Analyzing Evelyn Hugo’s Seven Husbands

0

[ad_1]

Oscillating between the 80s past and present, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 young adult historical fiction novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the story of a fictional old Hollywood star, Evelyn Hugo, recounting her life and her relationship with a journalist before her death.

We approach this story through the eyes of journalist, Monique Grant, as she comes to form a convoluted bond with the complicated actress as she tries to document her life story for her. Although Monique is the main character, she has little substance outside of serving as a conduit for Evelyn, who is an amalgamation of real-life Old Hollywood actresses Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth and, most notably, Marilyn Monroe.

In this way, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo ambitiously sounds like a queer revisionist take on old Hollywood in a fictional setting. It’s almost insulting when you’re reminded that among the fictional reviews made, a fictional lesbian, Celia St. James, won the 1982 Best Actress Oscar in place of real-life queer actress Katharine Hepburn.

tell, don’t show

Maybe Reid’s down-to-earth prose wasn’t my cup of tea, but The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is ultimately a collection of ’80s Hollywood aesthetics and landscapes that run through a simplistic YA formula until it’s no longer discernible from any of its counterparts in the genre, no matter how potential the original idea and subject.

We navigate this story with the author firmly in our hand, like what we need to understand or feel about these characters and the events that unfold. Critics claim that Reid creates “complex and likable characters,” but few examples in the book provided his characters with deeper complexity than what we presented from the start.

Evelyn Hugo is presented as a predominantly white woman, with a certain “best of both worlds” quality, as this is the idealized image of the biracial woman from an imperialist perspective. Throughout the novel, Evelyn passes easily and comfortably as a white woman and undoubtedly reaps the benefits of this ability, until Reid decides that her Cuban heritage is relevant to a point she would like to make on the being biracial.

The premise of the book centers on the bittersweet love affair between two old Hollywood actresses, the titular Evelyn Hugo and Celia St. James. There’s a bit of a mystery to the development of their romance, as one would expect, given the plot. We could attribute this to the marketing surrounding it, leaving no room for doubt as to who the love of Evelyn’s life would have been among the suitors lined up for her. Given this fact, Reid lazily establishes this fact in the early chapters himself and leaves some room for the reader to anticipate in the novel. This tendency to tell, instead of show, also continues in many other aspects, as if the writer had given up any pretense of intrigue that draws us to fiction in the first place.

We know that Evelyn and Harry are best friends because they trade, it happens between them, which will include verbal confirmation between the two that they are, as such, best friends. This despite the fact that we don’t see any real development of their dynamic throughout the novel that would naturally lead us to grow to really nurture and root their bond.

We know that Evelyn is particularly “glamorous” by conventional standards because this is established and reiterated to us through prose, as well as in the dialogue exchanged between characters about Evelyn and in the internal dialogue of Evelyn herself. same. Much importance is therefore attached to its conformity to the ideal of feminine beauty.

Make a statement

Evelyn’s aforementioned “glamour” is first emphasized by drawing attention to her breasts, hair, and “bronze” skin tone, by the protagonist, Monique, as she studies photos of Evelyn. on line. The emphasis placed on these identity traits paints it as the image of ethnic ambiguity. She is always presented as a predominantly white woman, with a certain “best of both worlds” quality, as this is the idealized image of the biracial woman from an imperialist perspective.

Celia St. James who, as a lesbian, is repeatedly reviled by the narrative for not understanding bisexuality to the satisfaction of the author and her demographic. She is also obnoxiously compared, in her desire for Evelyn, to heterosexual men.

Throughout the novel, Evelyn passes easily and comfortably as a white woman and undoubtedly reaps the benefits of this ability, until Reid decides that her Cuban heritage is relevant to a point she would like to make on the being biracial. Her identity as a Cuban-American woman is continually isolated from the context of world politics as far as Cuban-American international relations are concerned, although Reid makes a point of integrating the Stonewall riots into Evelyn’s identity. as a queer woman.

A large majority of this book’s “statements” about sociopolitical identities are largely delivered in dialogue as if selected from an Instagram infographic or Twitter feed, making it increasingly obvious that Reid’s greatest concern with these characters is to make them better spokespersons to align with his own politics and beliefs, whether characteristic of who is speaking to them or relevant to the scene at hand.

Read also : Mason Deaver’s Book “I Wish You All the Best” Reveals the Assertiveness of a Non-Binary Protagonist

The unrealistic wording of sentences, the unconvincing motivations of the characters, and the complete lack of nuance in many of these important conversations about domestic violence, sexual identity, etc., are glaring in their failure to use the medium of literature to amplify the central message. Instead, we get regurgitations of slogans popularized on the Internet by the very audience of this book.

The Misrepresentation of Queer Women

There were a number of integral elements to understanding Evelyn and her character’s interiority, which are glossed over by a narrative that’s more interested in selling you, her utterly unconvincing romance with Celia St. James.

Celia St. James who, as a lesbian, is repeatedly reviled by the narrative for not understanding bisexuality to the satisfaction of the author and her demographic. She is also obnoxiously compared, in her desire for Evelyn, to heterosexual men. I seek to understand how anyone can interpret any collusion between lesbians and straight men in how they view women and in their dynamics with bisexual women. Even Evelyn’s attraction to women is used at times to make her feel “equal” with men as she comes to collaborate with them to present her on-screen sexualization as representation” allowed”.

Same-sex attraction is simultaneously and paradoxically posited as a unifying and divisive force between queer women and heterosexual men, where a lesbian relationship fits into the mold of a heterosexual relationship, having no unique concerns outside of societal discrimination and fear of it.

While it is the most widely read and popularized book among young lesbian and bisexual women today, it is somewhat disconcerting to see the portrayal being hailed as the ideal for queer women as it is riddled with uninspired and unempathetic portrayals of queer women.

Read also : A Critique of the Queer Young Adult Genre

Lesbians being equated with straight men as a way to empower bisexual women, plus a poorly written love story that asks you to root it not for the sake of the love story itself- even but because they are both women, it fails to create a compelling narrative for queer women to explore their own histories and identities by seeking to do little more than “represent” queer women by name.

Feminist themes lack nuance and depth, announcing themselves at every turn but offering nothing to its audience beyond an Instagrammable quote here and there. Queer femininity is deeper and more complex than how heterosexual women, despite their alliance, define it.


[ad_2]
Source link

Share.

Comments are closed.