Love Amidst the Storm in The Secret Life of Bees
By Laura Major
By Laura Major
Like a brilliant flower that bursts through the cement cracks of a sidewalk, love of family, love of self and romantic love bloom despite the toxic soil of South Carolina 1964 in Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Lives of Bees.
Teenager Lily Owen, played by I Am Sam star Dakota Fanning, leaves her abusive father behind and takes up her nanny Dream Girls Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson in search of belonging. Despite the turbulence of the South in 1964, Lily finds love as well as acceptance in the Boatwright house where a group of sisters board them.
The themes are ever present for the cast as they bring to life the story Sue Monk Kidd paints of family and love despite the cruelty of the outside world in The Secret Life of Bees. One of the youngest cast members, 90210 star Tristan Wilds says of his character, "...he knows everything about what's going on in the '60s but he's sheltered from it. From the love that the ladies give him, the Boatwright sisters." When Ella Curry, CEO of EDC Creations and Literary Publicist asked what he hoped young African American men would take from this movie, Wilds replied, "Honestly I hope that they can take away from it that, let me give up on love, love is a very complex emotion and sometimes it goes or it could live through some of the hardest times and you gotta keep going though it...sometimes things can stop or block the way of your love or you get trained not to love that person, but if you really love that person you're going to show your feelings, you're going to express how you feel."
Smashing the idea that love and independent women can't co-exist and transcending romantic love to the love of family, Nate Parker of The Great Debaters says of the film, "I think it empowers black women. This is the time of the 1960s where these women owned their own business, a successful business that was a food consumption business that white people supported. So that shows how hard they worked they're self-sufficient, they were independent, yet still they negated the whole idea of pushing men out. They have men that came into their lives that they respected and respected each other. I think it really supported the structure of family in the sense of having these four sisters and my character and Tristan all basically living under one roof and them working."
It was the book's emphasis on the various types of love that compelled the Director Gina Prince-Bythewood to embrace bringing it to film from the start. She said, "...one of the big reasons I did this film is when I got to that line where it says, 'I'm unlovable' and that just wrecked me and just mirrored you know how I felt about myself at that time in my life. So I really wanted to tell the story because of that. So I think a lot of it was a little bit of a catharsis in writing it."
Also sharing his own thoughts on family, Wilds continued, "My family, we were always very close. So I've learnt to not take everything lightly. Not to take family as lightly as I use to," and how that has changed his behavior, "...to keep my family as close to me and as near and dear as possible. To show and express my love as much as possible because sometimes they are all you have , they are shelter, they are your shield sometimes." Case in point, Tristan Wilds' grandfather was present for the interview and he added, "Obviously I am very proud of him...we are very, very strong in the family and the one thing that I've told him is to be true to himself above everything else."
Prince-Boatwright explained the movie's appeal to love and family best when she said, "...I was raised and brought up, I had an El Salvadoran mother and a white father, I was adopted, [so I have] a brother who's black, two sisters who are white and our differences were celebrated, despite the differences. That was no reason for us not to be able to love each other. That's one of the big themes in the film is the unique ways that families are created."
Whether in romantic relationships or in family, The Secret Live of Bees demonstrates that while we may all have our own role to play such as in a bee's hive, the love that is shared is stronger than any force occurring on the outside.
About Laura Major: Laura Major is a multicultural fiction author and freelance writer residing in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona. Her first novel, Mismatched was published by Amira Press in February of 2008. Laura also manages a multicultural website, Sable Lit Reviews.com, one of the few of its kind providing commentary on the multicultural impact of current events as well as multicultural book reviews.