Sometimes they shake the culture at large; sometimes they change an individual point of view. The characters which opened doors at different part of my life didn’t necessarily do the same thing for you. But they were the touchstones that shaped my aspirations as a child, college student, job seeker, mother, and wife as I navigated my own life story.
Here’s my list. What’s yours?
Poppy (Sally Hawkins) in Happy-Go-Lucky
Poppy, an elementary school teacher whom people underestimate (even dismiss) because of her happy-go-lucky outlook on life, is a manic pixie dream girl who saves herself — rather than serving as a colorful means to rescuing the moody male lead from a life-sucking mope. As Mike Leigh’s dramedy unfolds and this very ordinary young woman reveals herself in, of all things, learning how to drive with an angry black hole of an instructor, we discover she doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. She has made a conscious choice to embrace the positive in life, even when those around her refuse and resist and whinge. I draw inspiration from that spirit of relishing life in the small moments and hoping for the best despite the obvious worst life deals you. It runs against the grain of female images in movies by appreciating this quality rather than condescending to it. I suppose that Happy-Go-Lucky is the movie I should watch every Christmas, instead of the fusty Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart chestnut It’s a Wonderful Life.
Lesson Learned: Being an optimist in a jaded society isn’t so much a delusion as a triumph of the will.