The Belle Jar Fictional Faves series is a joy to behold, so I thought I’d weigh in with a fictional favourite who makes me roar with laughter.
If you haven’t yet seen Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, you are missing out on a pair of remarkable films. I get so excited when I talk about them that very few people can understand me. I have watched them back-to-back at least four times and I’d really like to get that figure to the double-digits. They are funny, smart, uplifting, strange and feature my all-time favourite meteorologist, Sam Sparks.
Sam has the difficult role of being the only women in the male ensemble, and playing sidekick to the kooky and loveable Flint as they encounter a remarkable weather phenomenon in Swallow Falls. Sadly this movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test – although the second one, in which she enjoys a discussion on meteorology with a female ape, does! I view Sam as both a great, positive step for feminism in the twenty first century – and a clear mark of how far we have to go.
For the token woman, she is quite a woman. She is hilarious, and the message that she gives to her young audience is that being smart and passionate about something (in her case, meteorology) is something to be celebrated. She comes into her own when she sheds the TV network she works for and pursues her own interests, cleverly solving the problems facing Swallow Falls even when her dumb boss and the men around her aren’t giving her a chance. In the second film, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she resembles another fictional favourite, Ellie Sattler:
Sam tries to cover up her smarts by acting silly – something I definitely relate to. I spent many a teenage year trying to tone down my enthusiasm for books/learning/being the Hermione of my class, and so to see someone on screen struggling between what she is passionate about and what’s expected of her is refreshing. When chatting to Flint about jello inside the giant jello castle he builds for her (true relationship goals) she says ‘It’s a solid, it’s a liquid, it’s a viscoelastic polymer made out of polypeptide chains but you eat it!’ and then, nervously giggling and backtracking… ‘I mean, it tastes good!’. With Flint’s encouragement, she throws on her glasses and gets stuck in to studying why it’s snowing ice-cream.
Flint is equally passionate about science, and whilst he is bullied for his enthusiasm too, he never has to hide it in the way Sam does. It’s frustrating that it’s his acceptance of her that allows Sam to flourish, but also heart-warming and inspiring in what is essentially a kids film about food-weather.
If you are looking for a lovely way to spend the time, some beautiful animation with a dose of inspiring women to go into science and to be their true selves, I wholly recommend the two films (ideally back to back). When I think about growing up watching Cinderella and Snow White, Sam Sparks makes me feel hopeful about the movies being made for the next generation of the young and young at heart.