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Episode 27 - Amelia

posted Aug 19, 2017, 4:27 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 6:26 PM ]

Amelia (2009) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt1129445/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Amelia/70108780?trkid=2361637 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2fVH3Ae - Amazon

First of all, I'm going to give spoilers. This movie is based on a real person and historically important events, so I don't feel any need to protect people from spoilers. If you are from the US and haven't heard what happens to Amelia Earhart by now, you're probably too young to be listening to this podcast or not aware of this podcast in the first place.  We don't watch biopics to be surprised by the ending, we watch them to find out how this particular storyteller tells the story.

I remember a few years ago when Amelia's letter to her husband about the nature of their marriage made the rounds in the poly community. I really resonated with it because it was not so much a statement of polyamory, but a statement of independence and female empowerment. This movie used several of her letters, this one included, as actual lines in the movie. So, without really doing any independent research into her life, this movie seemed to ring true - at least as true as any Hollywood film can be.

So anyway, I started out watching this movie knowing ahead of time that she had an open marriage and that she is on everyone's poly-celebrities list. And, of course, I am also aware of the only way this movie can end, what with her rather legendary demise and all. So I tried really hard not to get my hopes up out of fear that they would be dashed on the rocks, only to constantly remind myself not to be so cynical at every scene where there wasn't a happy poly family on screen.

It actually took a while to get into the poly stuff, but, conversely, because we had to cover so many years in a 2-hour film, I felt like her relationship with her husband was rushed. I didn't feel properly prepared for their first kiss - it seemed to come out of the blue to me. But when it came to part where he asked her to marry him, she wrote him her famous letter while he slept and then read it to him when he woke.

For those who have never read this letter, it goes like this:
www.lettersofnote.com/2010/04/you-must-know-again-my-reluctance-to.html

Dear GPP

There are some things which should be writ before we are married -- things we have talked over before -- most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feelings that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but to have no heart to look ahead.

On our life together, I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or increasing) in anyone else.

Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinement of even an attractive cage.

I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.

I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.

A.E.

So I can completely see why she has been embraced by the poly community. She isn't just practical about future attractions to other people, but she's also feminist and independent. She is concerned that her marriage will interfere with her career and she wants to keep her own place for when she needs time for herself. And I think the sentiments in this letter were well portrayed in the movie, not just because she said them as lines of dialog.

But then it took a while before anyone else came into the picture. So I started thinking that this wasn't so much a story about polyamory, but about Open Marriage in the original sense that the coiners of the phrase intended. Open Marriage, according to the book of the same name, was much less about extramarital affairs and much more about being authentic and honest within one's marriage - being open with each other to share their innermost thoughts and to be themselves without fear. They were very much for the concept of independence within a partnership, not losing one's identity to the couple. I'm not sure if that's where the term "interdependence" came from, but that's the general idea. So I thought to myself "well, OK, that's not exactly poly, but poly overlaps with Open Marriage, and many of those traits are integral to polyamory, so I guess this is poly-ish".

But then Amelia meets Gene. Gene was another flier who admired Amelia and ran in similar celebrity circles. In reality, the question of their relationship is controversial, but the movie takes a pretty clear stance that they became lovers while Amelia was married to George. So then I started to think, "OK, this is still an Open Marriage in the original sense, but now it just happens to include that single chapter on extramarital lovers." George notices immediately, in the movie, the attraction between Amelia and Gene, and he seems uncomfortable and resentful about it. But he gives her the freedom to pursue it. Rather reluctantly, it seems. But where things get complicated is that Gene and George have a very civil, friendly even, relationship with each other. Gene even stays at their house for a while, along with his child.

So then I started to think "oh, I guess this is poly - it appears to be a poly vee." But next we see an argument between Amelia and George when Amelia suggests, because of their respective touring schedules, that she remain at home, with Gene, while George go on his trip. [inserted movie clip of this disagreement]  So, that threw me back in the Open Marriage-but-not-poly camp, because, in my opinion, it's not poly if someone is being dragged into it, appearances to the contrary.

But really, George and Gene get along pretty well, and continue to get along for as long as the movie says that relationship lasts. There is no secret, everyone knows what's going on, even the kid. At one point, Gene's son asks Amelia to marry his dad. [inserted movie clip of the son asking Amelia to marry his dad] Amelia just smiles and closes the door. If that isn't poly, I don't know what is.

I think that George is put in a very difficult position. He lives at the turn of the last century when women were not equals and marriage had certain rules, and he has the blessing and the curse of being in love with a woman who thinks she's his equal. With a woman like Amelia, there is no compromise - you have a partnership with an equal or you have nothing. That's tough to handle in previous eras. So I think, given the time involved, this movie really did show a version of polyamory, even if some of the characters had a difficult time accepting it. After all, who among us has ever embraced all that goes along with polyamory without even the slightest bit of difficulty? Some maybe, but not many.

Later, we meet Amelia's navigator on her fateful final flight. They have a conversation where it appears as though he is mangling an attempt to hit on Amelia. The conversation goes something like this:

[inserted movie clip]

Fred: You and your old George, that's a touching love story.
Amelia: An honest one if I say so myself.
Fred: I wonder if it's honest enough for George.
Amelia: If you mean Gene, we're not together anymore, in that way, not for a long time. You don't think I love my husband?
Fred: Actually I do, in a certain way.
Amelia: But you disapprove of how I live.
Fred: Hell no, it's just like me. In fact it's like most guys I know.
Amelia: Meaning?
Fred: Guys love their wives, their girlfriends, doesn't mean they don't take advantage ... of an opportunity.
Amelia: If you have a point, make it.
Fred: I believe I have.
So this conversation clearly shows that, not only was her relationship with Gene common knowledge, but Amelia admits it without hesitation, and that the relationship was not a symptom of any problem with her marriage. Although Amelia was a very private person and tried to keep her personal life out of the limelight, she also appeared to believe strongly in honesty in her relationships, in the lack of possession between partners, and, in fact, in the partnership between partners, not ownership.

Whether Amelia herself really had a relationship with Gene or not, this movie portrayed a strong, independent woman who was a champion of equality and who loved her husband without possession and who expected the same in return. The relationships in the movie were not without their stresses, but they seemed to be open and honest and accepted by all involved. I don't recall any scenes in which Gene tried to "steal" her away from George, and George never once tried to change Amelia into a monogamous, traditional wife. He supported her in her career and in her freedom.

I'm sure the real Amelia was not the iconic vision of feminism that we see in the movie - at least, not all the time. I'm sure she had her issues, and I'm sure George wasn't always the unconditionally loving husband he is portrayed, and if Amelia really did have any lovers, I'm sure they also had their flaws. But for a movie, set in a time period when women just didn't do that, shown to a modern audience that continues to disapprove of non-traditional relationships, I'm actually a little surprised at how flatteringly they told this story. And don't forget, this is ultimately the story of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the almost-successful first flight of anyone around the globe. That they spent any time at all on the romance speaks volumes, let alone telling it sympathetically.

I'd call this a poly movie, even though the plot is not really focused on the relationships but the two male leads are fundamental supporters for her in her career. It's about daring adventurer and her passion for flight ... with a little love thrown in.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

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