Step Inside These Three Flicks About Self-Love


I look up from the glow of my laptop and realize the sky has turned dark. I’ve missed my opportunity to go to the gym at a reasonable hour — again. Reasoning with myself that I had too much work to do, I vow to go tomorrow. Rinse and repeat until the end of the week. It’s not that I mind going to the gym — it hasn’t been so long that I can’t remember how energetic and positive I feel after I’m done. Exercise is good for my stress levels and overall health, but I find it difficult to prioritize this act of self-love over being “productive.”

“Treat yo’self” is the rallying cry of self-love in its most performative form, especially on Instagram. But this is often a reactionary scenario: You had a bad day, so you dove headfirst into a tub of ice cream. From Cathy cartoons to commercials, the media perpetuates this trope about women, specifically. It’s easy to soothe yourself with a little retail therapy; it's more difficult to gift yourself time and space for activities that are beneficial to your own well-being. This deeper self-love requires effort, planning, and permission on your part because it’s so easily sidelined by life, work, friends, or family and can feel inherently selfish.

We might even think, especially thanks to carefully crafted social media accounts, that others are more worthy than we are of love. We know our own failures and dark secrets and often hold ourselves to impossible standards. To get in the mood for self-love, the SB team re-watched some of our favorite films that come through with powerful truths (no tropes). Especially around this holiday-that-shall-not-be-named, seeing and accepting the complex lives of characters can help us accept the messiness of humanity in others — and ourselves. Keep reading and I’ll BRB (going to the gym).

*Spoilers ahead*

She’s Gotta Have It

In 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It, artist Nola Darling tests the limits of her sexuality and independence in a way that is usually only afforded to men. The film, directed by Spike Lee, was revolutionary in its depiction of polyamory and black intimacy. Throughout, Nola struggles with her decision to date three men simultaneously and against each man’s insistence that she choose just one of them. In the final scene, she concedes that her sexual appetite is natural, and it’s not about to change. Nola breaks the fourth wall and tells us, “It's about control: my body, my mind. Who's gonna own it? Them? Or me?” Netflix recently picked She’s Gotta Have It up as a series and the story of Nola is now a little more modern and available in bingeable episodes. Take a cue from our heroine and make time for whatever activities bring you the most pleasure.

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But I’m a Cheerleader

Following an “intervention” for her lesbian ways (interests in vegetarianism and Melissa Etheridge), Megan Bloomfield finds herself at a residential conversion therapy clinic called True Directions. Being unsure of her sexuality, she is at first confused by the program and about why she is there. But I’m a Cheerleader operates on a healthy dose of camp through the sets and characters (like RuPaul as a counselor). The costumes are exaggeratedly gendered and the set works as a visual critique of heteronormativity with color blocks of blue and pink.

Being sequestered at True Directions has the unintended effect of bringing together the local gay community — there is romance, sexual exploration, and a trip to the local gay bar with two defectors of the clinic. Shortly after meeting Megan, another resident, Graham, says, “You are who you are. The only trick is not getting caught.” Graham has no intention of changing and only wants to survive the intentions of those around her, like her parents, and even Megan. Later in the film, after they sneak in a forbidden tryst, Megan tells Graham, “Cheerleading is the one thing that's kept me happy. It's exhilarating.” While at the clinic, she’d been removed from the one activity that brought her consistent joy — although this campy comedy softens the serious psychological damage conversion therapy does, this kind of separation is just one way that it hurts people. Megan eventually finds self-love through her relationship with Graham and her freedom from True Directions. Follow her example and live the way that makes you happy, no matter what others think or say.

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Bend It Like Beckham

Bend It Like Beckham tackles the frustration felt by Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra as she navigates the traditional Punjabi Sikh culture of her parents and her desire to play football (against their wishes). Jess joins the local women’s team, without her parents knowing, after she meets fellow footballer Juliette "Jules." The two become fast friends over their love of the game and both aspire to play professionally in America. The film dribbles through a series of unfortunate events all rooted in miscommunication because basically no one feels free to be themselves! There’s a point when Jules’s mother thinks Jules is a lesbian; Jess’s friend, Toni, actually is gay, as she discovers after she suggests they date; Jess’s sister’s wedding is cancelled because a family friend thought they saw Jess kissing a boy (who was actually Juliette). Jess’s parents love her, but consistently dismiss her passion and skill until finally her team wins the finals and she is awarded a scholarship to America. She confesses, “If I can’t tell you what I want now, then I’ll never be happy, whatever I do.” Sometimes our desires are thwarted by even the best intentions of others, and we must stand firm in our self-love. When you have a skill, dream, or passion, it’s a shame not to pursue it in this short life — be steadfast like Jess and follow your heart!

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