When Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves named their baby girl “Vida,” I was under-whelmed. I had never heard of the name before (just like I had never heard of Apple and Audio Science) and it seemed just, well, eh. (By the way, I should mention here that I’ve been baby-name obsessed since the third grade when I used to keep a journal of names that I liked for my baby dolls. I don’t know why, but maybe it was the writer in me.) But the distaste for the name Vida changed when I saw a little film by the name of Mildred Pierce — not the original starring Joan Crawford, but the HBO remake staring Cate Winslet. I never read the book by James M. Cain, but I totally loved the movie. (I’m highbrow like that.)
The film is about a chaotic and messy (to say the least) mother/daughter relationship. The mother Mildred is very strong-willed, independent and smart. In a time when women were taught to depend on a man (or take slave labor to survive The Depression), she struck out on her own and raised two girls. Working her way up from a waitress, she became an extremely successful restaurateur. But she wanted different for her children — she didn’t want them to ever have to wait tables, something her eldest, Veda, wouldn’t be caught dead doing anyway. Pride was a big deal in that family.
Veda is basically a spoiled brat. She’s selfish, she’s easily embarrassed by her mother, she wants not only to fit in with the wealthiest kids, but to rule their roost. Her natural beauty and artistic talents help her succeed at all these things. And she does some pretty awful things to her mother and to everyone else around her. Here’s a glimpse of her winning moments:
I can relate to both mother and daughter in this film. I understand the pain Mildred feels each time her daughter betrays and belittles her. I understand what it’s like to love and admire someone so much that you turn a blind eye to their deceitful and manipulative ways. Mildred keeps trusting and loving her daughter despite consistently getting burned. I don’t know the author’s original intent, but I can say for myself that I believe Mildred is drawn to Veda because Veda has something she doesn’t, a strength she’ll never have — the ability to take things from life without consequence. Mildred is both disgusted and in awe. There are a few people I feel this way about in my own life. But then, I understand Veda too.
The scenes of Veda as a young girl and teen resonate very strongly with me. I was that little girl throwing fits, embarrassed by my family, putting on airs, struggling to find my talent, my ticket out of banality — totally unappreciative of all that I had. I understand Veda’s desires come from a place of complete insecurity, an insecurity so deep the only way to fill it is to constantly win, to take everything she can. Insecurity is a monster that always needs to be fed. And Veda had the balls to feed it. So did Mildred, of course, but their approaches were completely different.
I told my mom the other day that my new favorite girl’s name is Vida. Like Mildred, I am drawn to people who have borderline narcissistic personality disorder and a generous touch of sociopathy. These are traits I was not born with. My problem is that I think too much about other people and feel too much about every little thing. How can I not be drawn to people who are so detached? Who can only focus on themselves? They’re like superheros to me. Somewhat ironically, Vida is also Spanish for “life” and Veda is Hindu for “knowledge and wisdom.”