Most of us first met Robin Wright when she played a princess. And not just any princess, but Princess Buttercup. Even with an impressive filmography, which includes The Conspirators, Forrest Gump, and the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we love to love The Princess Bride. Between the classic quotes and the classic tale, it’s a memorable film that stays with you. But part of what makes the film so special is its singular take on relationships, between a group of unlikely characters, its cast members, and two people in love. It’s a love story that illustrates how two separate entities can be more productive, more alive, more whole when they’re together.
“Usually in fairy tales with a princess, she’s the damsel in distress. But I would look at is as – There’s this beautiful quote, a beautiful way of looking at the connection of male and female. It’s Milton: ‘He for God. She for God through Him.’ Isn’t that amazing?” Robin quotes the inimitable Paradise Lost to display the power of symbiosis, of the dual nature of relationships. And she bemoans how the 21st century has belittled that power. “That is what I remember feeling when I was little; feeling your man is your prince! Symbolically, that’s what you wanted it to feel like. Like you could touch God through him. I wish there was more of that sweet, innocent feminine in the world. I wish we didn’t have to denigrate it.”
But don’t mistake her for a lovelorn lass. Robin’s got a handle on a very personal power of her own. “Knowledge is Power. Didn’t Malcolm X say that? But once you have the knowledge, it’s the confidence and the will that make the difference. You have the knowledge you want to apply or institute, and the confidence and will to make it happen.” That mantra is a constant in her life, through the ups and downs. “We all have to get over our insecurities. Things beat us down. We’re overpowered by things. But if we envision the change… It’s almost like the thought creates the vision creates the action. Power is real when you’re convicted in something.”
As a mother and an actress, Robin has faced the realities of family life, and of growing older with grace. “Aging is evolution. In the world and years on the planet and years in your body, with your experience. That’s the great side of aging: all that experience and history to learn from. We make big fucking mistakes. We do. And you learn and you move on and you make different mistakes.” Robin has a very pragmatic, but organic perspective on life. “God. Life is all about lessons and the reward of the lesson learned. You can apply and celebrate. Why live life unless you’re caring for other people? That’s a dire need of the world – to recognize that it is joyful to give to people that don’t have. I don’t want to wake up in the morning unless I can attain some joy or give some.”
And Robin has found a way to merge the power of true conviction with her philosophy of giving. Years ago, when interviewed by Charlie Rose, Robin shared that, in her youth, her dream job was to be an aid relief work in Africa. “I wanted to do that when I was seven years old. I wanted to go take care of the starving, disease-ridden babies all over the world because we are so blest. I remember absolutely having a desire to do that.” When the acting bug came along, she ended up championing the dreams-cum-realities of those who watch her films. But now the opportunity to help the continent that captured her concern and imagination years ago has arisen. Having recently returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on behalf of The Enough Project, she has found new inspiration, new knowledge driving action and result.
She was visiting to learn more and raise awareness about the illicit trade of valuable minerals and the resultant marginalization and victimization of women. “The impetus behind getting involved – being a part of this organization, this movement, this action – is when I discovered that we are actually helping fuel this war.” It is one of the deadliest wars in history. In the past 9 years, there have been more deaths than in the whole of World War II. And one of the most vile and pervasive weapons of this war is rape. Robin remembers seeing an interview of a young child soldier who had raped and murdered Congalese women in the course of the war. “In Africa, the woman, the mother, is powerful. Once you take her out, there’s no family. Once you rape her, you take her power… basically she is evaporated. It ruins the family. Rape is a weapon of war. It is intentional, designed, and premeditated. I saw that documentary and I had to go.”
What’s more, this war is being fought over products that effect our everyday lives. The valuable minerals in question come from the Eastern Congo and are used by electronics companies that create our phones, our computers, our suites of iThings. “We’re not saying boycott. We just want minerals to be clean, not an illicit trade.” She calls up the parallel between these minerals and the blood diamonds of South Africa. In both instances, the only solution comes by exacting change in policy. “We have to push our administration. The people have to protest, demand the implementation of a transparency scheme. We have to make it work so that people aren’t being killed when the minerals come out of the mines.
“Every 48 minutes, a woman is raped. That’s insanity.”
Beyond calling attention to a depravity that is connected to common commodities, Robin is asking for people – for us, for you – to wake up, and to speak out. “Guess what? We can help. Our money is being traded with these people, so our hands are dirty too.” Keep an eye out for a short documentary that Robin took part in, covering the concerns, the needs, and the lives of the Congalese people who are living through this war. “We’re hoping it will be picked up by Time.com, and I wrote an op-ed to accompany it. It’s the type of thing that can spread through social media.” Don’t worry; the irony that the very technology that runs on the minerals in question will be the best way to promote the cause of The Enough Project is not lost on Robin. “That’s just the way it has to be.”
Sometimes the grace, eloquence, beauty, and determination of a woman can be an unmitigated power in and of itself. A power to make change when there is no other conceivable option. “It makes it real when you’re convicted in something. I’m newly involved, on a physical level. I spent four or five years reading about this cause, and then I went to the Congo, and it has changed my life.” Robin has embraced this cause. “To have it in the palm of your hand – it becomes part of your skin. My confidence is there because my passion, my concern, my care is so deep. As a mother, you care for the people you love. This is just expanding outside of your family, your loved ones, into a more global family.”
It’s a call to action – at the very least, a call to awareness – that is hard to deny. Coming from such a passionate, involved, accomplished woman, one can’t help but be moved. It’s time for us to take a look at people who are marginalized as a part of our gain, to hear them asking for help, to recognize their right to safety and respect, and to respond, well, “As you wish.”