“When you read a book as a child,” Meg Ryan says in the iconic romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, “it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” Although it’s certainly more romantic to think that way about books, the same can definitely be said of movies. Many people find that, looking back on their childhoods, there is a specific book, film or television show that had a lasting impact on their lives. An impact that, subconsciously or not, would define their personalities, tastes and interests for years to come. For me, that movie was .
Though not the most commercially successful or critically acclaimed children’s film of all time, Harriet the Spy has gone on to achieve cult status for people who were the right age when it was released. The film, which is based on Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel of the same name, stars a young Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet M. Welsch, a plucky 11-year-old girl whose greatest ambition is to become a writer. At the behest of her beloved nanny, ‘Ol Golly (played by a lovable Rosie O’Donnell), Harriet takes to writing down everything she sees and hears in her private notebook. This is why, as she succinctly states in the film’s opening scene, “I am a spy.” The otherwise nostalgic romp takes a dramatic turn when Harriet’s notebook is seized and read by her friends, uncovering hidden secrets and forcing her to reexamine her life and relationships.
At once delightfully fun and surprisingly poignant, Harriet the Spy became quite the inspiration to me. The film solidified my desire to some day become a writer, and taking cues directly from Harriet herself, I spent years of my childhood hunched over a ratty marble notebook, spying on neighbors and writing salacious notes. For Halloween in third grade, my school mandated that each child dress as their favorite book character. Gender norms be gone — I was going to be Harriet the Spy, and that was that. Although I may not have known it then, it appears that the film also had a lasting impact on my visual tastes. Upon reexamining the movie for this post, I found that I remain drawn to the film’s interiors, golden-hued throwbacks to mid-century America. From Harriet’s classic yellow raincoat to the orange school desks in her classroom, every item in the film is filled with luscious color and warmth. For me, there really is no better film to “live in.” — Max
More Harriet the Spy goodness after the jump . . .
Also — just for fun: Here’s the awesome music video that accompanied the Harriet the Spy film. The song title is “The Secretive Life,” and it’s performed by Jill Sobule (of 1990s “I Kissed a Girl” fame).