Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ophelia

Ophelia (from the album...uh...Ophelia)

Ophelia was a bride of god
a novice Carmelite
in sister cells the cloister bells
tolled on her wedding night

Ophelia was a rebel girl
a blue stocking suffragette
who remedied society
between her cigarettes

Ophelia was a sweetheart
to the nation over night
curvaceous thighs
vivacious eyes
love was at first sight...

Ophelia was a demigoddess
in pre war Babylon
so statuesque a silhouette
in black satin evening gowns

Ophelia was the mistress to a
Vegas gambling man
Signora Ophelia Maraschina
Mafia courtesan

Ophelia was a circus queen
the female cannonball
projected through five flaming hoops
to wild and shocked applause...

Ophelia was a cyclone, tempest
a god damned hurricane
your common sense
your best defense
lay wasted and in vain

Ophelia'd know your every woe
and every pain you'd ever had
she'd sympathize
and dry your eyes
and help you to forget...

Ophelia's mind went wandering
you'd wonder where she'd gone
through secret doors
down corridors
she'd wander them alone
all alone



Who are we? How did we get here? Where are we going? Why are were here?

Who is the impossibly moronic woman that wrote the song I Enjoy Being a Girl?

I think about that song from time to time. Usually at moments when my unenjoyment of girlhood is at its apex. I was forced to come to some conclusions about the writer of this obnoxious little ditty. My conclusions were as follows:

1) She has never been 9 months pregnant and/or been in labor.
2) She has never visited a "female doctor."
3) She has never worn a bra.
4) She has never been leered at by creepy men in random localities; namely, anywhere.
5) She has never been touched by creepy men in random localities; namely, anywhere.
6) She has never gotten cat calls from creepy men in random localities; namely, anywhere. And last but certainly not least:
7) She has never menstruated a day in her life.

And you know what? I was right. I was right about every single one of these things because the writer of I Enjoy Being a Girl is, you guessed it, a man. (And, okay, I guess I can't state unequivocally that he never experienced any of the things on my list. Is it possible he wore a bra? Yes. Do I want to talk about it? No.) And I'm assuming that many of you are way ahead of me here and know exactly who the writer of this song is, one Oscar Hammerstein II, one half of that mildly successful songwriting duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. I'll admit it, the fact that I didn't know that I Enjoy Being a Girl came from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (Flower Drum Song) is highly embarrassing to me, a person with Oklahoma, South Pacific and The Sound of Music all occupying space on my ipod.

So has my respect for the great Mr. Hammerstein diminished upon learning this news? Do I now view him in a slightly less reverent light? Has some of the bloom come off the rose? Yes, darn it!

When I hear a complementary whistle
That greets my bikini by the sea
I turn and I glower and I gristle
But I'm happy to know the whistles meant for me


Really, Oscar? My eyes are rolling so hard I lost a contact.

I know I'm being over-serious. I know the song is meant to be cute and simple and from the viewpoint of one particular character. But every single time I go through any of the miseries mentioned in numbers 1-7 above, or any of the other far more challenging aspects of being a female, that song pops in my head and the rage monster follows.

So as a form of therapy, today I'd like to spend some time wrapping my head around a different song about being a girl. Being a lot of different girls, in fact. Shall we begin?

Ophelia was a bride of god
a novice Carmelite
in sister cells the cloister bells
tolled on her wedding night


The Ophelia of sacrifice. The Carmelites are a Catholic religious order and in the short film Natalie made to accompany the song, this version of Ophelia is depicted as a nun. Perhaps because I have no personal experience with the Catholic religion, I cannot fully relate to the fascination that some people feel about nuns. I listened to an interview with a woman once who had turned her back on the Catholic church, on religion in general, but enthusiastically retained her profound admiration for nuns. Although I hardly believe one has to become a nun to do so, there is something comforting in the fact that people still have so profound an appreciation for those who live a life of self-sacrifice. There is no decent mother alive who could not tell you countless tales of self-sacrifice, of suffering for the sake of someone you love and want to protect. Maybe sacrifice is not necessarily intrinsic to being a woman, but it is intrinsic to being a parent.

