• Mon, Aug 16 2010

Why Is It So Much Fun To Hate ‘Eat, Pray, Love’?

Eat, Puke, Barf.

Shit, Shit, Shit.

Eat, Brains, Love.

There  are a lot of ways to express hated towards Eat, Pray, Love – often in three simple words! But why is it so much fun to hate on the book and the movie?

Is it the fact that there are a billion marketing tie-ins? I mean, I don’t know that we really need the whole “Eat, Spray, Love” collection of perfumes. Actually, I really don’t know that any movie needs 400 product tie-ins, period. But, hey, I don’t hate the Harry Potter Franchise just because of that. Or the Twilight movies, or Sex and the City.

But I do get pleasure out of hating on Eat, Pray, Love. Not because I don’t like Julia Roberts, or because I don’t think it’s an enjoyable story. I do, and it is.

Is it because Elizabeth Gilbert got to undertake her incredible journey free of charge? I don’t think so. I don’t particularly resent the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert got her trip around the world paid for with the advance to write the book. I am totally in favor of free trips for people. Normally, I expect them to come as a reward for correctly guessing the price of kitchen appliances, but I suppose pitching a good book idea is about on par.

I think the thing that really bothers me is that I can’t help feeling that such a journey is just the tiniest bit self-indulgent. Elizabeth Gilbert’s life simply doesn’t seem all that bad initially. She leaves her marriage because it’s… sort of boring? She orders everything on the menu at an Italian restaurant because salads are… sort of boring? Get a grip. This is not how we respond to minor disappointments (I can hear my mother’s voice saying “if you are bored, you need to go out and exercise. Run it off.”)

But I think it’s possible I’m just being an asshole. Maybe everyone deserves to be ecstatically happy every day, and no one should settle for anything less. Certainly, if someone told me that they were trying to decide between a fun job they loved and a job they didn’t think they’d enjoy as much, where they’d do more good, I’d say go for job you think you’ll have fun at (screw being a third world doctor! Be a blogger!). A certain level of self-indulgence seems normal and healthy.

But aren’t there some things you’re supposed to toughen up and deal with? Your marriage isn’t as much fun as you expected?  Tough shit, lady: you took vows. Work on it. You don’t like eating a salad for lunch every day? Fine, eat a sandwich and potato chips and log some time on the treadmill. You don’t need to order everything on the Italian menu. I think the thing that bothers me about Eat, Pray, Love is that Elizabeth Gilbert seems like she’s being rewarded for taking the easy way out. Her ex-husband still adores her. Men everywhere adore her. Wise men helpfully predict her future. But what exactly did Elizabeth do to merit her incredible good fortune? She certainly didn’t think about anybody else. As far as I can tell, the book is about her, and only her. I can’t help feeling that it’s a little too narcissistic to be truly enjoyable.

But then, maybe James Franco’s epic performance on General Hospital just spoiled me for watching him in anything else. Do you love Eat, Pray, Love?

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  • eEv

    I don’t know, I keep hearing about how she didn’t go through anything that bad, and that people can’t understand what she was running away from… and I just remember the passage near the beginning where she’s sobbing on the bathroom floor, with a kitchen knife, about to cut her wrists. Doesn’t anybody remember that? And I would hope we all know that depression doesn’t have to be “justified” by some kind of external trauma. She was in a really, really bad place. And while it’s legit to say that maybe the response was overly self-indulgent, it’s a little unfair to dismiss what she went through as simple boredom.

  • Jessica

    this is an ignorant statement. Read the book. Its not about the surface.

  • Eileen

    I think people – well, at least I – dislike this idea because it seems like such a “hipster” cliche. How many study-abroad blogs have I read about how living in [Morocco, Tanzania, Ireland, France, etc.] changed someone’s life? Answer: too many to count. For me, the problem with this type of book is that it seems to provide an answer that people think they should give – “I found meaning by traveling far away from the life that made me unhappy” – rather than an actually sincere account.

