Judy Blume is once again in the headlines. Not only is there (finally) going to be a film version of one of her books (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret), but there is a new documentary about her that premiered at Sundance this year.
Judy Blume Forever, directed by Davina Pardo & Leah Wolchok, is a broad overview of Blume: most of it is a one-on-one conversation with Blume herself, interspersed with interviews with other authors and creators of other female-driven media. We learn about her life growing up – her father who died when she was just 21, just two months before she got married for the first time. We learn about how she was inspired to write while she was a parent to her two children. And we learn about her frankness in writing about puberty and the issues surrounding it and how it became her style.
Like many, Blume’s books were an integral part of my adolescence. One of the many reasons I have such respect for Blume is that her books have an honesty about them. These are real people, it feels like, and the documentary talks about how she was one of the first authors to really delve into what is now known as Young Adult fiction.
In 2015, I had the chance to meet Blume as she did a tour for what she decided would be her last full-length novel, In the Unlikely Event. Desperate to come up with something to say that was both unique and personal, I babbled like the fan I am and told her what an honor it was to get her autograph.
I’m not the only one to feel this way: the film has interviews with celebrities such as Molly Ringwald and Samantha Bee, as well as other writers whose creations are definitely “Judy Blume-esque”, talking about how they admire her directness and willingness to cover such topics. There are even interviews with a couple of fans who have been writing to Blume (and Blume writing back) for years. Blume is shown going over the various letters that have been sent to her over the years, now in Yale Library’s archives.
This frankness in covering puberty led to her being one of the most banned authors for children. The documentary not only covers the bans that started in the 1980s, but also how these bans are still unfortunately happening today. In fact, that was the thing I was hoping for more of out of the film, as I felt that that was the reason the documentary was done now. While it does cover it, it is only in brief. But to give the movie credit, it does open with her reading an excerpt from one of her books, talking about masturbation, and ending asking the crew who all masturbates, raising her own hand in solidarity.
Blume’s writing about these issues in books intended for young teens and these bans led to her being on a number of talk shows, and the documentary does a good job of interspersing the current interviews with clips from these shows. If you’re worried, like I was, that it’s just going to be a promotional item for the upcoming film, don’t be. While Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is brought up, it’s only mentioned as her ‘breakout’ book and doesn’t mention the movie at all.
The movie does briefly touch on the fact that the books – having been mostly written in the 1970s and 1980s – are somewhat dated. But as Jason Reynolds is quoted in the film as saying, Blume didn’t write to be timeless: she wrote to be timely, and as such became timeless. This is shown by the many quotes from fans that still wonder if she’s a young person herself, or asking how she knows their secrets.
Overall, the film is good. It doesn’t feel groundbreaking, but I did feel like I learned a lot about the author and her fans. If you’re a Judy Blume fan, it’s worth a watch – but I’m not sure how much you’d get out of it if you weren’t.
Judy Blume Forever is 97 minutes long, and will stream on Amazon Prime April 21. For more information, visit the official page on Amazon.
Author: Angie Fiedler Sutton
Angie Fiedler Sutton is a writer, podcaster, and all-round fangirl geek. She has been published in Den of Geek, Stage Directions, LA Weekly, The Mary Sue, and others.
She also produces her own podcast, Contents May Vary, where she interviews geeky people about geeky things. You can see all her work (and social media channels) at angiefsutton.com.
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