As some of you know, I also have a movie blog, and I recently finished a month of watching Dolly Parton movies. This kind of came about after having a really rough time in my personal life over Christmas. I felt like I wanted to watch things that were a little more uplifting and fun, that had a positive message, since so much was going on in my life that was draining and negative. I got the notion from reading a book that was a collection of Dolly Parton interviews which led me to deciding to watch a bunch of her films and just soak up that good attitude and sense of fun.
Here the link if you’d like to see the list of what I watched: https://wildfiremotionpictures.com/movie-watch-lists/dolly-parton-month-2019/?frame-nonce=d6fe0ee76d
To be honest, some of the things these films made me think about this month don’t come strictly from the films she made, but more from her own sense of self. But that doesn’t make for a good blog post title.
- Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose: this is something Dolly is often quoted as saying, and I think it’s a key thing about her that is a great lesson for all of us, or a great reminder. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, what do you love and what do you do well? What do you love about yourself? Take those things and celebrate them. This can feel like a bold choice in a world where everything we do is online, where we’re criticised if we do (“you’re extra”) or if we don’t (“You’re basic”). Trolls abound. But who cares? Be too busy being on purpose to care what they think.
- Never Give Up: I love the opening of Straight Talk, where Dolly’s character ditches her loser boyfriend after losing her job, and heads out to Chicago. She tries everything to find work and doesn’t give up. This is just like the real life Dolly. She wasn’t afraid to leave home after High School and head to Nashville, she wasn’t afraid to leave the Wagoner Show once she outgrew it, and she’s faced down a lot of criticism and personal set backs. But she always stays positive and keeps on keeping on.
- Always handle criticism like a lady (or a gentleman): it always blows my mind the way that people are so harsh or personal in interviews to Parton right to her face! She has mentioned in various interviews that comments like these can be really hurtful, but when it happens in public, you never see her bat an eyelid. In fact, she often cuts off criticism by making fun of herself before anyone else can. She doesn’t get mad, she just laughs and has a witty comeback. I love that.
- Don’t let anyone tell you there are limits to what you can do: when Dolly was a kid she always knew that she wanted to be a star. Living in the Smokey Mountains with 11 other children in a poor family, she wasn’t daunted by how far she had to go, though a lot of people told her it was a silly dream. When she was a big country singer and broke into the mainstream music business, some people criticised her for forgetting where she came from, but she didn’t let it stop her and it didn’t end her career. When she broke into films, there was criticism that she wouldn’t be able to act, and when some of her films were less successful, it didn’t stop her trying again and trying something different. You can do anything if you’re open minded and willing to learn.
- Feminine and blonde does not mean stupid: Dolly is a business person. She’s stayed on top and diversified her business over the years, making careful decisions and trying new things. While people like to characterise her as a dumb blonde, she’s anything but. I think there is a sense that to be in business we have to think and dress like a man. I mean, massive blonde hair and sequins are not exactly office attire. We think we have to be hard and that successful people are ruthless. But it’s really not true at all. Dolly has loads of compassion and heart, as well as the smarts. She also has an amazing literacy program giving out free books to kids all over the world and helping at risk kids stay in school and get a good education.
- Stay humble, stay grounded: Dolly has that attitude of gratitude thing. While she travels to tour all around the world, she never forgets where she came from and her best friend from her childhood travels with her. She returns to her roots to stay grounded, has close bonds with her family, and she often sings and talks about being grateful. Gratitude is so important and being grateful rather than grasping is a really important mindset to have.
- Stay warm and kind: When you watch a Dolly film, her warmth and humour always draw you to her character. Her characters often give good advice, have had some life experience, have a good sense of humour. Sometimes we equate feminine qualities like these with weakness. Can we afford to be warm and kind in a such a hard world? Well, yes you can. In her own life and in her films, Dolly’s characters never take crap from anyone, they aren’t afraid to strike out on their own and talk their way into jobs or into getting someone to help them. Her characters move away from people who criticise them and bring them down, whether that’s horrible bosses or loser boyfriends. Warm and kind and funny does not mean that you can’t also handle tough problems.
- Grow Old Dis-Gracefully: why do we have this idea that as we get older we have to have less energy and focus on the past? That we can’t start learning new things? That we have to let ourselves go? I have no idea. My own grandmother maintained a beautiful figure and style her whole life and never stopped learning and doing new things. She was a great role model in the same way that Dolly is. Growing older is part of life, but what we decide is means is largely cultural. You don’t have to give up dressing well. You don’t have to have aches and pains. Sure, Dolly has had some surgery, and whether that’s something you’d ever want to do is up to you, but she doesn’t dress like an old lady, she doesn’t complain, she retains an interest in life and in her own career. She’s still fabulous. You never are too old to love life and be fabulous.
I like to think that we can always learn more about life and how to live well. Even if you’re not a fan of Dolly, there’s so much you can learn from her and her approach to life. If you have a favourite Dolly quote or thing about her you love, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And if you’re curious about the films of hers that I watched and want to know what I thought of them, click the link up top to find out more.