It was fun while it lasted.
Back at the start of September, on Twitter, someone posted a tweet encouraging people to list five movies that best represent their tastes and personality.
The uptake on the challenge was swift and immediate, to the point that the original tweet doesn’t even exist anymore (the poster probably deleted it after their mentions started achieving numbers similar to the population of a small country).
I initially ignored the meme, more so due to not knowing how I would answer than any sort of aversion to viral entertainment.
However, countless people’s answers kept turning up in my feed for days on end. This had the benefit of exposing me to lots of possible options, which convinced me to give my own answer some serious thought.
As a writer, after all, I trade in stories, and should thus have some insight into those that best match my tastes and help influence my own writing preferences.
Eventually, I was indeed able to come up with five choices of my own. These include the following:
1) Pride and Prejudice
This one appeared on a LOT of people’s (mainly women’s) lists, and it’s not hard to see why. This movie (both the 1995, six-hour BBC miniseries and the 2005 version featuring Kiera Knightly) contains everything I love most in a story.
It’s a historical costume drama (at least it’s historical now—when Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813, it was a contemporary romance).
It features a host of complex, female characters dealing with matters related to women’s inner lives. The main character, Elizabeth Bennet, is intelligent, restless, and a product of her time while still managing to push her social boundaries.
It’s British—I’ve always enjoyed British history, as well as British manners, mannerisms, and humour.
And come on—do I really need to say it? It has Mr. Darcy [heart]
A long-time favourite and among my top three Disney movies to boot (the other two are The Lion King and a tie between The Little Mermaid and Frozen), Mulan contains many elements that totally scream “me”.
Again, it’s a historical movie, my favourite genre. Yet it also includes the realism of things that the people of the day believed in (sentient dragons; the actions of ancestors in influencing the lives of the living), which is my favourite historical subgenre.
Mulan also features a heroine who possesses both traditionally masculine and feminine forms of strength, as well as an overall message that subtly overturns conventional gender roles and notions of male and female capabilities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the delightfully ironic and iconic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”.
3) Ever After
Another historical, but this one is also a fairy tale retelling—a revisionist account of Cinderella, in which the prince starts out quite a bit more entitled and whiny than charming.
In this telling, although downtrodden, the main character (named Danielle) uses her wit, ingenuity, and a bit of help from her friends to essentially rescue herself.
Ever After too is a costume drama, in more ways than one. Like in the original tale, Danielle assumes the guise of a high-ranking noblewoman. But in this version, she begins her deception much earlier, and for far longer, than just the night of the infamous ball.
The interplay between her and her stepmother and stepsisters is also well done. The stepfamily treats her poorly, but also manages to elicit moments of sympathy. Their relationship with Danielle, as well as with each other, is subtle and realistic.
I first saw Ever After the year it came out, back in 1998. But it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize all the subtle ways this movie influenced and inspired my historical fiction WIP.
4) Black Panther
Even though this movie is quite new, it became an instant favourite when I saw it.
It falls at the opposite pole of my genre preferences—my favourite stories tend toward either historical or speculative.
Still, it manages to incorporate a historical anchor through the fact that Wakanda, the fictional, technologically-advanced African nation where the movie takes place, was able to develop in that way in part through having never been colonized or subject to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Due to the impacts of the slave trade, I am unable to trace my ancestry to a specific African country, or even a general region of the continent. For most among the African Diaspora, this is the case, like so many trees shorn of their roots.
Wakanda thus offers an alluring, epic alternate history.
The movie in general is also filled with heroic, badass, wildly attractive people who look like me and who are grappling with complex social injustices. Which is the sort of representation almost every underrepresented population wants to—and deserves to—see in mainstream media.
5) Sister Act
This one completely breaks the historical/fantastical mold among my favourites. Like Mulan, though, it is musical, and the music—1960s R&B classics reworked with a religious bent—is really good!
Whoopi Goldberg’s fish-out-of-water role as a lounge singer hiding out in a convent is over-the-top hilarious. As well, the various nuns with their different personalities form a chorus of comedic perfection.
I don’t know what else I can even say about this movie: it’s nuns on the run and it’s brilliant. I re-watch it every year.
What movies best represent you and yours tastes?