Sunday, February 14, 2016
The Meaning of Self-Worth in Sabrina (1954)
A friend of mine mentioned the other day how she's giving up self-criticism for Lent since the season just started. And it got me thinking about the importance of self-worth, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the concept of self-criticism.
Oh my gosh, when I think of all the hours I've spent doubting my own self-worth, I'm tempted to cringe a little bit. But I don't think I really had a clear vision of what lacking self-worth looks like until I rewatched Sabrina from 1954. If you watch classic movies then you've probably seen it, especially if you love Audrey Hepburn like I do.
But I'll be honest, the film never sat really well with me. Apart from the total miscasting of Humphrey Bogart (who I also love) and William Holden (meh) as Sabrina's love interests, the story itself always gave me a resulting sense of melancholia.
Look at this girl. Just look at her. Isn't she the most lovely, enchanting, delightful woman you've ever seen? She's a literal pixie, whether she's the woman in the above photo or the "younger" Sabrina to the right. And yet, Sabrina struggles with her self-image and self-worth so much throughout the entirety of this film. Desperately in love with Bill Holden's character, she languishes over each and every tawdry love affair he undertakes. Jealousy, self-reproach, and self-hatred all play a role in how such a lovely girl can make herself feel so small and unlovely.
It never once occurred to Sabrina that maybe, just maybe, Bill Holden's character wasn't noticing her because of a flaw in his own character and had nothing whatsoever to do with her. Instead, she's sure that if she can just change, just make herself over in an image he'll find appealing, that everything in her life will be that idyllic dream come true she's always wanted.
No. No, no, no. I'd like to think the audience isn't actually fooled into thinking that the person Sabrina changes into is a reflection of true happiness. Yes, the "made-over" Sabrina is the ideal of the modern woman (well, modern in 1954). Yes, she catches Bill Holden's eye. Yes, everything seems to be going her way, finally, for the first time in her life.
But I'm always left with the question. Who is the real Sabrina? The audience never really knows. Is she the shy, heartsick girl who tried to kill herself over an unrequited love? Is she the self-confident woman two years later who's now a successful cook and stunning beauty? Neither? Both? Or is she someone else, someone in-between?
Sabrina grieves me. So much. And now I finally feel like I can write about the sadness I feel in her character. How can a woman be happy if her entire self-worth is wrapped up in being a man's ideal, just so he'll notice her? A woman like that loses her true identity. There's nothing left of the young Sabrina who I really liked, and yet the self-confident Sabrina feels like a phony.
I'm reminded of Romans 8:38-39 when I think of her, actually.
It reads, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
WOW. Now that, my friends, is love. A love that Sabrina has never and will never experience if she keeps going along the way she's going. It is the love of a God who doesn't care how we've failed, how we've faltered, how we look, whether we're overweight or underweight, or how perfect our lives have been. It is the love of a God who sees us just as we are, with all our failings, and holds us close as His beloved daughter or His beloved son.
Nobody was ever going to bring Sabrina fulfillment. She doesn't know her own self-worth, not even at the end of the film, when she supposedly realizes her love for Lionel, Humphrey Bogart's character. But if she isn't even real to herself, how can she be real to him? Her entire make-over was done to please his brother, David. Will she make herself over again to be someone to please Lionel?
I keep re-watching Sabrina in the hopes that I'll see the magical fairy tale that so many people see. But it's never going to happen, at least not for this version. There's too much falseness in the characters and too much sadness in the story. Sabrina never realizes that she was beautiful as the young teenager with her hair in a ponytail and her heart full of dreams.
If God can see us as beautiful, today, just the way we are, then I think we owe it to ourselves to agree with Him, no matter what anyone else says. Because that is His view of His precious children. I am beautiful, precious, and loved, no matter that the world tries to tell me otherwise. And so are you!