The Funny Sides of Film and Feminism: Things I Wish I'd Known About Nora Ephron

I took Nora Ephron for granted.

Sleepless in Seattle always tops my list of go-to sick day movies. I never seem physically capable of turning off a cable airing of You’ve Got Mail or Hanging Up. And that When Harry Met Sally diner scene has been etched into my brain’s comedic hall of fame since long before I should’ve known why it was funny.

But it never occurred to me to spend much time thinking about the woman who created the cinematic building blocks of my romantic comedy consciousness. I knew Ephron was a successful screenwriter. I may have been vaguely aware that she directed and produced many of her famous films. And I had heard a bit of hype about her books, but I never picked one up.

I didn’t think to delve deep into Ephron’s life until she’d lost it; the Hollywood legend passed away yesterday at age 71.

We knew Ephron deserved a tribute here on HelloGiggles. But when I sat down to write it, I didn’t know what I would end up paying tribute to. I figured a brief career synopsis would suffice; a rundown of her milestone movies, maybe a mention of her Academy Award nominations.

But when I started reading the reports of Ephron’s death, I discovered far more about her life than I’d ever known. I found out things that made me admire her, respect her, and even miss her—this familiar stranger I had taken entirely for granted.

I didn’t know Ephron was a journalist who worked for the New York Post, Esquire and New York Magazine, writing legendary essays like 1972’s “A Few Words About Breasts,” in which she admitted, “And even now, now that I have been countlessly reassured that my figure is a good one, now that I am grown-up enough to understand that most of my feelings have very little to do with the reality of my shape, I am nonetheless obsessed by breasts.”

I didn’t know she dealt with her divorce from fellow famed journalist Carl Bernstein by penning the 1983 novel Heartburn and later turning it into a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. “I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you,” she said. “If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you. You will feel much better.”

I didn’t know Ephron held a unique stance on feminism, often taking on her contemporaries and fighting hard to prove that empowered females can in fact be funny. “When they write the history of the feminist struggle in America, I always wonder how this lunch will exactly fit in,” she famously said at a Hollywood event several years ago. “We are definitely the best-dressed oppressed group.”

There are plenty of other things I didn’t know about Nora Ephron, and I’m sorry I’m just now discovering them. I wish I’d been more appreciative of her successes and struggles while she was with us and been more of an engaged and passionate fan of her work during her lifetime. But I’m grateful for all she gave us and I’m indebted to her for paving a unique path for intelligent, hilarious, driven women everywhere.

Thanks, Nora. I wish I’d known you better.

Image via The Guardian

  • Alanine Rhenylalanine

    Her wit and insight will be sorely missed… RIP Nora.

  • Candice MacNeale Lazecky

    If anyone has not seen Mixed Nuts, do it! It is one of my favourite Christmas movies, and a great example of what this woman could do with a cast of misfits:)

  • Christen Parker

    I watched an interview she did with Lena Dunham on the DVD of Tiny Furniture about two weeks ago and really started looking into her writing outside of her movies. Listening to her talk about how she came into the film industry and how frustrating she felt it was to be known as a “female writer” rather than a “New York writer” was pretty amazing. I feel like I just discovered this awesome person and now they’re gone. :(

  • Jena Evans-Turnbull

    Fantastic, I was unaware of so many of these things!

  • Nadia Conrad

    Your article almost brought me to tears! I am so happy you have given us, readers, a glimpse into the life of a wonderful feminist to admire. Her films have always been some of my favorites, and I now look forward to reading her novels and articles you have mentioned! You are a fantastic write who I am in awe with, great job, Michelley!

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