Judy Blume Forever (2023) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): She still tells all

Documentary film “Judy Blume Forever”, which was released on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago, is a delightful tribute to Judy Blume, a famous American writer with whom I was regrettably not so familiar before hearing about the recent movie adaptation of her iconic middle-grade book “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Besides wonderfully illuminating Blume’s interesting life and career, the documentary shows us why many of her works remain important and relevant even at this point, and Blume often shines at its center while quite frank and humorous about many things including herself.

The documentary simply lets Blume talk in front of the camera, and she certainly tells all as many of you can expect from her. Even when she was young, she wanted to be a writer, and she did not give her dream at all even after marrying her first husband in 1959 and then having two kids in their suburban house in New Jersey. She certainly tried hard to be a good housewife and mother to her family, but she always felt something lacking in her suburban daily life, and she eventually went for writing when she came to have more spare time later.

Her several attempts on children’s book were not so successful to say the least, but Blume was not daunted by these failures at all. As a matter of fact, she became all the more determined to succeed as a writer, and she instantly moved onto writing for teenagers once she came to see that she was not that good at writing children’s books. In 1969, she eventually came to publish her first book “The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo”, and its small but significant success soon led her to her second book “Iggie’s House” in 1970.

However, it was her third book, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” that catapulted her to much more fame and popularity in US. Via its ordinary adolescent heroine who becomes quite conflicted about many sensitive things including her sexual development, the book boldly and honestly explores what average adolescent girls experience as getting physically and emotionally matured day by day, and its very frank attitude was wholeheartedly welcomed by millions of young readers out there.

Emboldened by the enormous success of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”, Blume decided to go further for more honesty and understanding, and she happened to be in the right time for that. As the American society went through a series of big social/political upheavals in the 1960s, many people demanded more changes than before, and this eventually boosted the female rights movement in the 1970s. People were more willing to talk about sex and many other things associated with adolescence, and Blume actively responded to that as writing a number of equally important works such as “Blubber”, “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself”, and “Forever…”, which still draws the ire of some conservative people out there because of its very frank presentation of the carnal aspects of one plain adolescent romance.

Because I have not touched any of these and other works by Blume yet, I cannot say much about whether they actually have any artistic quality to admire, but I am touched nonetheless by how much Blume cares about not only her works but also her many young readers out there. As a matter of fact, most of her young readers often sent their personal letters to her, and Blume willingly corresponded with each of them for showing some generous support to each own personal matter. Some of these young readers interacted with Blume for quite a long time, and one of them tells us how much she was excited when Blume willingly attended her high school graduation ceremony as requested.

In addition, the documentary assembled a bunch of many different interviewees who gladly talk about how much their lives have been influenced by Blume’s works in one way or another. While Lena Dunham and Molly Ringwald are certainly the most prominent ones in the bunch, many of other interviewees including authors Jason Reynolds and Mary H.K. Choi also have some interesting things to talk about, and you can easily sense their respect and admiration toward Blume’s works.

As playfully pointed out around the end of the documentary, many of Blume’s works become dated to some degree as the products of their time, but they do not lose any of their importance at all because of being unfairly targeted by those unpleasantly intolerant conservative zealots out there. When Ronald Reagan entered the White House at the beginning of the 1980s, lots of backlashes against the progressive movements of the 1960-70s followed, and, as shown from a series of archival footages clips, Blume had to endure a lot just because she wrote quite frankly about teenagers in her books. As many of you know, this toxic social trend returned several decades later as Donald J. Trump deliberately opened the door for more virulent bigotry and intolerance, and Blume is not so pleased about that to say the least.

Nevertheless, Blume does not stand back as usual while fighting against censorship as before. While she does not write more after publishing “In the Unlikely Event” in 2015, she recently came to run a little bookstore of her own along with her third husband after moving to Key West, Florida, and, as far as I can see from the documentary, she and her husband are doing fairly well in their small business.

Overall, “Judy Blume Forever” is not only informative but entertaining mainly thanks to Blume’s ebullient presence, and directors/producers Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok present Blume and her works with lots of care and respect. I cannot be sure about when I will try on Blume’s works, but I must admit that I was charmed and entertained enough by the documentary, and I am certainly looking forward to watching the recent movie adaptation of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”.

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