On the dehumanization of Sylvia Plath…

Sylvia Plath was a human being. She lived and breathed, she feared, she loved, she picked daffodils.

Skipping around in her unabridged journals this morning, I had that revelation. Why should it be a revelation? Because the mental health field has made her an ICON; something entirely separate from humanity. According to them, she IS clinical depression, suicide; she IS tortured genius.

Even worse, she is entertainment. This poem was written by Ms. Plath’s daughter, Freida Plath, in response to the 2003 film Sylvia, starring Gwenyth Paltrow.

My Mother (by Freida Plath)

They are killing her again,
She said she did it
One Year in every ten,
But they do it annually, or weekly,
Some do it daily,
Carrying her death around in their heads,
And practicing it. She saves them
The trouble of their own;
They can die through her
Without ever making
The decision. My buried mother
Is dug up for repeat performances

Now they want to make a film
For anyone lacking the ability
To imagine the body, head in oven,
Orphaning children. Then
It can be rewound
So they can watch her die
Right from the beginning again.

The peanut eaters, entertained
At my mother’s death, will go home,
Each carrying their memory of her,
Lifeless — a souvenir.
Maybe they’ll buy the video
Watching someone on TV
Means all they have to do
Is press ‘pause’
If they want to boil a kettle,
While my mother holds her breath on screen
To finish dying after tea.

The filmmakers have collected
The body parts.
They want me to see.
But they require dressings to cover the joints
And disguise the prosthetics
In their remake of my mother.
They want to use her poetry
As stitching and sutures
To give it credibility.
They think I should love it-
Having her back again, they think
I should give them my mother’s words
to fill the mouth of their monster,
Their Sylvia Suicide Doll.
Who will walk and talk
And die at will,
And die, and die
And forever be dying.

They – mental health activists, feminists, moviemakers – leave little room for her to have been Sylvia. But she was! She was — vividly, starkly, truly.

There’s a lesson here for each and every one of us that has been dehumanized in one way or another by this society that doesn’t leave much room for human beings to just be.  Don’t let them convince you that it is better to be the “action figure” version of yourself; that plastic is better than living flesh; that 144 characters are sufficient to say your peace; that a a sound byte represents the multitude of your thoughts.  Don’t let them turn you into a Doll, ever.

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Sylvia Plath with children Freida and Nicholas:

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