Hometown: Trapani, Sicily
City of current residence: Rome
Occupation/Area of study: Student in Fashion Studies Master’s Degree at Sapienza, Università di Roma. Particularly interested in gender studies, queer theories and body politics.
Before starting with the actual answers, I’d like to specify that I’m a gay cisgender white man. I don’t know what it means to be a girl, even if I went in a mostly female high school and the majority of my friends are girls.
Are there any films that you remember having a strong influence on your ideas of what it meant to be a ‘girl’?
I remember, when I was a teenager, that I was particularly (and I still am) fascinated with the depiction that Sofia Coppola did in The Virgin Suicides, based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides. I loved the intimacy, the perspective of that film about girlhood. Its aim was not resolving a mystery, bringing clarity on what it means to be a girl. The male perspective through which the Lisbon sisters are told is desperate for explanation, for the “truth” of being a girl. The reason why Cecilia kills herself is not explained, her chatting with the doctor doesn’t say anything about the struggles of being a 13 year old girl, but still highlights the presence of such struggles.
The guys that love them try to keep in touch with them, to “save” them from their condition, discovering there’s not much that they can do. They describe the girls in a both tender and melancholic way: “We knew the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love, and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them. […] So much has been said about the girls over the years. But we have never found an answer. It didn’t matter in the end how old they were, or that they were girls… but only that we had loved them… and that they hadn’t heard us calling. Still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms… where they went to be alone for all time… and where will never find the pieces to put them back together”.
There’s a sense of acknowledgement in the end, in my opinion. Recognizing the fact than, even with the best intentions and the purest love and care, entering in a space of empathy in which we can try to decipher people is not always possible or easy, but rather difficult (sometimes impossible). I still don’t understand how girlhood “works”, the sensations of being a girl, because I’m not one. All I can try to do is the same thing that the guys in the films do: letting my female friends know that I’m there for them, to establish a contact and create a comfortable space for them not expecting necessarily their presence nor their collaboration. I like to think that this film has not taught me what it feels to be a girl, but at least how to communicate with a girl in the best way possible in order not to patronize a conversation and not to disrespect them.
How diverse are the representations of girlhood in your own national cinema?
In Italy we don’t have a wide representation of girlhood in cinemas. The racial/queer aspect is not present at all, girls in Italian films tent to be only the object of desire of their peer male friends or the problematic daughters (problematic just for the sake of it, bidimensional characters that have potential to become deep, fully rounded. Italian cinema has a plethora of missed occasion in this field).
I would like to bring an example which is not strictly related to cinema, as it’s a TV series that has been heavily advertised by Netflix Italia, called “Baby”, which is the story of problematic teenagers in the high-bourgeois Rome (tennis court teenagers, stealing this definition from a song by Lorde). The main characters of this TV series are 16/17 year old girls with different problems with themselves, their peers (both male and female), parents etc. Their personality is flat, static, they’re full of rage, they want to get out of the fake environment they live in, but we don’t know why. The result is a bunch of spoiled kids, too sad that they’re rich. And these girls had a lot of potential, but the screenplay and the direction is very approximative and stereotypical in representing them.
Do you prefer narratives of girlhood from your own national cinema to that of other countries? Why/why not?
I think I prefer narratives of girlhood that come from abroad. In America and UK, especially in independent cinema e TV series there’s more intention to be risky and daring in representing girls. Not just “strong” girls (which has become a very banal concept nowadays) but girls with a real personality, with all the contradictions and the problems of it, girls we can empathize with. Female characters in general (of any age) are depicted with much more complexity in cinema outside Italy. It Italy, the only female characters we consider and depict as complex are middle-aged women, like in Pasolini’s Mamma Roma and generally in all the films of the Neorealist genre.