As with all media instances portraying love, especially movies, each tends to focus on one aspect of love. ‘Forrest Gump’ is infatuation. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is ‘heart or head’. Both I will cover in future articles. ‘The Killing of Sister George’ is no different. Its focus is ownership of the perfect beloved. For the Unified Theory of love this is an element of Attachment.
You hear ownership in love when lovers say ‘my’ girlfriend, ‘my’ boyfriend, ‘my’ lover, ‘my’ beloved wife, etc. A song that reflects this attitude most is ‘The Power of Love’ sung by Jennifer Rush where she says, ‘I am YOUR lady, and you are MY man.’
In ‘The Killing of Sister George’, George (June) seeks to hold onto Childie (Alice) her beloved against a world she feels is falling apart around her. The backstory is George’s character in a TV soap opera is about to be killed off. With it, she feels her career—her way of life—is about to end abruptly. In parallel, she is in a romantic relationship with Childie, a beloved younger than herself, who she feels might leave her at any time.
Regarding ownership in love, the lover takes up ownership of the beloved because ‘that’ beloved, like no other, brings about the good life the lover seeks to hold on to. But, ownership in love is not oppressive in the way slave owners owned slaves up to the Mid-19th Century across the Americas, or sexually repressive in the way husbands demanded domestic duties of wives up to the 19th Century across Europe. Ownership in love is freely offered and accepted within the lovers' community of two. It is abstracted ownership within the minds of lovers.
Misapplication of ownership is therefore the focus of the movie. George, in trying to hold on to Childie, demands of Childie duties through ownership, where other lovers demand duties of one another through a mechanism other than ownership.
Evidence of George using love’s ownership to demand duties is seen in a pivotal sequence at around the hour mark. George tells of how they met and how she worshipped the ground Childie stood on. Their time together so far is considered good, and George wants it to continue, but the sequence descends to romantic jealousy on George’s part. Usually George is domineering, but this time Childie stands firm and tells her she has no right to say who she can and can’t see romantically. She is not married to George. George turns away in despair.
What’s happening here is lovers accept and embrace ownership of one another in the mind only, so when one imposes restrictions beyond the mind ownership becomes problematic. Lovers place upon one another conditions of their love as each lover has needs, rights and values. These conditions might carry restrictions around what the other can do, but they must never be tied to any kind of ownership regarding attachment and ultimately ownership. They should be tied to the conditions of one’s love, and ultimately the lover’s assured commitment to attend and tend to the beloved. This is what's failing, and why these lovers are struggling so much.
Although these two may sound the same, they are not. One is over-zealous ownership as a lover, the other is, I have needs, rights and values as a person and seek respect of them. Think of this as a slave owner who demands of a slave to do job Z because they are beholden, compared to somebody free to choose to do job Z. The consequence for the slave in failure is physically and psychologically dismal; the consequence for the beloved is a search for understanding and reconciliation. In love, the beloved is not owned in any legitimate or moral way. Where they are, they seek emancipation at some point.
One final consideration regarding ownership is perfection of the beloved. During their falling in love, George placed Childie on a pedestal and once there created the perfect, or normalised the perfect-imperfect, beloved. Such a position remains important when within love as this maintains the need to own in abstract the beloved. The perfect beloved supports the good life the lover seeks to hold on to. And yet, at the end of the movie the perfection that once was is brought down. I won’t delve into any detail beyond this point as I recommend you watch the movie. Of note is once the lover fails to perceive the beloved as their perfect-imperfect the rational desire to own the beloved diminishes.
As pointers during the movie look out for the following: