Name: Michela

Hometown: Frascati, Rome

City of current residence: Albano Laziale, Rome

Occupation: Digital Communication Intern at Indra Italia S.p.A.

Area of study: MA in Media and Digital Communications at Università di Roma La Sapienza

What sort of films on girlhood did you grow up watching?

I’ve always loved watching movies, both at the cinema and at home. When I was in high school I never streamed or downloaded movies. I often looked for films with actresses I liked or films adapted from books I loved a lot. Films that come to mind would be Adventureland, Speak, Life of Riley (with Kristen Stewart), Christiane F., Erin Brockovich, Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride (with Julia Roberts) and comedies starring Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock. I also remember Pride and Prejudice and Caterina in the Big City. My choices were not influenced solely by their projects, but by what  I learned about them in class or online. Often the protagonists were undergoing a phase of transgression and restlessness, so I imagine that I became attached to them because I too felt this way and because I wanted to escape, both physically and in an abstract manner. Film and literature allowed me to do so. Thanks to the liceo linguistico, I also remember seeing things from Spanish and French cinema. Obviously, by “girlhood” I must refer to films in which girls are present, but not in leading roles, like in Harry Potter. I am a fantasy fanatic and therefore I needed representations related to that genre. I also watched a lot of TV series like Gilmore Girls, Dawson’s Creek, Roswell, Popular, Degrassi, which followed boys and girls of my age (a role covered today by series like 13 Reasons Why). As a teenager, I also loved the Spanish TV series Paso Adelante, because it represented the life of dancers and my love for dance (I attended a classical dance course for eight years, from ages seven to fourteen). I must also mention the film Juno (again the focus on transgressive female figures and American independent films).

How do you think these films shaped your identity growing up?

The films and books certainly helped me live better. I’ve always loved any form of storytelling. I’m a curious person and I think I like to watch movies in which women and their issues are at the forefront of the conflict.

Do the narratives on girlhood you watch reflect your own experiences? If not, in which ways?

Generally, the discomfort experienced by characters come to Twilight’s Bella and the like mirror the moments of uncertainty and transition that I personally lived. I feel good seeing that I was not the only one experiencing these things and that it was a temporary phase. I preferred foreign films and I often seem to be more behind than my peers and the characters in the films that I happened to watch in terms of universal experiences.

What are your favourite films about girlhood?

Nowadays, I prefer to watch films with prominent older female characters like Frida, Lucky, Suffragette, Bridget Jones, which manage to be both serious and profound and extremely witty. I don’t like to be monotone in terms of the nuance of characters to discover and make mine. Even today I frequently choose films in which I love the actresses in them, for instance, Lion, Side Effects, Her, Song to Song (with Rooney Mara) or The Help, Birdman, La La Land (with Emma Stone). Recently I watched Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water, all with Octavia Spencer. This is due to my fascination with the feminine charisma attributed to older actresses (like Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter).

What films which you know of now would you recommend to your younger self?

I like a lot of films in which women fight and show that they have a decisive role in their own and others’ lives. I would probably recommend The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock, another actress who knows how to create depth and make it look easy. In this case, she plays a mother who adopts a black boy and integrates him into the family, growing up and giving him an education and a home, without daring to succumb to other people’s prejudices, even the from the ones closest to her. I loved Suffragette very much. I liked the historical retelling, but also the fictional story dedicated to each historical figure. Even a comedy can be enlightening about how to live a family life and for this reason, I find it interesting. Also The Intern, in which Anne Hathaway finds herself facing unexpected success and having to reconcile the hectic pace with the time she wishes to dedicate to her daughter and husband. More up to date choices have also come to mind, such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Orange is the New Black, The End of the Fucking World, How to Get Away With Murder (Netflix) The Handmaid’s Tale and Killing Eve. 

How do representations of girlhood in your national cinema differ from those of Hollywood/American cinema?

I think that in our national cinema, girlhoods of the past are more frequently represented and the representations of the reality of today are a scandal. What is remarkable to me is the ability to know how to tell a story in a brilliant and bittersweet way and not dramatic for the sake of notoriety. Comedies like Perfetti Sconosciuti, Il Posto, Smetto Quando Voglio are good representations of this. I loved the recent series Non Mentire.

Do you prefer narratives of girlhood from your own national cinema to that of other countries? Why/why not?

I don’t have a preference, but it depends on my mood. In American films, I typically choose between celebratory films, like those I’ve already mentioned, or comedies. In Italian cinema, it is a continuity between the two genres that makes it always a bit heavy. Watching an Italian film, as far as I’m concerned, means paying more attention to it and investing more on a cognitive and emotional level.

How diverse are the representations of girlhood in your own national cinema?

Even in Italian cinema and television, we can find luminous examples which move away from stereotypes. I like to mention the Rai series L’Allieva, but also series like Tutti Pazzi per Amore and È Arrivata la Felicità, which is a multi-faceted tale of femininity, sexuality, completely heterogeneous habits and manias which are adherent to reality. I also would mention the comedies Amiche da Morire, Nessuno Mi Può Giudicare and Nemiche per la Pelle. In the latter, motherhood is represented, rather than girlhood, but above all, it represents a different way of giving oneself to the world, of being women and raising a child. As you can see, some elements reoccur, but the range of privileged female characters has become much wider and unrelated to stereotypes.