Ophelia was a rebel girl
a blue stocking suffragette
who remedied society
between her cigarettes


The Ophelia of revolt. Of all the characters Natalie portrays in the Ophelia film, this is the one that I enjoyed the most. She is the caricature of first-wave feminism, a far harsher version than the first person I think of when I hear the word "suffragette" - the mom from Mary Poppins. (Sorry, feminists.) While all of the Ophelias carry their own brand of intelligence, I suppose this is the one I would be most intimidated to match wits with. I would undoubtedly lose and undoubtedly be inspired.

Ophelia was a sweetheart
to the nation over night
curvaceous thighs
vivacious eyes
love was at first sight...


The Ophelia of charm. And weird fitness technique, apparently. There has always been a treasured place in our hearts for the girl-next-door. She is pretty, but not a vamp. Wholesome, but not a bore. Opinionated, but not pushy. She is Doris Day. Men and women are united in their adoration for this version of Ophelia. And she knows it. But don't worry...it won't go to her head.

Ophelia was a demigoddess
in pre war Babylon
so statuesque a silhouette
in black satin evening gowns


The Ophelia of desire. An object of desire, to be sure. But what does she desire? Surely it can't only be to be admired, can it? Some might say she is the most mysterious of the Ophelias, the most alluring. I suppose some would also be inclined to say she is the most feminine of all the Ophelias, but I'm not sure. Maybe a lot of us are still stuck with a narrow definition of femininity, one that praises the woman wrapped in disguises and merely tolerates the woman who hides nothing. I don't know what to conclude about this Ophelia. She's a mystery to me too.

Ophelia was the mistress to a
Vegas gambling man
Signora Ophelia Maraschina
Mafia courtesan


The Ophelia broad. Truthfully, there is more to gain about this Ophelia from watching the short film than in this brief lyric. Despite the big hair and lingerie, Natalie portrays this Ophelia with something deeper than the artifice. She is a passionate woman, one with dreams and ambitions. I wonder how things turned out for her.

Ophelia was a circus queen
the female cannonball
projected through five flaming hoops
to wild and shocked applause...


The Ophelia of derring-do. There's a certain stereotype of women that depicts them as cowering and fearful of danger. I get as annoyed as everyone else at the girl in the movie who stands by helplessly while her lover is attacked by the enemy. I always think that if I were in her position, I would do something, anything. But at the same time, if there is a spider in my house and there is a man nearby, there is pretty much a zero percent chance I will dispose of that spider myself. So...I guess the admiration for fearless women is understandable. I certainly aspire to be a courageous woman someday. Just as soon as the world is rid of spiders.

Ophelia was a cyclone, tempest
a god damned hurricane
your common sense
your best defense
lay wasted and in vain


The Ophelia of pain. This Ophelia is depicted in the film as being an unstable, even insane woman, a storm that leaves wreckage in its wake. I would guess that most of us, male or female, have been subject to this kind of damage at some point or another. Whether it's our mothers, sisters, wives or friends, there is something special about the kind of hurt a woman can do to you. Unfortunately she doesn't have to be clinically insane to inflict it. And yet...

Ophelia'd know your every woe
and every pain you'd ever had
she'd sympathize
and dry your eyes
and help you to forget...


The Ophelia of comfort. This is the Ophelia that characterizes this song for me. I think this Ophelia lives inside all of the others, discovered only at deeper depths in some of them. We are inextricably drawn to her, we need her. This lyric defines Natalie's music. It perfectly describes the role her music plays in people's lives.

Ophelia's mind went wandering
you'd wonder where she'd gone
through secret doors
down corridors
she'd wander them alone
all alone


Beautiful closing lines. Not even Oscar Hammerstein could do better. Or could he?

I'm strictly a female female

And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
who'll enjoy being a guy, having a girl like me


Nope.

Thank for reading this week. Please send me your thoughts and comments about Ophelia; I would love to hear your take and have a chance to include your thoughts in future posts. Also, I have a favor to ask. I'm considering changing the publishing schedule of this blog once again. I would like to change it to either once-a-month or just whenever I feel like it - some months there could be 2 or 3 posts, some months nothing. I've tried to be consistent up until now, but I'm struggling to maintain the pace. So please tell me if you have an opinion on which of those options you'd prefer. If you think you'll have to kill yourself if I publish less often than every other week, you can tell me that too. If no one gives me any feedback, then I will feel free to do whatever I want. Do you really want to give me that kind of power?

Click here to watch - what else? - the video for Ophelia. If you haven't seen the Ophelia film in full, it's all available on Natalie's official site. Watch it!

Download Ophelia from Itunes - Ophelia - Ophelia