The Reese Witherspoon Effect

It’s about time I paid some well-deserved attention and gratitude to Reese Witherspoon.

She will always remain, to a certain degree, Elle Woods, the ambitious smart blonde, underestimated systemically for her good looks and carefree behavior, who showed everyone where to shove their opinions when she graduated valedictorian from Harvard Law School (and solved a murder case in stride).

But that was a movie. In reality Reese Witherspoon is far more badass than Elle Woods. Similarly girly and often type-cast at the beginning of her career, she is now a successful entrepreneur. In the year she co-founded the production company Pacific Standard, the two movies (both based on books) it produced – Gone Girl and Wild, grossed half a billion dollars wordwide and were nominated for three Oscars. Now, seven years later, her production company Hello Sunshine is focused on telling  female-driven stories, thus changing the narrative in the movie industry and book publishing.

I am always inspired when I re-watch her speech at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year:

Her message may not sound very novel or groundbreaking now, because, thankfully, we live in a moment where women’s voices grow louder and louder. But at the time of Elle Woods this was not the case and to have a ‘legally blonde’ character grow into a feminist icon was quite something.

A very dear part of that speech to me is when she confesses she is a book nerd. You have to be one to know one, and it always warms my heart to recognize it in her.

I realize Reeses’s Book Club is now a major marketing machine, too – a title, recommended in the club, is sure to skyrocket in all charts and top 10 lists, and what not. Especially for that reason, I appreciate Reese’s devotion to variety (fiction and non-fiction titles, memoirs and feel-good romances) and the ever-present focus on female-led stories.

Just thinking about the titles I read in the previous couple of years, and many of my to-be-read list, I realize what a huge impact Reese’s book club has had on my reading life. Just in the last year or two I read The Alice Network, One Day in December, Little Fires Everywhere, and Daisy Jones & The Six (and I am a slow reader, remember?). My “immediate” to-read list includes The Giver of Stars, Where The Crawdads Sing, Whisper Network, The Secrets We Kept, and From Scratch. All Reese’s Book Club picks.

In 2018 Reese’s book Whiskey in a Teacup came out and I was thrilled to order it right away.

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The book is hard to define – it contains an amalgam of stories, recipes, interior design hacks, book recommendations, all held together by her pride in her southern heritage. The book,  I suspect, holds an entirely different meaning for women born and raised in the American South, but for someone like me, who has spent their life on the Balkan peninsula, it is quaint selection of life advice, memories, and recipes – all equally foreign, and therefore completely enjoyable.

I can freely appreciate how feminine the book is, without dwelling much on how privileged the described lifestyle is, because for me, in all honesty, it is all the stuff of movies.

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I do love how this books is so feminine – not just in appearance, but in that it combines the entrepreneur with the mother, the housewife – with the reader.  Just like a woman, balancing out all her aspects, not having to define itself by just one. I open it for inspiration when I need some additional push to believe in my dreams and I open it when I am in cozy Christmas-y mood to get some ideas for recipes. It also has a chapter, dedicated to Dolly Parton, who, funnily enough, was my childhood icon, too – and I am not even from the States, let alone the South, y’all.

All in all, Reese Witherspoon might not be my favorite actress. But when it comes to powerful women, using their voice to empower other women, she is my icon. Thank you, Reese!

Now let’s read 😉

 

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