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Content warning: this submit discusses psychological sickness and suicide, together with descriptions of insensitive depictions of those matters.
The poet Sylvia Plath’s legacy lives on in almost each avenue of popular culture. There’s the literary world, after all, which has created many a Plath biography, or a set of poetry impressed by her work, or a younger grownup novel set in an alternate Plath-inspired actuality. More apparently, although, there are a lot of films and songs about Plath, each in the type of biopics and as individuals who view her as a heroic icon or female ultimate. The draw back is that her legacy, in line with popular culture, appears to solely be about her psychological sickness and suicide.
In the actual world, Plath solely bought to see one among her books in print — and it was underneath the pen identify Victoria Lucas. After her loss of life in 1963, The Bell Jar was reprinted along with her identify. All of her poetry collections and lots of journals and letters have additionally been printed. Recently, her work and belongings have gone up for public sale or stay in museum displays. Last summer time, her tarot deck offered for $206,886. Her wedding ceremony rings, household images, and recipe playing cards have been additionally a part of the public sale. It is simply in loss of life that her work garnered worldwide fame. And that could be a bummer.
Sylvia Plath in Pop Culture
Sylvia Plath and her work are sometimes used as an emblem for a sure type of younger lady — one with large feelings nobody else can presumably perceive. I’m not exempt from this stereotype: As a gal who additionally latched on to The Bell Jar along with her first studying on the tender age of 15, I used the poet as a signifier of my darkish, emotional facet, too. For many younger folks, Plath’s solely novel is the primary e-book that resonates deeply by speaking brazenly about despair. With one thing that significant, it’s inevitable to develop into an emblem of identification.
There are so many films and tv exhibits that use The Bell Jar as a prop to showcase the personalities of angsty teen ladies: probably the most memorable being 10 Things I Hate About You, Heathers, Gilmore Girls, and The Simpsons. In the 2013 movie Adult World, Emma Roberts performs a naive school graduate who thinks she’s destined to be the subsequent Plath. She’s a dramatic no-one-understands-me type of lady with a poster of Plath on her wall and, in one scene, she maneuvers her physique in entrance of an open oven, seemingly attempting it out for measurement.
In the music world, the references to Plath are extra about her as a human. Lana Del Rey has a haunting and delightful track “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it” impressed by Plath. If I needed to choose any fashionable artist to sing about Plath, it might completely be Del Rey, and that is pretty.
Following that gloomy, morose vibe is Ryan Adams along with his track “Sylvia Plath,” about how he needs he had a lover like Plath. The track has all the time creeped me out, and comprises probably the most hilariously bland rhyme I’ve ever heard and can’t get out of my head: “And maybe she’d give me a bath / How I wish I had a Sylvia Plath.” I simply. What?
During my most English major-y semester of faculty — across the time I informed those that I saved a duplicate of The Bell Jar on show so anybody in my condo would know what sort of lady I used to be (I do know, I’m sorry, I hate myself, too) — I used to be obsessive about The Antlers and their track “Sylvia.” I performed it endlessly, closing my eyes and letting the crescendos give me full-body goosebumps. The traces “Sylvia, get your head out of the oven / Go back to screaming and cursing / Remind me again how everyone betrayed you” learn so harshly, however in track kind, they’re unbearably highly effective. An anthem rooting for a useless poet. It nonetheless offers me chills.
Fully leaning in to the picture of depressed younger lady, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer is a stunner of a younger grownup novel impressed by Plath. It’s the story of Jam, whose dad and mom ship her to a boarding college in Vermont for a contemporary begin after some onerous instances. She lands in a magical class referred to as Special Topics in English, the place college students journal deeply about what they’re studying, and Jam finds herself transported to Belzhar, a Bell Jar–impressed world the place her useless boyfriend continues to be alive and nobody can inform her she’s loopy. It is the type of e-book my little teenage coronary heart would have beloved desperately.
But right here’s the factor: there’s a lot extra to learn about Plath than her psychological sickness and loss of life. She was a feminist and pioneer of confessional poetry, writing brazenly about her depressive episodes and psychiatric hospital stays. Her letters and journals present the numerous layers of her life and the mundanities and struggles of motherhood.
Let’s hope for extra Sylvia Plath popular culture references in the long run — and extra of them that transcend her psychological sickness, messy marriage, and loss of life.
We even have an incomplete record of inappropriate references to Plath in tv, together with a scene in Gilmore Girls when Lorelai talks her daughter, Rory, out of writing about Plath for her school admission essay about somebody she appears to be like as much as.