Mozart in the Jungle and Ambitious Women

For anyone who isn’t watching Mozart in the Jungle, you are seriously missing out.

The show is now in its 4th season, and I would argue that it is the best one yet. The show’s obvious star is Gael Garcia Bernal, in the role of the neurotic and famous Maestro Rodrigo De Sousa. He even won an Emmy for his performance in the first two seasons.

In the first three seasons, Rodrigo is often visited by visions of Mozart, and other famous composers. They guide him through the music he is conducting and help him make important life decisions.

But in the latest installment of the Amazon Original Show, the focus is on the young oboist, Hailey Rutledge, played by Lola Kirke. The show follows her, as she changes paths from oboist, to conductor, while juggling a relationship with Rodrigo.  

Now that it is Hailey’s turn at the baton, instead of visits from the greats, she is visited by those forgotten by time. Amazing female composers; that where overshadowed, overlooked, and sometimes outright banned from standing out in the male dominated field.

Their plight mirrors Hailey’s: inspired women, but unfortunately stifled. In her conversations with them, they discuss the reality that she faces, encourage her to break the glass ceiling, and criticize her relationship with the maestro.

As I went through the ten episodes, my heart would tighten at those moments. Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, appears to Hailey several times, recounting how she was the star of the family until her brother, Wolfgang Amadeus, surpassed her. Isabella Leonarda and Fanny Mendelssohn, chime in with their own stories.

Leonarda was a Catholic nun, and in her time women were barred from preforming religious music. Mendelssohn was the older sister of composer Felix, and while their father encouraged his son’s talent, he forbade Fanny from pursuing music as well.

In this scene, the three women are expressing how the time they lived in was so oppressive to female artists, and how, though there is still so many obstacles to overcome, Hailey benefits from the trail women have blazed ahead of her.

Probably Hailey’s biggest fan of all is Rodrigo. The talent he saw in her ignited their relationship after all. But in this season, he seems to be mostly an anchor to her blossoming career. Completely unaware of his privilege as a man, his well-meaning gestures of love only serve to paint an image of Hailey as a social climber and an amateur. Not an artist that can get by on the merits of her talent alone.

Hailey's story makes me think of my own life in a couple ways.

I, like Hailey, am an ambitious creative woman, hoping to excel in my field. I am usually confident in my abilities, but society’s view and scrutiny is difficult to avoid. It even more heartbreaking when it come from those closest to me.

Once at a family dinner, my father was giving thanks and gave each of my brothers some congratulations on what they have recently accomplished.

“Lucas has just earned his Master’s. Marcus is getting married and is also working on a Master’s.”

Even though I’m the middle child, I was last to be mentioned.

“And Stephanie… She’s still figuring it out.”

To this day, I don’t think he realizes how much that hurt me. My focus had changed in the last year, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t accomplished anything, or that I was falling behind. If anything, to me, it’s a sign that I’m more ambitious and more of a risk-taker than my brothers.

I’ve had several exes tell me I’m intimidating, or that I’m overly ambitious. My most serious boyfriend even stated that as a reason for breaking up with me. My mom often cautions me on not appearing too “angry” or “intense” to men. I’ve tried to be less of these things, but it has just resulted in me being less of myself.

I’ve realized also that, in terms of appearing intimidating to potential romantic partners, that is more due to the fact that I’m often dating boys my age who haven’t caught up maturity wise. But what’s waiting for me on the other side?

If I date older, more "mature" men, am I just going to face the scrutiny and mansplaining that Hailey does?

More and more, I find the comfort in my solitude. Today I drove to Vasquez Rocks, to do some self-portraits. I have never done self-portraits before, but it was important to me. This is my way of applauding myself. This is the person I am doing this for. To hell with the rest of them.

“Take their fucking Mahler, and shove it down their throats”

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Stephanie Klotz