If you haven’t seen it, Julie & Julia is a movie (based on a book) about a late twenty/early thirty-something, who suddenly realizes her career is going nowhere. To change this fact she begins a self-imposed quest to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking within 365 days, and to blog about the experience along the way.
I saw Julie & Julie in the theatres with my mother. As we walked out she exclaimed, “I should do a blog. I could write about something.” I was in the second month of my very first blog, and quietly thought, oh sure, anyone can blog. It’s so easy. Just look at my two meager entries (one being the ever essential, “My blog will be about XYZ”). Simple.
The first time I saw the movie, two things struck me: 1. the food, the shot of her and her husband crunching into a fresh batch of bruschetta stays with me still; 2. the mind-crushing schedule necessary to write a near-daily blog. On such a demanding regime, I’m sure the blog can seem to take over your life. What will the next entry be about? What if you have nothing to say? What if you don’t feel like cooking? The “What ifs” have the ability to handicap a newbie blogger, and I was impressed with Julie Powell’s spit-into-the-wind attitude toward her doubt.
The second time I saw Julie & Julia was after it was released on DVD. I watched it on my laptop via Netflix Instant Watch. Upon the second viewing two different things struck me: 1. Julia Child was a charming and amazing woman; 2. Julie Powell is entitled and self-involved. For everything that was wonderful about Julia Child—being a loving wife and thoughtful friend, a dedicated writer and self-demanding student—Julie Powell, at least in the movie, embodies the opposite. She is cruel to her husband, is a whiner, and a user.
Julia worked for years on her cookbook with little to no hope of it being published, let alone becoming a success. She taught herself a craft—cooking—insisted on doing it well, and chose to help others do the same. Julie is not a very good cook, and never claims to be. She is not an extraordinarily talented writer, and never claims to be. Julie’s talent is found in her ability to latch on to a figure and use it. As far as I can tell, Julie Powell’s admiration for Julia Child is self-serving; She doesn’t care for the real Julia, as much for the one she created. The one that serves her own life story, her blog, and ultimately her career and financial gain.
Maybe I’m being harsh. And maybe these harsh judgments of Julie Powell stem from the fact I watched her writing transgressions from the window of my laptop. My own blog site minimized in the corner, I was forced to face an uncomfortable and frightening question: Am I not the same? Am I an ungrateful blogger?
The answer: an unenthusiastic, yes?
I watched the movie and marveled at life in Julia’s generation. These were a strong stock of people (having lived through WWII and the McCarthy Era); these were a patient people. Information took longer; it took time. They wrote careful letters to pen pals they never met. They wrote painful love letters. They had relationships, real relationships that were nurtured over many years. Books took time, written on typewriters and edited by carbon paper. There were no laptops. No WIFI in the café. No Facebook. No Blogger. Social networking was a face-to-face affair. And with no virtual life, real life spent time and people cared about quality.
Today’s bloggers, like Julie Powell and myself, have the ability to get an idea and near-instantly put it out into the world. There is no cultivating. It is instant gratification. The light bulb turns on and we don’t care to dress it or shade it. We let it burn bright and hope the people in the wide world will notice, read it, comment (we live for comments, nay need them). And we feel accomplished. But are we?
And now due to the success of the earlier blogs like The Julie/Julia project, these virtual brain rants can lead to a book (and for a lucky one or two a movie). This is a legitimate hope. If my blog is noticed, if my idea is wild enough, catchy enough, resonates with enough faces peering into the same world window, I might get a book deal. Isn’t that one reason why many of us blog? Is this too shameful a secret to share? Don’t we do it to get our names out, widen our readership, and beef up our Google resumes? (Did I say that?)
It’s no wonder Julia Child didn’t want to meet Julie Powell. Julia had to work her ass off over many years (of course she did have the comfort of a wealthy and supportive spouse), whereas Powell had an idea one night, instantaneously began baring these thoughts to the world, and received serious book offers within a year. A year!
In such a faced-paced forum for writing where is the space needed for art, introspection, and beauty? I fear there isn’t any.
It is said that Julia Child didn’t care for the blog. She didn’t appreciate Julie’s love of the ef-word, and found it to be a stunt. I worry that many blogs are a stunt. Do we, the bloggers, write for the sake of language and art, or for the sake of readers, comments, and book deals? Watching Julie & Julia a second time I realized that I just might be an ungrateful, ef-bombing blogger, but I aspire to be a Julia Child.
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo is a poet, Splinter editor, literary curator, and soon-to-be (once again) educator. You can read more of her work at xochitljulisa.blogspot.com. She assures you she recognizes the irony of plugging her blog.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);