Killing the Glad Girl

There is a scene early in the film Red Dust where Clark Gable goes to toss a drunk worker at his rubber plantation into bed, and discovers that Jean Harlow has taken up residence there. She kicks the drunk to the floor, and the exchange goes like this:

Harlow: You’re not going to leave the corpse here?
Gable: It’s his room. Didn’t you know?
Harlow: Honest I didn’t. I just took the first room the houseboy showed me. Oh, please you guys. This place is full of lizards and cockroaches as it is.
Gable: One more won’t hurt. Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Harlow: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

She means it sarcastically – she’s a stranded hooker (yet the most ethical and compassionate character in the movie. It’s a great film.) And I was intrigued by what it was referring to – a Depression-era advertising shill? Some cartoon lady who was glad because her floors were shiny, or her dishes were super clean? So I googled.

It turned out that “Pollyanna the Glad Girl” is regular old Pollyanna, the eternal optimist. She’s pathologically optimistic.

From wikipedia:
“The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, an eleven-year-old orphan who goes to live in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna but feels it is her duty to her late sister. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because she did not need to use them.”

It’s all well and good to find some little silver lining in a bad situation. But to paint the whole thing with a broad brush and say it’s a positive – NO. If your partner punched your teeth out, I hope you wouldn’t say that they were a bit crooked or stained anyway, and now you can get some lovely caps. I hope you wouldn’t stay with him and hope to win him over and mend his ways with your “positive attitude”, the way Pollyanna did her creepy old aunt in the book. Would a qualified therapist tell you to do that? No, they’d try to get it into your head that you need to GTFO.

That book is from an era when kids weren’t supposed to feel sad, or angry, or disappointed, they were supposed to SHUT UP. Fred Rogers grew up in that era, and he dedicated his life to countering the idea and telling kids that it’s OK to FEEL things. I highly recommend the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” You can rent it on amazon prime for a pittance – about $2.99. Here’s Mr. Rogers winning over a hardassed senator who was all set to refuse him funding. I think Senator Pastore was raised with similar rules, and he could relate:

A majority of people here in the US are uninsured, or underinsured, and can’t afford quality, certified counseling or therapy. So people seek out reassurance from readers, aspiring readers, bad readers, all kinds of readers, in card reading communities. Often free, from new readers trying to gain experience, from incompetent readers, from readers following the lead of others. The good, seasoned readers are outnumbered by the bad ones, and people will cherry pick what they want to hear, anyway. And this phony reading is becoming normalized. It’s not difficult to find articles like this one

Reassurance is not therapy. Therapy is, by all accounts, HARD. People who tell you everything will be OK and you’re doing the right thing (even if you aren’t) are not therapists. We’re venturing into pathological things like co-dependence and denial here.

I’m here to tell you that you’re better off with NO treatment that with BAD treatment.

Card reading – real card reading – is predictive fortunetelling. We don’t pretend to fix people or “make everything all better.” When asked what the cards say, we interpret them – AS IS. Death or the Coffin are endings, not “transformation”.

We’re living in time-space, and that means loss sometimes. Think back to your past. Even if you made it to this point without being truly, horribly abused in any way, you’ve experienced pain. People die, pets die, bad things happen sometimes. That’s just the way life is, it HURTS, and we need to acknowledge that, not stick our heads in the sand and go “LA LA LA LA LA – NOT LISTENING!”

I can’t reassure anybody that everything will be OK without lying. “Everything” is NEVER OK. But this lowlife fortuneteller (with about as much respectability as Harlow’s hooker Vantine in Red Dust), can do everything in her power to Keep It Real. It’s helpful – I rely on reading for myself, and my clients say that they’re helped by readings – but it’s NOT therapy.

The only thing it has in common with actual therapy is that it acknowledges when something is wrong.

If you really feel called to become a counselor, here are the requirements to be licensed in your state. “Owning a Tarot deck and practicing on the internet” is not one of them.

5 responses »

  1. It skews the meanings and the reading of the cards and lowers accuracy when the reader interprets by ignoring the harsher cards. Of course each card has a range but the meanings become imbalanced if the reader refuses to interpret from the foundation meanings.
    As one thinks about it, Tarot, Lenormand, and playing cards are 200 or more years old. The cards weren’t designed along psychological lines. I remember Malkiel talking about this; that the basic meanings of the cards are practical, “home and hearth” type things. The reader is positioned to show the client an interpretation of the future (with reference to past and present sometimes) not to offer counseling or therapy.
    When one reads in a balanced way one isn’t stressing negativity (as so many readers fear) but simply confronting the challenges the client faces.
    When you have read for me whether Lenormand or Grande Jeu you have bee quite supportive without slipping into Pollyanna mode. Okay I’m laughing now, I can’t really grasp the idea of you as the Glad Girl.
    Thanks for another great commentary.

    • I can’t grasp the idea of ANYONE as the Glad Girl, lol. I’m sure these Pollyanna readers would be outraged to find some old crutches in lieu of an expected nice gift. So there’s a certain dishonesty and hypocrisy to it.

      And yes – nobody was sitting around 200 years ago yammering about Jung. And if Mlle. Lenormand had simply reassured her clients that everything would be fine, we’d never have heard of her.

      Anyway, bad cards are warnings. I was thinking about calling in to work the other night and pulled some nasty ones, so I went in even though I wasn’t feeling great. Had I sugarcoated the draw, I’d have stayed home and it would have landed me in trouble! Another bullet dodged.

  2. People do not want anything that remotely resembles “truth.” Truth is often painful, and it has the capacity to set you free if you choose to use it in that way. The vast majority of people prefer platitudes which makes the pain feel a little better for the moment. Temporary relief is all they seek. Platitudes are a great disservice, because it merely places a bandaid on the festering wound allowing it to spread. The fortune telling business has been infested with new age, feel good readers, and this is what most people want. The old days are gone and the old ways are rare indeed. This is a bout to change though as the world convulses at the end of the Piscean Age, and the old ways reemerge for those strong enough to embrace them. Mother nature bats last.

    • One can hope it changes soon.

      Though I don’t fall in with the age of Aquarius stuff. People can’t even reach a consensus on whether we’re in it already, or if it’s yet to come. Or whether it’s coming soon, or in a millenium or so. More new age utopia talk AFAIC. YMMV.

      But yes. the reassurance-n-platitudes thing is especially highlighted by the books that come in vogue every other decade or so: The Secret, The Power of Positive Thinking.
      Just think nice thoughts and get everything you want.

      If it actually worked, we could just air drop those books on countries where people are starving.

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