What Christians Can Learn from the Legacy of Nora Ephron
I first introduced my husband to one of my all-time favorite films one hot August night in Belize. An unlikely introduction, but we were staying in a hotel whose only air-conditioned area was the media room. I was on what felt like my 17th consecutive day of being sick after eating some unfamiliar food. We shut ourselves in and, for the next couple of hours, were completely absorbed by the story of when Harry met Sally. He loved the line about the worst kind of woman being the high-maintenance one who thinks she's low-maintenance—I still don't hear the end of that—while I was struck by the charming, frustrating, and familiar world its screenwriter, Nora Ephron, had created. Ephron died on Tuesday of pneumonia, a complication of the leukemia she had lived with for the past six years.
When Harry Met Sally, her best-known film, explored topics in relationships that had never previously been brought together in one story. Most memorably, perhaps, was Sally's, ahem, climactic acting job in the diner. But one of its recurring themes was the question of whether men and women could actually be friends. Ephron's screenplay never delivered an easy answer, instead revealing the complications inherent in cross-gender friendships and tackling difficult issues with fearlessness and humor. In her decades-long career, Ephron gave voice to the internal monologue of the modern woman, a sort of female Woody Allen without the cloying cliches. The humor that permeated her essays and novels and scripts broke gender barriers, creating worlds in which neither man nor woman acted according to a prescribed role but instead responded to the shifting expectations and cultural norms around them.
If some people are described as "triple threats," Ephron will be remembered as a septuple-threat, at least: a journalist, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, producer, director, and author whose sense of humor was the common thread that held all of her endeavors together. Female journalists and screenwriters of our day certainly owe a debt to Ephron, whose remarkable tenacity, talent, and capacity for connection guided her from Newsweek mail girl to Oscar-nominated screenwriter.
Ephron was an anomaly in many ways—a journalist-turned-screenwriter who earned her feminist credentials writing romantic comedies. She showed us that women could be funny—and not just about PMS, and not just by copying the boys. She had a delicious sense of humor, and a keen eye for capturing what was both zeitgeist-y and timeless; The Hairpin described her as "Joan Didion for people who didn't really have their [stuff] together." Her talent for writing didn't preclude a deep enjoyment of life, and while she could be endearingly sarcastic to make a point, she never crossed the line into cynicism. She was brilliant and witty with an appetite for life that betrayed her sense of wonder at it, even if she wasn't sure what it all meant.
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