminder of this very important lesson for us all, male and female alike.

In the movie Mona Lisa Smile (2003), graduate student Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) goes to teach "History of Art" at Wellesley College to make a difference in the lives of young women. However, in her first class she quickly realizes that things aren't going to go as smoothly as she once thought. It is as a result of bunting heads with the very bright and self-assured students at Wellesley College, that Katherine Watson is not only forced to take a look at herself, but also really see the students as individuals with their own idea of what it means to be successful.

From the beginning of the movie Katherine was met with blatant opposition from the community, the administrators as well as the students at Wellesley College when she decided to veer away from the syllabus after learning that the students had already memorized it before the first day. Katherine was hell bent on teaching everyone a lesson, particularly the students; one in which included supposedly opening their minds. The only problem was, she herself lacked the very open-mindedness that she felt the students, college administrators and community lacked as was apparent in her forcing them to see her way on all things concerning women in society.

In the end, Katherine did in fact succeed in affecting change in the lives of her students, but not entirely in the way that she initially intended. She did open the minds of her students to see that they could in fact define success for themselves, but in doing so and along with the challenges that she faced as a result, she herself had changed. She learned to be more open-minded and accepting of the fact that everyone has the right to live their own way and that success looks different to each and everyone of us. Isn't that the truth?

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