3 Takeaways from “Lovely and Amazing”
A friend recently recommended the movie Lovely and Amazing, and I didn’t know what to expect apart from the fact that it dealt with body image issues, among other things. Watching it brought up a lot of memories for me and reminded me of some important points.
1: Kids pick up on a lot
The movie revolves around Jane and her three daughters: adults Catherine and Emily, and eight-year-old Annie, a Black girl adopted by Jane. And of all the characters, Annie was the one I could empathize with the most.
Even at eight, she was already on the heavy side, and it was clear to me how much she was absorbing from observing the interactions of the other women in the family. One of the biggest plot points was about Jane deciding to get liposuction, even though she didn’t look all that big to me.
And Annie, watching this, wanted to know why her mom needed this surgery. Jane basically answered that it would make her feel better about herself, apparently not once considering how that would come across to Annie. After all, if Jane needed to have fat removed to feel good about herself and to be considered attractive, what must that say about Annie?
Now, I could be projecting based on my own experience, but I had the sense that much of Annie’s acting out wasn’t only to get attention, but also to try to get someone to tell her they loved her as she was, that their affection wasn’t conditional depending on what she ate or how much she weighed. I’m sure Annie felt the judgment that rolled off Catherine like waves, at least until near the end of the movie when Catherine finally gave up trying to police what Annie ate, and Catherine even gave Annie a nice compliment.
It all reminded me of how much kids take in from what’s going on around them, often more than we realize, and how they’re likely to internalize toxic messages they hear about their bodies.
2: Insecurity knows no size limit
Another aspect of the movie that particularly struck me was how very insecure Emily was. Despite being thin and beautiful, she was convinced her body wasn’t good enough.
Perhaps the most painful moment of the film (at least for me) was when Emily asked a guy she’d just slept with and barely knew to tell her everything bad about her body. Only belatedly did she add that he could say good things, too.
So, she stood naked in front of him to be examined and evaluated like a piece of meat. I know she asked for the treatment, but it just underscored how desperately insecure she was, that she wanted some random guy to point out what – in his opinion only – was bad about her body.
And then, when he had finished cataloging her, she asked about her arms, which he hadn’t mentioned. She even flagged her arms like wings, to force him to agree with her own belief that her arms were “flabby”. Mind you, I could hardly see any movement of her skin when she flapped her arms because they were so skinny.
It seemed ludicrous that she could think of her arms and other parts of her body like that, but it also struck me as tragic.
I know the character of Emily was an actress and therefore felt she had to scrutinize her appearance, but that didn’t make ii any less awful. I can’t help thinking how much time and energy she put into criticizing herself and looking for flaws with her body, and how that time and energy could have been put to much better use.
What makes it even sadder is knowing that this type of self-judgment is the reality for far too many girls and young women, of all shapes and sizes.
3: Surgery should be taken seriously
Going back to Jane’s liposuction, she had some pretty serious complications, including an infection that left her unconscious for several days. (I think – the movie was a bit hazy about how much time passed.)
Jane complained that the nurses weren’t very attentive to her because she’d “only” had cosmetic surgery. I don’t know how accurate that was, but it seemed pretty clear from the beginning that Jane herself was pretty cavalier about the surgery. She seemed to think that liposuction would be a breeze and was so simple she didn’t even need to think about complications.
I’ve never understood this way of thinking. Liposuction and other types of cosmetic surgery have always seemed pretty serious to me, though seeing my mom’s surgery when I was 22 really drove the point home. Breast reconstruction isn’t considered cosmetic surgery, but since the plastic surgeon used my mom’s own skin and fat, my mom also essentially got a tummy tuck. And even though she didn’t have complications, it took quite a while for her to recover.
I also made sure to research my own surgery for arm lifts quite a lot before going ahead with it. I only opted to do the surgery in the end because it had minimal risk of side effects, unlike a lot of other surgeries.
Seeing what Jane went through in the movie was tough, but it was a good reminder not to take these procedures lightly.
Lovely and amazing
As the movie went on, I kept wondering how it got the title, since the women didn’t seem to think very well of themselves. But then Jane and Emily had a discussion in the hospital, after Jane’s surgery. Emily was complaining about her difficulty finding roles in movies, and somewhere along the way, Jane said, “I think you’re lovely and amazing.”
It was very touching, the more so because Emily didn’t think that way about herself. But I’m glad she had a mom who thought that way about her and was willing to say that. And it got me thinking that it would be great if all of us had someone who could remind us that we’re lovely and amazing – and even better if we believed it.