Judy Blume Forever is a documentary about an American hero. Directors, Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok have created a linear account of Blume’s life. A Jewish child, seven at the end of World War II, who, despite maternal reassurance became increasingly anxious as she learnt about the Holocaust. Additionally, Blume knew adults kept secrets and was desperate to discover them. This prompted her to write to reveal adulthood to the young.
The central theme of the documentary is the identification that readers have with her characters. The majority of Blume’s books are for adolescents and she claims to have total recall of her childhood which is how she can empathise with her readers. Blume supplied an emotional context for the biological aspects of puberty.
Throughout the film, there is evidence from both famous fans like Lena Durham and Samantha Bee, and regular fans of Blume’s life-changing effect on them. One young woman confided that her brother, who had abused her, had committed suicide and she had no one to confide in. Blume wrote to her for years. Additionally, Blume attended the graduation of one regular letter writer whose family were absent.
Her books talk candidly about sex but this is not their only topic. The novel Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret considers religion and peer pressure as well as puberty but it was the single mention of the word masturbation which caused the most consternation.
Blume’s writing helped take away the mystery and shame of periods, worries about breast size and first kisses. She didn’t write only for females but also for young male readers and eventually Wifey for adults. All her books seemed shockingly honest at the time.
The lines of adolescents waiting to see her shows her popularity until that is, the Ronald Reagan era and calls began for her novels to be banned. At the forefront of this was the book Forever about the first sexual experience of two teenagers. The opening sentence in the book, ‘Sybil Davison has a genius IQ and has been laid by at least six different guys,’ lacks the usual judgement about female sexuality. Her characters could experience sex without horrendous consequences.
This documentary is built around an extended interview with Blume, who now runs a bookshop in Key West, a remarkable, attractive woman, who claims to be in her eighties but looks and sounds decades younger. Still controversial, she remains defiant and her bookshop proudly features notices stating, ‘I read banned books.’
Now screening on Amazon Prime