Tilda Swinton (as Julia), Goldie Hawn, and the memory of Winston Churchill are at war over the American psyche and soul. At issue is whether we must all seek redemption through recovery and neuroscience, or whether any room remains for danger, living, loving, eating and drinking.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 9, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Tilda Swinton Saves the Free World: Redemption Through Action
Goldie Hawn has been giving interviews about children's endangered mental health, which she feels can be remedied by brain chemistry. Of course, we are already medicating children and adolescents up to their gills on this basis. But Goldie wants to make use of the prefrontal cortex, which she claims lights up when children are relaxed, by introducing rest periods throughout the school day.
Hawn believes we need to pay more attention to children in order to rescue them from their modern malaise. Our own Hara Marano, however, in "A Nation of Wimps," conclusively makes the opposite case - that our children are already the most managed, protected, strangulated generation in history, and as a consequence they are (as Hawn notes) often unable to cope with the complex world they face.
The movement to diagnose and treat more Americans - young, middle aged, and old - for their maladies is ever-expanding. Given Americans' substance use problems, non-drug addictions (e.g., gambling, food, pornography, video games), mood disorders (anxiety, depression, bipolar), it is hard to believe that some people have still not found their own disorder. Recent efforts are remedying this by pointing out that many more Americans (and certainly Europeans!) are high-functioning alcoholics.
Of course, the patron saint for such alcoholics is Winston Churchill. Churchill lived to 90, twice was British Prime Minister (a decade apart), had a long and successful marriage, and was a distinguished historian, a Nobel Prize-winning writer, and a notable artist - but he drank enormous amounts of booze daily thoughout his life. And, oh - Churchill single-handedly saved the free world from the Nazis before the U.S. entered World War II.
I watched Chris Matthews interview Hawn on MSNBC as the two passed each other in the night. Matthews has written a manual named after his show, "Hardball," which describes how to make it in the real world - Matthews begged, borrowed and stole his way into politics. While Matthews was touting initiative, risk-taking, and self-efficacy, Hawn was cautioning that children need more care and nurturance as they continue to break and become badly damaged in our increasingly turbulent world.
Which brings us to Tilda Swinton, the inestimable Scottish actress, currently starring in the film, "Julia." Julia keeps a job and maintains her life - barely. Self-absorbed and self-pitying, her one devotion is to booze. She has no friends, and sex for her is entirely a function of blackout drinking. She becomes involved in a harebrained, highly dangerous kidnapping plot.
I forgot to mention, the film is by French director Erick Zonca (although it is English-language). This means (a) Swinton, unlike American actresses, casually exposes her blowsy body for the film, (b) the recovery advocate in the film is not a hero. Rather, he is a disturbing, threatening figure who simultaneously diatribes against Julia's life, and holds out the hand of salvation. Julia is never sure if he is friend or foe.
Instead, Julia achieves salvation by loving the kid she kidnaps - indeed, this becomes clear in the picture as she hugs the child in the bed of a man she has spent yet another drunken night with. And this love - and the life-or-death demands of their situation - allows a woman to finally step forward to care for herself and for another human being. At the end of the film, we may wonder, will she enter AA, which she previously rejected?