Liz, Liz, Liz, Liz, Liz.
HOW could you? How COULD you? How could YOU? Of ALL people?
I am sending you this letter my dearest Lizzie, to tell you that at least one of your devotées – one of your most devoted of devotées, has fallen off the Eat Pray Love bandwagon as a result of your shameless decision to go blockbuster with Eat Pray Love. What was that enormous thud? Just my soul crashing to the earth. Not to worry. What’s one soul when millions will be boarding the bandwagon next month to drink the EPL kool-aid? No my dearest Liz, you won’t even know I’m gone.
Like many, I was given Eat, Pray, Love by one of my dearest friends, a testament to the daisy chain of women – to the connection we have and the primal, unselfish desire to provide information to each other that WILL MAKE OUR LIVES BETTER. That was in 2007. For me, as for many, the book illuminated things in a way I’d never experienced. The notions of spiritual and human enlightenment gave me much to consider. And it showed me that one can wear Prada and meditate! Given the duality that is my life, that was an absolutely stunning realization for me. The fact that all my character traits, as contradictory as they may be, can co-habitate quite happily in the studio apartment of my head was a huge breakthrough. (They all say hello, by the way).
Like many people I know, I finished the book and simply started it all over again. Avec highlighter. I then bought 11 copies of the book and sent them to my best and brightest friends around the world – recruiting for the Liz Nation. I sent copies to Australia. One to Italy. I even sent a couple of copies to my more enlightened male friends (who not surprisingly, liked the “Eat” part best.) I have given the book to new friends that haven’t yet been enlightened, and I have given it to the daughters (mini-Lizzies) of some of my dearest friends as an Essential Guide for navigating through life.
It all went pear-shaped for me when I learned about the casting of the film.
Suffice to say that even a woman such as myself, with one incredibly overworked, exhausted and most likely, saggy, braincell left in her head, can work out why Julia Roberts was cast in the lead. My dog could work it out (but she is very bright, so possibly not a good example). But for this EG devotée, in that one casting decision, the intimacy of the story, the connection to the piece – my trust in your intentions, my beloved Lizzy – all went up in smoke. For me, the message – the what – would now be diluted by the the star – the who. (No offense intended to Julia Roberts, though possibly the smallest tinge of resentment for her not choosing to recognize that the sheer magnitude of her star could not help but dull the small but true light of the piece. Shame on you, Julia.)
And EG, you didn’t just go Hollywood on us, you went Blockbuster Hollywood on us – a horse of an entirely different color! And consequently, you blew an opportunity to maintain the vulnerability and honesty of your story through the choice of an appropriate medium in which to tell it. An opportunity to get us to believe the experiences as they were happening to you. Instead of keeping it small and intimate with a cast that doesn’t make 20 million a picture (tough to believe them in the role or relate to, I must be honest), you went with the greatest number of screens upon which to share your experience. Instead of saying to us, “This was painful and it was joyful and let me take you through my process and together, we’ll see if it resonates on any level for you”, you went with more of a, “Isn’t it so fabulous where I am now? Look how I came out the other side! It all seems sooo long ago – I can hardly remember it anymore. Oh – Julia’s on the phone? Tell her I’ll call her back later.” Somehow, in these decisions, it feels more about the arrival and less about the journey.
And Lizard – its not like there isn’t a well-established history of small, independent films doing spectacularly well at the box office, receiving world-wide critical acclaim, and oh yeah, all while staying true to the message and the truth of a story. Just saying.
And then all the product tie-ins started to kick-in. Now, Eat Pray Love is the adult version of a McDonalds Happy Meal that comes with a “Toy Story” action figure. I can see the Eat, Pray Love McDonalds happy meal – a salad with mozzarella and couscous, and a string of genuine Eat Pray Love meditation beads – collect all three styles! Even the LA Times commented on the Eat Pray Love Juggernaut of tie-ins,
“By the time the movie opens in August, you will be able to get “Eat, Pray, Love” furnishings from Cost Plus; shop the “Eat, Pray, Love” way with the Home Shopping Network, get “Eat, Pray, Love” jewelry from Dogeared, spray “Eat, Pray, Love” eau de parfum from Fresh, wear organic “Eat, Pray, Love” T-shirts from Signorelli, and drink “Eat, Pray, Love” tea. You’ll be able to find glamorous “Eat, Pray, Love”-themed dresses by Sue Wong, and STA Travel will soon be offering their version of the “Eat, Pray, Love” experience: you can just Eat (in Italy), just Pray (in India), just Love (in Bali) or do all three.”
My favorite was a comment from Travel Hum in which another slightly jaded blogger was holding out for the official Eat Pray Love Yoga Mat and DIY Ashram Home Decorating Kit. Sounds good to me.
Oh Lizzie Liz Liz, I know business is business. And I know it gets tricky when you’re making copious sums of moolah from a personal journey of enlightenment. Those lines can be sooo blurry sometimes. And I know the studio is calling all the shots, but Liz, my darling Lizzy, you gave them the power to do so. And I guess, at the end of the day, I just wish you hadn’t. I wish you had kept it simple, had trusted the power of the experience to be the driving message. And I wish you had trusted that your daisy chain of supporters – of women empowering other women with your singularly spectacular message of belief, would be enough of a legacy.
Well, I’m done lecturing, darling Elizabeth. I have just enough time to hit the Neimans shoe department before my meditation class starts. Give my best to Julia – tell her no hard feelings. I’ll look forward to seeing you on an astral plane very soon.
Look for MY book coming out soon – Drink Write Swear. I’m still working on the jacket cover artwork – but every time I finish, I manage to spill a glass of wine on it. Damnit!!