First of all, off the top of my head I can only name two movies that start with a name and end with the word “forever.” There’s Batman and now there’s Judy Blume, with her new documentary (directed by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok) that premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival. This seems about right.
It’s strange how universal Judy Blume is to almost everyone, well except the morons who want her books banned. Blume herself offers good advice about those people, in that there’s no use engaging directly in heated arguments because there’s no winning that battle, and all it brings is frustration. I think this is something we’ve all kind of learned over the last few years. But, back to the point, it’s remarkable that both women and men have strong feelings about Judy Blume. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years.
When I’m asked what my favorite book is by someone I don’t know very well, I realize it’s a loaded question. It’s a good way to come off either stupid or smug. I always answer by saying Superfudge. Granted, it’s been a long time since I’ve read Superfudge, but I’ve read that book more times than any other book in my life (actually, that may not be true; I might have read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing more than Superfudge, but Superfudge is the more recognizable title so I always go with that). Anyway, it always gets a positive reaction in both a “that’s funny” kind of way and as a deeper truth.
I’m being selfish, but I do wish the documentary would have explored that aspect more. And I get it, “dude wants the documentary about how Judy Blume meant so much to women to focus more on men,” isn’t the best look, but I’m truly fascinated by this aspect. Like, how? It’s remarkable she could speak so clearly to young women about issues they were going through at the time like no one else, but she could also do that with boys. Though the more I think about it, could she accurately depict the perspective of young boys, or did we, the young boys who read her, adapt our attitudes to the way she depicted us. Did we become more sensitive because Peter Hatcher in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing wasn’t afraid to express his feeling and frustrations. (Also, I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when I was in first grade and I remember thinking Peter Hatcher was old and wise.)
Judy Blume is now 84 years old and looks like the epitome of health. And between this film and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret coming out in April, it’s already quite the year for Judy Blume. To be honest, there’s nothing really fancy about this documentary. But I’ve always found that aspect overrated, especially when the subject at hand is alive and well and can tell us everything we’d want to know. So I think that’s a plus here. Just let Judy Blume tell her story. And since I find the subject of Judy Blume fascinating, I was riveted.
It’s almost like the biggest problem with doing a Judy Blume documentary is she’s written too many important books and everyone has their favorites. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret gets the most attention, but everyone watching is probably wishing for a full documentary on whatever their personal favorite is. The thing I didn’t realize is how many kids wrote to Judy Blume and how often Judy Blume wrote back. (Yeah, I kind of wish I had known this back then.) Also, I was oblivious to the movement to ban her books in the 1980s. As Blume points out, the whole concept of banning books for kids is in vogue again.
There’s a great clip of Blume appearing on Crossfire and Blume says she had no idea who Pat Buchanan was before she agreed to go on, but the guy just keeps harping on minute aspects of her work before Blume blows up in his face, “Are you obsessed with masturbation!?”
Between this doc and the feature film coming soon, it does feel like a bit of a victory lap for Judy Blume. Good lord, she certainly deserves a victory lap. And I truly believe that all of us who read her books as a kid are better people because if it. Judy Blume should take her sweet time while she finishes this lap.
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