May 7, 2012

Dropping the pants on the sisterhood

<Sorry for the bad pun>
Sisterhood of the traveling pants poster
I saw The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants one year after it was released, which was when I was sixteen (2006). It was based on the first book of the four-title bestselling series by Ann Brashares. I never read it and am not likely to read it now. But the movie made a big impact on me as a teenage girl.

The sisterhood consists of four girls, Bridget, Carmen, Lena and Tibby, whose mothers were in the same pregnancy fitness class. On the first summer they have ever been apart, they find a magical pair of jeans that fit all four of them, despite the fact the girls are different in shape and size. Over summer, the girls pass the jeans on to each other via mail from their different locations, along with a letter detailing their journeys.

The four main characters are incredibly stereotypical, yet they are so appealing and easy to relate to. There's Bridget (Blake Lively), the beautiful blonde athletic girl who is deeply troubled by her mother's suicide. Carmen, the smart, gregarious Latina who's made to feel inadequate by her father's new yuppie wife and step children. Lena, the sweet artsy girl who's afraid to open up, and Tibby, the sarcastic alternative girl with a nose ring, jet black hair and blue streaks.
(Clockwise from top) Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget.
Guess who gets laid first?

Bridget has a crush on a coach at her soccer camp in Mexico (Eric), flirts with him, seduces him at a dance club and loses her virginity to him one night on the beach. The emotional reaction following this is worth discussing. Sex with Eric leaves her feeling empty and listless, which is not what she expected. Her mood swings make her afraid that she was going to be depressed like her mother. Bridget is full of disappointment and distress. The movie implies that she is is mistaken to hope that sexual intimacy will fulfill her. The message is that sex should only happen when she is happy and calm within herself.

It is not only the sexual awakening that leaves a mark. Lena, while visiting her family in Greece, falls in love with a guy whose family is her family's sworn enemy (A Romeo & Juliet situation). Carmen has to deal with her insecurities and rage at feeling abandoned. Tibby's sarcastic world view is challenged by the purity and compassion of a young leukemia-inflicted girl. The movie set ups dramatic situations but portray very realistic character development. The audience seems to experience emotional catharsis as they root for each girl to overcome her problems.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is an inspiring for teenage girls who are struggling to define their identities. I enjoyed it at that age, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get inside the emotionally turbulent world of a teenage girl.

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