Just the other week I had the opportunity to watch the film Lars and the Real Girl. For those of you who haven’t seen it and may have no idea what I’m talking about, I offer a brief synopsis: Lars and the Real Girl is about a young man named Lars (of course) who lives in the garage of the home his brother and sister-in-law live in. Lars is something of a social phobic, choosing to have limited interactions with others, or just plain avoiding other people when at all possible. An event in the life of Lars’ family triggers the need for Lars to work through some of his issues. How does Lars work through his issues? you ask. Here is how:
Lars purchases a life-sized, anatomically correct sex doll named Bianca – whom he treats as a real person.
Lars takes Bianca everywhere he goes, pretending that she is a real person. He talks to her, carries her, pushes her in a wheelchair (he explains her total lack of movement by telling his sister-in-law that she’s paralyzed), dresses her, narrarates a history for her (she used to be a missionary; she can’t have children)…. the whole nine yards.
Lars’ brother and sister-in-law are, naturally, concerned (and, basically, floored - you should see their expressions at the dinner table). They take Lars to the Dr. on the premise that Bianca ‘looks a bit pale’ (ha!) and should get checked out. The Dr. is, of course, checking Lars out instead. Her recommendation: play along with Lars and ride it out. The Dr. is convinced that Lars has created Bianca for a reason and in order for that reason to resolve itself, they have to let Lars resolve things with Bianca. Eventually, the issue does get resolved, as we can see in Lars’ resolution with Bianca and his increasing interactions with the rest of the world. However, to me this is not the amazing part. To me, the amazing part is this:
Lars’ entire community goes along with his altered reality and welcomes Bianca with open arms. Bianca brings a bottle of wine to a party; the host thanks Bianca profusely. Bianca goes to church, where she is welcomed. Bianca goes through a whole slew of interactions with the townspeople; the local hairdresser gives her a haircut (joking that she’d better get it right because it wasn’t growing back!), a girl at the mall helps Lars pick out clothes for Bianca by taking Bianca into the fitting room and helping her ‘try on’ the clothes, an older woman picks Bianca up from Lars’ home and takes her to a banquet. The list goes on. The entire community embraces Bianca as one of their own for this simple reason: they love Lars.
Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself: What would you do if someone showed up with an anatomically correct sex doll at Sunday service and introduced her to you as a real person?
Or think about this: What reaction do you think you would get if you showed up with a sex doll to one of your normal social functions and introduced her to all your friends?
I honestly don’t know the answer to either question.
I adore this film for a variety of reasons. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it has that small-town charm you can only find in rural areas I never frequent. But mostly, it’s full of love. I’ve been thinking about the film for the last couple of weeks and the thing that stands out to me the most is this: the way it makes me wish that everyone could know what it’s like to be loved the way that Lars is loved. I wish I could assume that if I walked into church with a life-sized doll, no one would do anything but love me. I wish I could assume that if I took a life-sized doll shopping, someone would help me without giving me a funny look.
I wish I could assume that if my best friend showed up with a life-sized sex doll, I would do nothing but love her.
I know, I know, carrying around a life-sized sex doll is weird. But in a lot of places, a lot of things are considered weird. Where I used to go to church, going to a gay bar was weird. In my college theatre department, practicing religion was weird. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Lars is nothing more than another kind of weird. Lars is nothing more than Jesus’ tax collectors and prostitutes. He’s just as weird to his community as I was to my church and to the theatre department. Life-sized sex dolls are just one more thing with the power to marginalize (did I seriously just write that?). But instead of being rejected by the majority and accepted by one man and his disciples – instead of being accepted by 6 people and hearing the rest of the church’s rather unsavory opinion on his nightlife/evangelism habits – Lars was accepted, embraced, and wholly loved by his entire community – his ENTIRE community. I think that is beautiful. And I hope, one day, we all know what it is to be loved like that.