I think the reason why I love Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan” so much is because the characters resonated strongly with me.
Especially the character of Tom. The character of Tom Townsend is a character who does not come from a rich family nor a privileged family but he’s highly educated and is able to hold his own among the upper-class Manhattanites.
For me, a few years after high school, I worked in politics and frequently had to work with wealthy individuals. I did not come from a wealthy family nor did I associate with upper class individuals. But it was my job to meet with the upperclass for networking but also to take part in various types of conversation.
At the time, a few wealthy or driven intellectuals took me under their wing and mentored me. One woman, preached cultural literacy and had me reading books and magazines (such as “The New Yorker”) but also incorporating words into my vocabulary which I would never use around my family or friends. But it was OK, because even as a child, I would always search a word I never understood in a dictionary and try to memorize the word and somehow integrate it into my vocabulary but to be told “I don’t know what you are talking about”. Suffice to say, I had a lot of fun with this because now I was with people who were using these words and talking about topics that I never had in conversations with my friends or family members.
Another taught me about political and economical issues spanning generations.
Another taught me about social mores and cuisine.
Suffice to say, I became like Tom Townsend. Not wealthy, drove a truck but always wearing a suit and doing what I can to “fit in”. At that time, every week, I was at a home or a party held by those in the upperclass.
And was able to do quite well in handling myself at these parties and events. I found myself attending $1,000 a plate events (which I often was treated), having dinners with distinguished people and I started to realize that I craved for these intellectual conversations.
And the experience was life changing and suffice to say, my life would never be the same.
Was their a caveat? Maybe once. One cranky 90-year-old man insisted that the reason why I was let into those circles was because of affirmative action and that wasp-y parties would benefit by having a non-Caucasian young man at their parties or events.
While what he said did sting and the truth is that I was typically one of the few people of color at these events, Whether was the man said was true or not, I personally didn’t care. Because looking back… I suppose I was OK by it. Because I learned a lot through the experience and it helped prepare me as I got older. Also, I had wonderful people (who are no longer around), who took their time to invest their time to mentor me.
But “Metropolitan” was a film that came out around that time and has resonated strongly with me after all these years. I love this film!