Not Just a Barbie Anymore

         Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, is a story about one woman transforming herself from a child to a woman. It is the tale of Nora Helmer's change from a doll strategically moved from one doll-maker''s house (her father) to another doll-maker's house (her husband).

         In the 1870s and 1880s, it was unthinkable for a man to walk out on his family. It is just as unthinkable today, but for a woman to do it is downright crazy. Why would any woman leave behind a husband and three little children? The only answer evident here is the woman needs to find herself. The woman can no longer float through life being unimporant. Nora wants to be more than just her husband's doll.

         If this is the point of A Doll's House, then Ibsen would be mortified by Jane Fonda's portrayal of Nora in Joseph Losey's 1973 film version. Fonda turns the story into one of "girl power." How? She does it by reputation alone. Fonda is the girl fighting for equal rights as she burns her bra. Fonda is the chick from the "shape your abs, buns, and thighs series of workout videos. Fonda is that woman who used to be shown on television sitting beside her own doll-maker, Ted Turner, at a Braves game. It is impossible to not think Jane Fonda wanted the role of Nora to use as a vehicle for her own political views.

         A Doll's House is much more the story of a person growing up. It is the story of a character who just happens to be a woman, finally standing up for herself. It is the story of Nora shedding her old existence and grasping for a new life, a life in which she is in charge. She desperately needs a life in which she can eat all the macaroons she wants without anyone saying a word about it.

         In sharp contrast to Jane Fonda's performance is Claire Bloom's Nora in Patrick Garland's 1973 film version. Bloom makes Nora seem smart. She gives Nora a little common sense. The audience knows Bloom's Nora is not completely dependent on Torvald. She has her own thoughts and makes up her own mind.

         A Doll's House is a story about self-discovery. It is a story about growing up before getting stuck in a rut. It is not the predecessor to the Spice Girls.

Casey McMillen

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