“we are creatures of the underworld – we can’t afford to love”

sing to me, Ewan

Last night was our weekly family movie night, and I got to introduce Emma to one of my very favourite films, Moulin Rouge. When this movie first came out (16 years ago?!), I saw it multiple times in the theatres. While I own the DVD, I don’t think I’ve seen it since Emma has been born. It’s been a while, but I still remember pretty much EVERY WORD (and lyric!) of it.

It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside — particularly when you watch something you’ve loved in past, but now have different eyes to process what you see.

While there’s much about the movie I still love (the songs! the colours! Nicole’s hair!), I don’t think I love it quite as much as I did before. For one, it’s not the classic love story I once considered it to be — now when I watch it, all I see is two jealous men fighting to selfishly possess a dying woman who’s drowning in her emotional labour responsibilities.

Both Christian (the sensitive/dashing beau) and the Duke (the creepy gazillionaire) feel like they are entitled to own Satine. Added to that, she’s also carrying the responsibilities of making sure the Moulin Rouge doesn’t financially fail, which means Zidler (the singsongy fat pimp) also makes a point of controlling her. She’s always in a dance of making these men happy, by meeting their needs — when very few are actually looking out for what she needs (as she’s dying of tuberculosis). The story is hardly the moving and romantic tale I thought it was.

I love the caged-bird metaphors and references that were made throughout the film. And the most moving scene isn’t the final one when she dies in Christian’s arms, but when Satine resigns herself to accept her fate of being trapped:

Last night, after we finished watching the movie, Emma (the wise 10 year old), made a point of saying how much she didn’t like Ewan McGregor’s character: “even though he was in love, he was so jealous! And he should have let her do what she needed to do to help her friends. If he’s going to be so upset,┬áit’s just not going to work out.

I was a little floored how she was able to see through the plot as quickly as she did, and how much of her observations echoed what I was thinking.

As her mama, I’m also proud of my little girl — and I hope she’ll carry this relational savvy with her. Because if she does, she’ll be many steps ahead of her mama.


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