Harold and Maude ★★★★★

I hadn't seen this movie in years, and I'm happy to report I still love it dearly. My heart feels at home here.

I joked on Twitter that both Harold and Maude read as trans women to me now, and that the film reads like the story of an old trans lady taking a young, closeted one on a wild journey of anarchy and lesbianism. This is obviously me looking at the movie heavily through the lens of my own experience, but the sentiment behind it is easy to understand.

Maude is the definition of a free spirit who lives only for herself. She's a survivor of extreme trauma, and she sees society trying to erase her and responds by being loudly and unabashedly herself. Harold, meanwhile, is stuck under the thumb of various conservative societal figures-- his mandatory psychiatrist, his militaristic uncle, his selfish mother. He can only find joy in hobbies that alienate everyone trying to control him, things that represent the best possible future he imagines for himself: suicides, funerals, demolitions.

It's common for closeted trans women, even women like me who haven't directly contemplated suicide, to feel like death is our best option. To feel like we're loved conditionally, like our options are limited, like we have no real hope at a joyful life. Finding stolen joy in the pursuit of pain isn't uncommon, especially when our parents project themselves onto us in a way that seems inescapable.

As an openly trans woman, I've learned some things. The negative social pressure doesn't go away; if anything, it escalates. The way to chase joy and experience life, then, is to stop caring as best you can, and live a quiet rebellion by living in a purposefully fulfilling way. Expressing pleasure, accepting change, becoming conscious of the world beyond the boxes of individual experience.

In Maude, Harold finds someone who meets him on his own terms, accepts his feelings for what they are, and passes on genuine wisdom and encouragement in a way that feels benevolent, not controlling. She sees in him a special, vibrant soul beaten down by the expectations of others, and teaches him how to unlock his individuality anew. When Maude smiles, it's the smile of someone who's fought hard for personal fulfillment and now claims it happily, on her own terms. When Harold smiles, it's a smile of discovery, because he's learning how to do the same.