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February 1994


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"Donna S. Cunningham" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 27 Feb 1994 12:38:18 PST
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I can't explain these people; i really only have feelings about the whole
first, how could Ada not be pissed off all the time. Frankly, an inteligent
woman is still SOL in the world, but the late 18th early 19th centuries would
never be my choice for a time to live. NO control over you life, your
body, your future, your children--NO matter your class circumstances.
Most men (even today) find
headstrong, intelligent women a bother and a pain; most women (even
other intelligent women) loathe them
simply because they won't accept their place and they are somehow
always causing a fuss (not making any grand
claims about my intelligence, but i *still* experience this in spades
everytime I visit my family in the South--i feel just like Liz in
GIANT). Even Ada's darling daughter thinks conforming might slow
things down a bit (when she calls him "daddy" I died a
thousand deaths with Ada; and her jealousy of Baines is hilariously
Is Ada  angry with Stewart? well, yeah, and probably her father
too, and maybe even the father of her child. Carted off like the chattle she is
 (by law), he immediately sums
her up by her size (too small), refuses her demand/request, then he trades away
 her piano without
even trying to understand its significance to her (though by law, it is *his* to
 trade). And,
geez, as much as I love her, Ada is *so* different--a strange stranger
in a strange land.
Does she "taunt and tease Stewart"? Or is it
somehting else? Maybe she wants to give him a chance, but she wants to control
 the pace of what happens; Baines
surrenders; can Stewart? well, he doesn't. Remember, women are
supposed to be passive in the sack, or they are thought abnormal.When
she reaches beneath the blankets, he reacts uncomfortably. Can
we imagine the uptight and angry (though in Neill's performance,
somehow always pitiable) Stewart ever surrendering, baring his body
and soul? Personally, I
think the man would really rather watch. (and damn if he isn't always
building fences and acquiring more land, never understanding the
concept of anything like a sacred place).
Why does she need Baines? Let's just say a woman without a man in this
time period is like a fish without water (to ravage that old saw)--you
can't LIVE. She needs a dad, a brother, a father, a son, a husband.
Why does she want and choose Baines, why does she surrender her heart?
He never pins her down, fences her in, locks the doors, bars the
way--he admits to his extreme reaction to her presence--he is open to
her, naked to her, he is willing to be hers.
(extremely personal reaction--I have never loved Harvey Keitel any
more than in this role. He always exudes something on screen that
makes me roil inside--though I hear he is really an asshole as a
WWhat is her thinking?  What is her problem? Like I said, I only know
what I feel about what I see. Ada is an extreme woman living in an age
when there was no place for extreme women--modesty and moderation in
all things. She is reborn into a situation where her desires matter,
where it actually makes a difference whether or not she has a voice, a
place where she can say no or reach out for what she desires.
Many have bitched about the ending--a fairy tale its been called. Well
all I have to say is go back and read the fairy tales Ada would have
read. In this film we get to see both endings--dead under the deep blue
sea (The Little Mermaid) and the heterosexual feminist dream
ending--sunlight, a sensual partner, a happy child, and a job doing
what she loves.
For some odd reason, it all makes sense to me. But then, all of her
films do. I've felt "the cold" too.
Thanks for forcing me to try to articulate some answers to your
Donna Cunningham