Mona Lisa Smile The movie “Mona Lisa Smile” is set in the 1950s and deals with the starting feminist’s movement against traditional roles. The main character, “History of Art” teacher Katherine Watson, arrives at the conservative all-women college of Wellesley and tries to teach her really smart students not only art history but also independence. She also wants her students to know that their aim, namely getting married, does not have to be their only purpose of life, but that it is also possible to be married and have a job.
In the following I will compare the attitudes towards the role of women of three female characters from the movie.
I will also take developments of their attitude during the movie into consideration. I want to start with a very forward thinking woman, Amanda Armstrong. She is the school nurse and lives together with Katherine Watson and Nancy Abbey. Although it is forbidden, she distributes contraception within the students of Wellesley.
As it turns out during the movie, she is lesbian and had a relationship with a deceased teacher of Wellesley. She gets fired when the student Betty Warren writes an article about her in which Betty reveals Amanda’s illegal distribution of contraception.
Amanda is a very independent and liberal woman who gets punished for being a forward thinker. She gives contraception to the girls because she wants them to get the freedom of making their own decisions. With the contraception they can decide if they want to have a baby or if they just want to have fun. The fact that some girls accept Amanda’s offer shows that she is not the only one who wants to change something. Amanda Armstrong’s biggest opponent is Betty Warren, a young and smart student who follows the traditional way she should follow. She does not like Katherine Watson’s way of teaching and thinking.
Because of that, she writes not only an article about Amanda but also a very critical one about Katherine. She can not wait to marry her fiance Spencer and is at first very happy about her marriage. Also, she can not understand why Katherine is not married because for her it belongs to the etiquette for a woman to be married. After her wedding she missed many classes and gets in a conflict with Katherine over that. Betty’s marriage turns out not to be as happy as everybody thought. Another student, Giselle Levy, sees Betty’s husband in New York with another woman.
Betty admits that she suspected such a thing but refuses to get divorced from Spencer at first. Her mother tells her that Betty should have known before the wedding that something like that would happen and forces her daughter to remain married to avoid a scandal. I think, of all characters, Betty Warren changes the most. At graduation day she tells Katherine and her mother that she gets divorced from Spencer and moves with her friend and fellow student Giselle Levy to Greenwich. She turns away from the traditions she was raised with and focuses on her own independence.
At the end of the movie she is the one who follows Katherine’s taxi the longest time and thanks her for helping her to change her life. She also dedicates her last article to her teacher and calls Katherine “an extraordinary woman”. Another important character is Joan Brandwyn. She is also a student of Katherine’s art history class. During the film she has a big decision to make. She gets accepted at Yale Law-School and has to choose between getting married or becoming a lawyer. Katherine tries to convince her that both things are possible to do at the same time.
Joan gets married to her boyfriend Tommy and so, she prefers to be married and to raise children and not to go to Law-School although her husband would have supported her. Katherine can not accept her decision at first, but when Joan tells her that she is happy with what she chose and that she truly wants a family, Katherine accepts her choice and wishes her luck. For me, these three characters show the different positions of women in these times in the best way. Amanda as the “revolutionary” type of woman and Betty Warren as her opponent who changes from a traditional woman, who does what society expects her to do, to an independent woman.
Joan is between these two positions. She knows what people expect her to do, but although she thinks about other perspectives. She chose family and not job and family, because she does not want to miss seeing her children growing up. Joan really thinks about the possibilities she has and makes a comprehensible decision. But also Joan changes during the movie. In the beginning she would not even have considered the possibility of getting a lawyer. So, Katherine Watson changed her life, too, but not as seriously as Betty’s. Benita Freeborn, 24th June 2012
Cite this Analysis of Movie “Mona Lisa Smile”
Analysis of Movie “Mona Lisa Smile”. (2016, Nov 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/mona-lisa-smile-2/