No Fair, Helena Bonham Carter!

If you watched last night’s Golden Globe Awards, you’ll probably agree that Helena Bonham Carter is a character.

What a quirky actress. I remember her as the young Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View; Ophelia in Hamlet and Olivia in Twelfth Night; the naughty Schlegel sister in Howard’s End; and Kate Croy in The Wings of the Dove. That’s two Shakespeares, two E.M. Forsters and one Henry James.

Maybe that filled Helena’s quota of the classics, because then her roles got darker: Marla in Fight Club; Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd; and the darkest of them all, Bellatrix Lestrange.

Along with her evolving body of work, or maybe because of it, her fashion sense got more and more odd, which was only surpassed by the weirdness of her hairstyles.

Last night, she attended at the Golden Globes as a nominee for her role as Queen Elizabeth (aka the young Queen Mum) in The King’s Speech. Playing Colin Firth’s wife after sharing multiple films with Johnny Depp is enough to make a world of women envy you, but it’s really hard to hate someone who rocks the weirdness like Helena does.

But on Globe’s red carpet, she went too far. Last night, for all the world to see, Helena Bonham Carter wore one green shoe, and one red shoe.

Why is this over the top? Because one green shoe and one red shoe was my idea.

Not me-me, one of my characters. And actually, I stole that for my character from one of my sons, who wore one black Converse All Star hightop and one orange/black plaid Converse All Star  hightop his entire senior year of high school. I thought this was odd so, naturally, I stole it and used it in a story.

And now, Helena has stolen it from me. I don’t know how, since it’s in a WIP, but a few people have read it and, hopefully, will remember that. I’m just posting this to establish credit. My idea, Helena. Mine.

In May, I’ll be teaching a workshop about portraying characters at the Pennwriters Conference. Quirky clothes and signature hairstyles are just one way to make a character come to life and be memorable. One danger of going too out there with a character’s outward appearances is that s/he won’t seem realistic.

However, watching the Golden Globes last night, I had to wonder: Is there such as thing as too far out? Helena is getting hammered in the fashion press this morning for her strange shoe choice. This may be karma, of course, for stealing from me.

Writing quirks for a character can be fun, but the quirk should also reveal something about the character. What do mis-matched shoes say to a reader? Or a movie fan?

Tell me about it.


8 thoughts on “No Fair, Helena Bonham Carter!

  1. I never saw her shoes, and she still looked bizarre. That dress looked like it had a built-in dagger or something, poised right at her neck.

    I have to confess, she creeps me out. I blame Tim Burton. I’ve obviously never met the woman, but it appears that Bellatrix was type casting. Just saying.


    1. Kathy, HBC does some major scenery eating as Bellatrix. I think she’s perfect.

      Maybe she dresses as she does to mess with the public, who seem to want actresses to be perfect, beautiful and polished. I hope that’s it, anyway.


  2. In my twenties, as a traveling recruiter for Bryn Mawr College, I did a swing of the Southwest with one navy pump and one black–not by choice but from grabbing shoes from the closet in the dark. Luckily, the shoes had the same height heel! I didn’t score any fashion points, though.


  3. I dunno, the mis-matched shoe thing comes close to the limp-and-an-eye-patch school of writing. (Using a random and blatant detail to identify an otherwise bland character.) I am sure your character has a good reason for wearing the shoes–and it means something in the story, right?

    Just pulling your chain today, Editor Suprema!


    1. Nancy and Maryann, even though she’s scary, she pulls it off, doesn’t she?

      It’s like Johnny Depp, I think, and the long hair, tattoos, grungy clothes, rings and bracelets and such–that’s just Johnny. Same for Helena. Don’t understand it, but not 100% frightened by it.


  4. Helena Bonham Carter always makes me slightly uncomfortable…and I think that’s her intent. “Never take me for granted because I am unpredictable and edgy and therefore oh so much smarter than those around me.” You know? That said, I give her much credit for becoming the characters she plays. Bellatrix is suitably evil, and yet the young Queen Mary so refined and concerned for her dear Bertie that it makes you want to hug her (if touching were permitted). I would have loved to hear her acceptance speech, although I had no problem with the actress who won. Helena just might have let Bellatrix out a bit to torment Ricky Gervais :o) I never did see her shoes, but it doesn’t surprise me. Nor did her gown. Again, there’s that “I dare you to make a comment” attitude…gotta love that at least no matter what else we think. I do however wish that Geoffrey Rush and the picture itself had won…as much as I love Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network was not my cup of tea.


  5. I know of two little girls in my neighborhood who wear mismatched shoes all the time. In fact, a few years ago it was quite the rage to do with crocs. I’m sorry to disappoint you but this here is an example of life imitating art imitating life. Of course, I think credit lies with Astrid Lindgren. Although it was the socks that clashed, Pippi really was the first literary arbiter of fashion.


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