  • Diane

    You know, I think a lot of people are still pretty horrified that a woman chose time alone finding herself (however yucky that phrase may be), and resent that she dared to question the whole “working hard + getting married + having kids is the only fulfillment you’ll ever need” ethos. In other words, a lot of the criticism is unfeminist. And the idea that it’s self-indulgent to want to feel great is way off, too. She was depressed, and she fought to come out of it, that’s not self-indulgent. Sure, it must be nice to get an advance that pays for a year-long round-the-world trip, but she was paid to write a book, and while that’s a lucky position to be in, it’s not easy. It wasn’t money for nothing.

    • Lindsay Hartman

      Valueing hard work and family does not make anyone “unfeminist”. It is possible to work through depression and discover important things about yourself without running away from any and all responsibility. And I think Jennifer was trying to say that people, men and women, work hard to be happy every day. Not all of us get the opportunity to forget about everyone else’s needs while we do that. It doesn’t make us sexists to think that someone who runs away from their life in the name of self-discovery is self-indulgent.

  • terra

    I read this book without realizing the hype surrounding it until afterwards. I really think the people who criticize the book have either not read it, or are just bitter jealous people. Gilbert is constantly self critical mostly about her decision to “run away from her marriage”, and it was in the interest of bettering herself that she goes on her “fun little trip”. I personally think it takes more guts to realize your marriage isn’t working and take responsibility for that, instead of going through life and bringing children into the picture that you aren’t ready to raise (which is when she left).

  • Lainey

    Happy to see so many people disagree with this post. I know from experience that realizing you took the wrong “path” in life is terrifying and not something you can just “suck up”. Those who have been there get it, those who have not should hope they never do!!

  • R Marks

    My gut reaction after I read Eat, Pray, Love was that Liz is a self obsessed rich girl that really had everything handed to her and yes, was “bored”. I did not read anything about real stuggles or working hard or over coming any huge life obsticles,… all I read was a story about a privilaged woman that wanted to feel real stuggle to feel alive. Maybe she should have spent the year volunteering somewhere or helping others instead of another year of more self indulgence. Maybe if she stopped thinking about herself for a minute she’d realize how fortunate she was.

  • Lulu

    I read the book after my Mom gave it to me a couple of Christmases ago. I had no preconceptions because I’d never heard of it. I read the whole thing – and wanted to like it because it was a present from Mom and she always gets me awesome presents – and I hated every word of it with every cell of my being. Julia Roberts is perfect to play the smug, entitled, wonderful, whiny, self-indulgent, despicable main character. But this book and movie are doing the Oprah-worshipping minions of the world a grave disservice.

  • Sarah

    It drove me nuts! There were a few reasons – she never really went into her marriage breakup and that meant we had no context for her ‘transformation’. Maybe it was really hard and her ex was an a$$hole – or maybe she was impossible to live with – we have no idea as she doesn’t explain.Then for someone so self-centred, she amazingly lacked self-awareness. The love affair she had after her marriage breakup was such a rebound relationship, but she saw it as the love of her life. Really???

    Then how anyone can go to India and feel sorry for themselves is beyond me. It is an amazing place with such extremes – and poor old Liz can’t see beyond herself to experience it.

    Enough to drive you nuts!

  • M.

    You’re not “being an asshole.” I think people who dislike Eat Pray Love just react to it by instinct, based what someone’s experienced/hasn’t experienced. I’m guessing you’ve never been depressed…

    …it SUCKS. I can’t even explain it – but that woman was courageous for doing what she did. She was depressed, and so she changed her life, and she needed space for that change to happen. She was lucky enough to get it, and sometimes when one is depressed they need every help they can get to recover – whether it is to fulfill the desire of travelling or whatnot, even if the point isn’t the physical travelling but the spiritual growth in the end. I’m glad that she let go of the stigma she might carry for doing this, because, seeing as so many people disapprove of her divorce, she actually is courageous for doing something for herself.

  • Nicole

    Why does everyone keep harping on how self-centered this chick is? She wrote a book about a journey of SELF DISCOVERY, what would you expect? And what is even wrong with that? My boy Socrates once said that a life unexamined is not worth living. And I totally get that not everyone has the luxury of taking the time to find themselves – but if you can, SHOULDN’T you?