I have a passion for card games. I like traditional card games (Hearts is my absolute favorite) but I’m also a sucker for games with specialized decks, such as Uno and Skip-bo. As a child, I also enjoyed playing a game called Old Maid. The object of the game is to get rid of all the cards in one’s hand by eliminating pairs. The only card in the deck that does not have a matching partner is called the “Old Maid.” The player who is left holding the old maid at the end of the game is the loser.
The rules of the game are reminiscent of the common stereotypes society places on older single women. The word spinster is used to convey not only the age and marital status of these women, but also certain negative connotations that go along with it. In addition to being old, “spinsters” are usually portrayed as being ugly, frumpy, somewhat depressed, and most of all, childless and unlikely to ever marry in their lifetime. Feminists have criticized the word as yet another example of sexist vocabulary, asking a very valid question: “Why are no such negative connotations attached to the word bachelor?” Well, there is a very valid answer. The reason is that a woman who is still single beyond the traditional age of marriage is – historically speaking – not single by choice. According to Genesis, men were created to be the spiritual leaders. They are, by God’s design, the initiators, and women are the responders. Today, if a woman chooses to exhibit biblical femininity in her life, she will not pursue, rather, she will allow herself to be pursued. If no man is pursuing, we can infer she is somehow unworthy of a man’s love, and therefore an object of pity in our society. The implication is that nobody wants her.
While there are many Christian women who buy into this lie, those who do not may still struggle under the duress of social pressure which reminds them that this is generally how they are viewed by the public. Many in the Christian community do not want to believe that a woman can be content in her single years. They will simply assume she is miserable. Ironically this assumption can prove to be very convincing. Unless she renews her mind, the single woman who does fall prey to this mentality will begin to think there is something wrong with her, and can grow very depressed if not careful.
A powerful example of a woman who fought to take her thoughts captive is Charlotte Vale, the heroine of the 1942 classic film Now Voyager. Charlotte, played by Bette Davis, is a woman who possesses a natural charm which is discouraged and eventually suffocated. The plot of the story reveals Charlotte’s quest to break free of the lies she has been fed her entire life that she is ugly and will never amount to anything.
The film was made during World War II, a time when so many women were temporarily without their husbands who were overseas. For this reason, most of the films at that time were geared toward a predominantly female audience. Although there are plenty of other films with a female heroine at the center of the story produced during this time (including one bearing the title, Old Maid, also starring Bette Davis), Now Voyager is absolutely bursting with biblically feminine themes. The characters are remarkably complex and the qualities of helper and nurturer are all present in this film through multiple roles such as mother, daughter, surrogate mother, sister, niece, and female companion. We see sin weaken the bonds of interpersonal relationships, and how a biblical response to sin enables one to rise above its consequences.
I must stress this is not a Christian film. It is a story straight out of Hollywood, and there are certain biblical criticisms we can apply to some of the dialogue. In spite of this, the viewer should still be able to discern just how relevant the characters and the story are to their own lives, and the lives of individuals within the church. Every woman has at some point in her life has felt she was an ugly duckling. It is important to note that even within a marriage, women can be criticized by family and friends, leaving them feeling unfulfilled, unwanted, and unfeminine. But through Christ, we are all a thing of beauty, having been given His righteousness.
The title, Now Voyager comes from Walt Whitman’s poem, “The Untold Want.” In context, the phrase reads:
The untold want by life and land ne'er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
Regardless of our age, gender, marital status, or physical appearance, true joy is only found on the journey of sanctification when we sail forth to seek the ultimate untold want of our hearts: Christ, our life. Charlotte Vale, although a fictitious character, is an unlikely role model because she learns to make the most of her life and her circumstances. She is a nurturer and helper, albeit a surrogate in both roles, but she fulfills these roles with finesse and confidence. It is her spunk and determination to embrace her blessings that makes her the ultimate "Spinsta." If you are looking for a good movie to rent this weekend, I highly recommend this film!