Please Read ‘The Bell Jar’ Before Seeing the Movie
When I first heard that “The Bell Jar” was going to be turned into a movie, I was hit with this awful dread. Like great, another one of my favorite books is getting the Hollywood treatment and might get butchered.
If you’re not familiar, “The Bell Jar,” by Sylvia Plath, is basically 1963’s answer to Daria. It’s the cherished novel of emo girls everywhere — so much so that, as pictured above, the moody Kat Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You” is reading it the very first time she appears onscreen. “The Bell Jar” has a storied past as a dark, deep novel for girls who feel misunderstood — so how the hell does that fit into Hollywood’s aesthetic?
But there’s a bright side: the movie will be directed by our fave former cheerleader/French queen Kirsten Dunst. And the enticingly mopey Dakota Fanning will play the main character, Esther Greenwood. Kirsten has already written the script with Nellie Kim, and production will begin early next year. And with Kirsten and Dakota attached, it’s sure to be not only a respectful retelling of the story, but a stylish affair. We predict lots of Rodarte.
Anyway, the movie’s not out until early 2017 (probably later, this being Hollywood and all), which leaves you plenty of time to read the book first.
“The Bell Jar” follows Esther, who takes a summer internship at a prestigious magazine in NYC. When she returns home to Boston, she begins suffering from severe mental illness. And while that doesn’t exactly sound like the most interesting plot, it’s something everyone should read before seeing the movie.
I will never forget the first time I read Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” I was working at the front desk of a really pretentious gym in Washington, D.C., checking people in and slaving for the many politicians that would come in and out.
As a college student, the only times I could work were early mornings and late nights, so I took up a habit of reading while checking people in. I’m pretty decent at multi-tasking, so I figured I could handle it.
When I started reading “The Bell Jar” after a friend lent me her copy, many people coming in would ask me what I was nose-deep in. After telling them, they would all give me this strange wild-eyed look and just kind of smile awkwardly, knowing that I was about to die inside after reading this.
One woman came in at 6 a.m. and asked me what I was reading as I swiped her key card. I showed her the front cover of the book without saying a word, and she immediately gasped, ripping her keys out of my hands. “Don’t you think that’s an inappropriate book to be reading? Especially right now?”
I was shocked. This woman was visibly offended that I was reading this book while at work. “That’s so depressing! You should wait until you have some private time, hm?” she said scoldingly.
Considering I was only about 40 pages in, I had no idea what she was talking about. I apologized, and put the book away. But obviously, me being the contrarian that I am, her anger made me want to read it even more. If someone who goes to the gym at 6 a.m. thinks it’s too depressing, you know the book is good af.
And it was good. So good in fact, I finished it within the next two days. As someone who has struggled with depression since I was 10, “The Bell Jar” really struck a chord with me.
But now that this book is being made into a movie, many girls who probably need to read it will forego it and just see the movie instead.
The most beautiful part of the book is the way Sylvia Plath just describes things: the emotions, the detail of the trees, and the metaphors at the end will blow your mind. The book felt so real to me, and now that I basically live Esther Greenwood’s life, I am always amazed by how parallel the world that Sylvia Plath created in “The Bell Jar” is to mine.
This movie could and probably will be fantastic, but you should still read it. If not for the experience, then read it to educate yourself. Mental illness might be so far removed from you that it has never crossed your mind, but this book puts you into Esther’s shoes.
But I have faith in Kirsten and Dakota, and maybe this movie will shed some light on mental illness because it has been such a hush-hush topic in the past.
Until then, I’m definitely going to reread it. Look, I even made it easy for you! You can buy “The Bell Jar” on Amazon here.