Caroline Smailes is an Open University tutor, an editor and the author of six novels. Described by The Observer as ‘an arch experimentalist’, she has used sign language, short chapters, white spaces and 11 possible endings to one novel as a way of telling the story. She writes the first 10,000 words without plan or structure ‘to establish a voice’, next the first draft is composed at top speed, then it’s ‘redraft, redraft, redraft, edit, edit, edit’. Her urban fairytale The Drowning of Arthur Braxton has just been re-issued by Fourth Estate, and will be released as a film in spring 2017. As her filmic Alter Ego, Caroline has choosen Andie Walsh from Pretty in Pink. Eithne Farry
If there’s one character I would love to have as my screen alter ego, it’s Andie Walsh: she’s a strong woman, she’s self-assured, she’s unapologetic, she likes herself, she doesn’t care what others think about her and she wears amazing clothes.
Added to that, Andie is brimming in contradiction. Being plain yet striking, self-assured yet self-doubting and astute yet reckless, sees her dismissed as a typical teenager, yet, for me, it is those characteristics that make Andie exceptional.
She’s a high school senior from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for rich-kid Blane McDonough, but it’s her empathy and her ability to speak from the heart that are worthy of praise. It’s Andie’s capacity for compassion, creativity and personal growth that appeals. She clasps her eccentricities and who she truly is; she refuses to change to fit in and, on top of all that, she actually likes herself.
Indeed, Andie is a role model and friend for anyone who doesn’t quite belong. Her dottiness, her uniqueness, her magnificent mix of both maturity and immaturity, and determination not to let people ’break’ her, are entirely refreshing. She tells us that it’s okay to be different. Actually, more than that, she tells us that there’s something rather remarkable and splendid in being true to who you are.
Andie displays what I wasn’t able to achieve in my teens. She made teen me want to be braver, but I lacked her conviction. My school life was about survival, in both physical and mental senses. Somehow in amongst all the bullying and abuse, I lost who I truly was and I stopped liking myself. I didn’t embrace being an outsider.
I guess that outsider feeling is something many of us experience. Be it not fitting in at school, at work, in families, in a crowded room. I don’t live a life of regrets, but I wish I’d been a little less afraid to display my difference when I was younger. I wish I’d been more like Andie Walsh. She didn’t choose the easiest path to take, but I think she selected the braver one. I wish more people were that honest, and that bold.