Leaning on the everlasting arms may make one safe and secure from all alarms, but sometimes we need an infusion of something just a bit higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As the weeks have turned into months, I find myself employing an old pattern of seeking to get from the movies what is missing from real life.
What I needed this week was an injection of glamour, with a capital “G.” Having worn nothing but kaftans, bath robes, and spa pants for ages, it was time to go to a world where the gowns were designed by Jean Louis and adorned by a stunning array of jewels by Laykin et Cie. A movie whose style purposely conceals the message (to paraphrase Roger Ebert), and whose star embodied glamour like no one else every could. So, I queued up Imitation of Life.
Lana Turner, as Lora Meredith, is flawless all of the time. Whether she’s at Coney Island, in her cold water flat, or on a picnic, she’s as artfully turned out as when she’s attending an opening night party for her new Broadway show. She doesn’t face a pandemic, but I’m pretty sure Lana could do it while wearing a perfectly coordinated mask to wear with every ensemble, which she would know how to remove without smudging her lipstick.
Of course, Imitation of Life is about much more than that, as most of you know. But this time, I wasn’t going there for the racial themes or to contemplate director Douglas Sirk’s ability to use ‘50s era commercial moviemaking to comment obliquely on deeper issues. Glamour was the fix I needed, and Lana just the one to administer it.
Looking around these days, it isn’t so much an imitation of life that can be seen so much as a simulation of it. For many, real life has been preempted in favor of something less satisfying, less convenient, and less enjoyable—issues associated with psychological needs, according to Maslow. For others, lost jobs have reduced or eliminated income and been replaced by uncertainty and anxiety about how basic needs will be met.
With the loosening of the early “shelter in place” restrictions, we sort of fell into groups, each having different ways of effectuating life in this unfamiliar simulation. Predictably, since we’re humans, each group looks at the others with side eye.
There are the deniers, who continue to believe that the whole coronavirus thing is a hoax or at most a problem vastly overstated for political gain by those who don’t see things as they do. These folks run from the belligerent non-maskers to those who only wear them begrudgingly. This group is where one can expect to find the bulk of the proponents of hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19, which is a bit ironic that a cure is needed for something that barely exists in the first place.
Then there are what I will call the buyers (just to keep a rhyme going) as they seem to have bought the idea that the pandemic is serious, but somehow manageable without giving up everything that met psychological needs back in the old days of 2019. This is where social distancing replaces physical distancing, and behavior is considered safe if it’s less risky.
Rounding out the lot are the triers, whose behavior has barely changed since this thing started. They are the most focused on trying to avoid infection. The deniers think they are living in fear, something many deniers simply refuse to do, while the buyers think such measures are “extreme.” The browsing history of many in this group would include searches on the early signs of agoraphobia and anthropophobia.
We could have calcified into our chosen groups, but now the whole country must contend with what’s to be done about getting back to school. (Well, not the whole country, as those of us without progeny can sit back and hope for the best.)
Children supposedly are a civilized society’s highest priority. Not all of them have been inside a protective bubble for the last several months, but pushing those that have been out into the world should give their parents pause. All of that is without even mentioning the teachers, administrators, and other school employees that might go out there with them.
Whatever any of us are doing, we are stuck with “time will tell” and “wait and see.” But I’m not waiting. I need another fix, so I’m going to see The Postman Always Rings Twice. Lana is more glamorous working in a highway diner than most actresses are accepting an Oscar.