If you are a certain kind of woman- the kind of woman who has ever been told that she is crazy by an ex-boyfriend – then you are probably already familiar with Zelda Fitzgerald. And if you are that kind of woman – if you’ve ever screamed, or thrown things, and as a result decided your own neurosis will make you eternally unlovable - then her name radiates hope like the green light at the end of someone’s pier.
Because common wisdom is that Zelda is crazier than you will ever be, and it was great! It made her husband love her and be totally obsessed with her, and her sense of drama! It inspired him! If you’re a Zelda Fitzgerald type the worst thing that will happen is that your husband’s best friend will end up hating you, but his best friend will be a Hemingway type, who will hate a lot of women, including Dorothy Parker (that is a different story, but an interesting one. We cannot even talk about how Hemingway figures into this situation, because it would be another ten pages).
This outlook on Zelda’s role is reinforced in scenes like the one in Midnight in Paris where she’s seen trying to throw herself in a river because she’s jealous of “Scott and that beautiful Countess” and she’s assured by someone from the future that “Scott only loves you.” Then she calms down and goes back to be a delightful Southern belle. Who is bored. Sometimes.
Or in Suburban Girl – which I’ve seen mostly because it was based off of stories in A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing (which is delightful like a bored Southern belle, you’d like it) – there is a scene where the protagonist gets drunk at a snooty society lady’s party, hits on a waiter, and yells at her older boyfriend – and the society lady turns to the protagonist’s boyfriend awestruck and exclaims “Marry her! She’s Zelda Fitzgerald!”
That is to say, Zelda is generally perceived as someone given to passing episodes of mania because she was so passionate and had so many feelings and it was inspiring! And great! It livened up stuffy society! And we should all jump in a fountain! BECAUSE IT’S THE JAZZ AGE!
Look: this is a false notion. Zelda was a schizophrenic (or possibly a manic depressive) who died horribly in a fire while awaiting electroshock treatment. Her husband was very good to her in some ways, and a complete shit in others. Her life wasn’t all fun and fountain jumping as it’s often made out to be. And while parts of her life do seem like a ton of fun, you really don’t want to be in her position.
But that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t magnificent.