She was just a kid when we first saw her, and now Drew Barrymore is a mom of sorts – she sent her first baby out onto DVD last week. Whip It is Barrymore’s first film as a director, a coming of age tale that’s tailor made for opening doors between teens and their parents.
Babble spoke with Barrymore about a few topics she knows a bit about – main character Bliss Cavendar’s teenage rebellion (in the form of running off from pageants to become a rollerderby queen), growing up in the spotlight and her relationship with her mom.
Babble: What attracted you to a coming of age story for your directorial debut?
Drew Barrymore: I tried to come of age myself, so it was a very personal story for me. I happened to share a lot of the experiences and the values of the film. The intricacies of a mother/daughter relationship was something I felt I could bring a lot to. I also always tried to never lose faith in that I could become the person that I wanted to be and do the things I wanted to do. It may seem unorthodox, or it may not be someone else’s vision, but I like that people have been supportive and honest and inspiring and I’ve had a lot of fun with along the way. I really value those people, and they’ve become like my family. There were scenes that really were very true for me.
Babble: Can you talk about some of those scenes? Was it the mother/daughter friction?
DB: Definitely the going out there and finding something that speaks to you. In my case it was film, and in this the metaphor is derby or sports or doing something where you’re in a team of people who inspire you or encourage you or keep you real. I absolutely, the mother daughter thing was very personal to me because I understand both sides of it. I wanted to explore that. When you’re young, you sometimes can go through a stage where you don’t agree with your parents, and you take it personally and you think God they just don’t, we don’t, see eye-to-eye. And now I’m older, and I completely understand the mother’s side of it. Or at least in the case of this character and Marcia Gay Harden in this movie. Her vision might not be her daughter’s, but she’s not trying to make her life miserable. She wants to protect her, she wants her to have a chance out there. She’s trying her best, and in the ways that she knows from her own life, her own pattern. Why do we do the things that we do? Why are we the people that we are? It’s not simple answers, there’s complexities there. I’m at that point in my life where I don’t believe in just total happy endings. I believe in a really good day. I like things to be more real and earned, and the honesty and acceptance of that is so great and important.
Babble: Talking about acceptance, you were really kind to the whole pageant issue. That was a big issue between Bliss and her mom. Was that hard for you to be kind to or was that something you thought was important?
DB: I’ve watched a lot of films in my research of pageants, and they’re always parodied. There’s a lot of aspects of the pageant world that can be, um . . .
Babble: Picked on?
DB: Yeah! And it’s so individual. Mothers are pushing daughters, and there seems to be a lot of controversy in them, and I understand and am empathetic to that. But I also feel like, I just can’t imagine. To me pageants are a little bit like Hollywood – that was my own experience. It was hard for a kid to grow up in that world, but it was also amazing. I don’t believe in one-sided issues or things being archetypal or so clear cut. I also didn’t want to do a film that was another “let’s crap on this world.” That’s just not what this person’s goals were in life or how they saw their path. I wanted to make it more elegant. I didn’t want it to be a parody.
Babble: There’s such a contrast between the elegant world and the no-holds-barred, beat the living you-know-what out of ’em derby world.
DB: Yeah! It’s got that aspect, and it’s got one world is sort of concerned about the way you behave and the way you look and act. And I understand that from growing up in the job that I did. Then I liked the aspect of derby that was sort of welcoming to being who you are and that there wasn’t just this cookie cutter thing you had to fit and if you didn’t it was controversial. I loved the dichotomies. That’s why I kept it the pageants. I was thinking, you know, could it be other things? And I said no, I think the metaphors here are good. One is you’re a little bit judged on the control of the situation and the other bit is go, express yourself, it’s welcome.
Babble: There’s a stand-out where Bliss is asked if she’s “alternative now” and she asks “alternative to what?”
DB: Yeah, it’s like what are you asking?
Babble: It seemed to send home the message of everybody is equal, it doesn’t matter what you’re into.
DB: I’m not “into” that you have to be the certain shape and size and look and feel and have an answer and a this or a that. It’s like let’s celebrate our individuality and what we look like and what we’re made of, strength and humor and power and camaraderie and capability and all those things. That’s what I’m interested in.
Babble: You grew up in the movies and you’re still with it. Were you shooting for a “girl power” girls can be whatever they want to be message for teens?
DB: I don’t see how that could ever be negative. But I think that can apply to both girls and boys! I’m very androgynous and a total equal opportunist that way. I just want people to be in an environment where they feel encouraged and supported to be true to themselves. To me that’s the message. It doesn’t come easy necessarily, but it’s worth working for.
And we’re doing the hard work for you – Babble has a giveaway going on for Whip It right now – check it out! And tell us, how did your mother/daughter relationship stack up? (Dads, how about your father/son one?)
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