Yesterday, we went to see the Disney film ‘Secretariat’ starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich.
It is fairly schmaltzy but true story chronicling the journey of a racehorse, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, and his owner who, as a housewife and mother in the 1960’s, decides to face down her critics, put her faith in a horse, and ride home to success.
The film itself was OK.
Diane Lane, while ethereal and beautiful with an elegant wardrobe, looked a little tired for the part. And at two hours, it was too long for me. But it was good family watching and ne’er a love interest in sight.
Save the horse, of course.
What struck me though was this was a film that celebrated a woman who diverted her attention from her four children to continue her father’s legacy by taking a colt to racing success, and ultimately, fame and riches.
To bring this horse to the racecourse, Penny Chenery had to leave her family behind to be at her family’s farm, traveling Kentucky to New York and more. The film shows how she missed major family events and her conflict over that. The family seem fine with it, however.
Save her husband who wasn’t happy about it at all.
This being Disney, the film plots the fates of the humans riding on hooves of a horse. Disaster is predicted if Secretariat fails and the cynics circling around Penny Chenery were plenty and exclusively male.
The overarching theme is that she was a heroine, a fighter who held her beliefs and held them tightly. And in so doing, taught stronger lessons to her children by setting this example than if she had been at home with them.
Hmmm. I haven’t yet been convinced of this argument.
This particular story took place in the ’60’s and 70’s when strong female role models were hard to come by. A woman breaking from the mold of family and home was truly notable.
But, I wonder to myself, is it really worth it today to compromise family in order to follow a dream? Or are things as the film suggests – what is created in place is just different?
All high achieving women have made this decision to some extent. Time away from home, missing events and simply time with their families. Many women with regular lives do the same. My life has unfolded differently. Partly because of the choices I’ve made. And I’ve struck compromises that other women would balk at.
That fact makes it difficult for me to assess this question objectively.
I simply can’t understand why a woman would leave their months old baby with Down Syndrome to go on the campaign trail like Sarah Palin. I couldn’t understand why Princess Diana would walk across a landmine field or dispense with security when she had two young sons. Veronica Guerin, an Irish journalist with a young family, refused to accept she was putting her family in danger with her investigations and was eventually murdered.
These are extreme examples but this subject does beg the question, what are we willing to sacrifice for our families? What choices do we make and what stories do we tell ourselves to justify them?
Are these women reckless gamblers with their priorities wrong? Or are they fearless leaders to be admired? Does it matter that these are mothers when men have done these kinds of things since time began? What do you think?
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I am participating in a Blog Every Day For 30 Days Challenge advocated by Chris Brogan. I am doing this with the lovely Mary Ulrich who writes for Parents and Caregivers of Adults with Disabilities at Climbing Every Mountain. Check her out!