Earlier this month, Maurice sent me a link to a Radiolab story called “Finding Emilie”. It is a phenomenal story about an art student, her tragic accident and her boyfriend’s conviction that she could recover. It WILL make you cry, regardless of how stoic you think you are.
There’s a point partway through the story where Emilie’s mother talks about how, of all her children, Emilie always seemed to get the bad stuff and she asks, “Why? Everything bad seems to happen to Emilie.” My automatic, flip answer was…”Because of her name!”
Having been an Emilie my whole life (except for a period in my early teens when I tried to make everyone call me Rachel), I have long studied this phenomena. Yes, it is a phenomena and it is real. And here is my evidence.
All of the really famous Emilys are generally creative, often writers, are usually unlucky in love and/or depressed and die early:
–Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, died at age 30 and never married.
-The poet Emily Dickinson lived till age 56, but never married and barely left her room in her later life. Her poetry dealt extensively with death and mortality.
Fictional Emilys seem to fare even worse than real-life creative Emilys (even Maurice admits he has an ill-fated fictional Emily in his work):
-Emily Grierson from A Rose for Emily, who kills a suitor and presumably sleeps beside his corpse in a wedding suite until her own death.
-Emily Webb from Our Town who dies giving birth.
-Emma/Emmeline in the song by Hot Chocolate, who wants to be a famous actress and kills herself because she can’t achieve her dream. (Minute 3:12 will give you chills, but you have to listen to the whole song to get there.) This song is probably based on lead singer Errol Brown’s mother, I’ve read.
More scientific Emilys seem to be longer living. Not quite as famous as the creative ones, they are just as successful. But that makes sense because one of the meanings of the name Emily is to strive or excel or rival. I’ve also heard that Emily means “industrious one.”
I don’t buy into the Emily Curse… but I’m getting a little ticked off by this perception around the name. Doomed, fragile Emilys vs. hard-working scientific Emilys? Why does everything happen to Emily?
And that’s what I like about the Emilie in the Radiolab story above. Though there’s tragedy in her story, I get the impression she is the most stubborn, persistent person. And that she will continue to triumph. I want more Emily/Emilies with her spirit and determination in fiction and in real life.
In that vein, there’s Emily the Strange, a goth teenager with attitude, who doesn’t entirely fit the mold. While she wears all black and never seems to smile, she’s strong and sarcastic. I hear Chloe Morentz may play her in the movie version. All I can think is that after her roles in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, she is NEVER going to smile in a role again.
But, check out a coincidence I stumbled upon while putting this post together: