Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film released in 1961, is considered a classic. Audrey Hepburn is a famous actress, and I have heard reviews that offer high praise of the film. And yet, I found myself disappointed when I finally watched it.
After thinking about why I disliked it, I found the message portrayed was problematic. Breakfast at Tiffany’s introduces young Holly Golightly, a woman who lives as a “café society girl,” which essentially means she goes out with rich men and they give her money. This is her career, and how she survives. She meets a young writer, who goes by either Paul or Fred, and they become fast friends. However, it is very clear that Paul is in love with her. We follow Holly through her ups and downs, and learn why Paul falls in love with her.
That was the root of the problem for me. The reason why Paul was in love with her was because she was written as beautiful and broken, “a wild thing.” This trope is something I see often in media. Women are portrayed as big dreamers, and yet they are sad despite all of this strength and self-expression. It is only when the male protagonist sweeps in and fights with the female protagonist, saying, “I love you. You belong to me” (a quote from the movie), that the female falls for him and allows him to give her true happiness. She gives up the role of the “wild thing” to experience the happiness that she can supposedly only find in this man.
In my eyes, this reinforces the idea that women will forever be unhappy unless a man desires and supports them. Women will only be happy if they find a boyfriend or husband, and their personal accomplishments do not matter. Women cannot gain satisfaction, pride, and happiness from the work they do and the life they lead unless they have a man at their side.
I would like to challenge this notion. Women do not need men, just as men do not need women. But perhaps men and women want each other (even in just a platonic way, if you happen to be homosexual). A woman does not need to be broken and beautiful to be found desirable—she can find her own happiness, just as a man can. Perhaps when we realize this, men and women will be able to support one another with true strength, integrity, and happiness.