In recent months, Judy Blume has seen a spike in publicity. The author promotes the trailer of the first adaptation of her classic Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret; she revealed that she once ate an entire Entenmann’s crumble in one sitting; and she’s going to Sundance now. It’s like releasing Stories of a fourth grade Nothing all over again! Right? I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there.
But Judy Blume forevera paper profiling the author premiering at this year’s Sundance certainly makes anyone feel like they were on the front lines of teens buying her most famous books when they came out in the ’70s.
Judy Blume forever brings together all manner of Blume readers to show how timeless the author has become. Famous people like Lena Dunham and Anna Konkle share how Blume’s portrayal of women’s sexuality in their TV shows (Girls and Pin15, respectively), for example. But there are also appearances by lesser-known authors, showing how the novelist has informed their careers. Readers who have been writing notes to Blume for decades talk about how her responses have forever impacted their lives; later, 21st century kids report reading Judy Blume books, too, nearly 50 years later.
“This book, um, can really help me with puberty,” says a little pre-teen boy, showing off his 2022 copy Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. This says it all: Judy Blume is for everyone, regardless of gender, generation or age. The doc also has divine timing. It will be released this spring on Prime Video, as the first film adaptation of Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret hits theatres. Side-by-side, the movies will certainly be a nostalgia overload, but nostalgic in a caring, tender way, not the “we’re giving you eight reboots of a show you watched when you were 12” kind of way.
Watching Judy Blume forever feels a lot like the experience of witnessing the life of Fred Rogers on screen in the doc Don’t you want to be my neighbor?, which premiered at Sundance five years ago. Just like you didn’t have to be big Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan to enjoy that docu, you don’t have to have read every book in the Fudge series to be charmed by Judy Blume forever. It will help if you’ve read the hits – and if you haven’t Margaret, get started! – but the Doctor will convince you to read every other novel in her collection anyway. I’ve already set a watch Lady at my local library.
Blume herself takes center stage in the Doctor, and while we meet her children and husband, she tells her own story. Unlike the archetypal novelist – guarded, isolated, nerdy, writing alone, etc. – Blume was always a social butterfly. Growing up, she was popular, excelled in school, attended NYU, and soon after got married and had children. Judy Blume forever doesn’t necessarily obscure these details; the Doctor expertly speeds through her early life to give us a good picture of a witty young woman so we can get to the juicy part of the story. Tell us about writing the books, Judy!
Watching Judy go through her writing process on some of the most beloved works of fiction is like marveling at one Great British baking show pastry chef, as they drizzle whipped chocolate frosting onto a fluffy cake. Comfort doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. Coupled with archival footage of her talk show appearances as a younger author, the author explains why she writes from a children’s point of view, why it’s important to talk about topics such as masturbation and menstruation, and how the ideas of her books relate to her own life. While Blume clearly knows the importance of her novels, as any intelligent person would, she buries her ego. She is grateful for impressing readers young and old without worrying about her status or her legacy.
The Doctor doesn’t like her much either, elegantly portraying Blume as a monumental figure without announcing her as the wisest, completely ageless of authors. She also made mistakes. Several authors agree that some of her material has not stood the test of time, especially pointing out how she upholds the gender binary in her novels.
Still, the Doctor maintains that because of the archaic ideas there is no need to remove them from widespread circulation. To acknowledge this change in societal norms, rather than shoving it under the rug or deeming her books unfit for 2023, is a mature decision for the doc to make.
Plus, Judy Blume forever has a bigger point to make than just walking through Blume’s life and career. Near the end of the film, Blume describes her involvement in the National Coalition Against Censorship, following several of her books (such as Margaret, Forever…) were pulled from school library shelves nationwide during the Reagan administration. While her books are still banned by some libraries, Blume is fighting the censorship of her novels (and those of other authors, such as Gossip Girl writer Cecily von Zeigesar, who speaks of Blume’s efforts in this paper) to educate young people about puberty and sex.
One of the best segments moves from Blume’s novels to her more personal writing, exploring the letters she’s exchanged with her fans over the years. The author searches a box of her letters, all still perfectly intact and sorted into folders, her face brightening at a few names she remembers. It’s delightful – not only because Blume has taken the time to return letters to her readers, attend their graduations, and help them work through personal struggles, but also because the doc finds new ways to help Blume’s bond with her readers.
Near the beginning of the document, Blume says she always hated it when adults hid secrets from her as a child. So she wanted to inform every young reader about the realities of the world. She’s like everyone else’s third grade teacher: Breaking open a Judy Blume book is like tearing into a new set of Crayola markers on the first day of school.
Judy Blume forever let us feel the same way by taking us inside Blume’s life and the creation of her most beloved stories as we delve deeper into Why the novels have had such an impact on so many generations – and, more importantly, how we can protect the books for future generations to read.
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