Eat, Pray, Love and Leave?

Julia Roberts' new film sheds light on the privileges of being a white woman.

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Aug 16, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love," the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, received mediocre reviews when it was released last week. But the film’s premise, the journey of self-discorvery for one modern, working white woman, it’s sure to inspire droves of other women to book similar trips to faraway destinations — if they can afford it. And it’s all in the name of self-discovery. Sandip Roy writes at New America Media that for white women, the more exotic the backdrop, the better the degree of introspection.

It’s not Gilbert’s fault, but as someone who comes from India, I have an instinctive reflex reaction to books about white people discovering themselves in brown places. I want to gag, shoot and leave.

The story is so self-involved, its movie version should’ve been called, "Watch Me Eat, Pray and Love." In a way I almost prefer the old colonials in their pith helmets trampling over the Empire’s far-flung outposts. At least they were somewhat honest in their dealings. They wanted the gold, the cotton, and laborers for their sugar plantations. And they wanted to bring Western civilization, afternoon tea and anti-sodomy laws to godforsaken places riddled with malaria and Beriberi.

The new breed is more sensitive, less overt. They want to spend a year in a faraway place on a "journey." But the journey is all about what they can get. Not gold, cotton or spices anymore. They want to eat, shoot films (or write books), emote and leave. They want the food, the spirituality, the romance.


I couldn’t help wondering where do people in Indonesia and India go away to when they lose their passion, spark and faith? I don’t think they come to Manhattan. Usually third-worlders come to America to find education, jobs and to save enough money to send for their families to join them, not work out their kinks.

When we remind ourselves that half of India’s population live below the poverty line it puts Gilbert’s work in a different perspective. Roy also points out that the film follows the typical Hollywood formula of designating "natives" to play superficial colorful characters that lack depth and only exist to assist the protagonist’s re-awakening.

Read more of Sandip Roy’s review at New America Media, and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.