The long awaited, heavily marketed, remarkably tchotchked Eat, Pray, Love movie is out tomorrow. Hallelujah! Will we love it? hate it? want to make out with James Franco and marry Javier Bardem? Maybe! Will it have us wishing to drop everything and jaunt off to the east for a year full of soul-searching and spaghetti eating? Not if we have to pay for it! There’s been so much hype over this movie lately, and the marketing team made darn sure of that, what with all the EPL stuff to sniff, sip and style on top of the over 400 items being sold through HSN. That’s a lotta potatoes! With the nearly $6 billion yoga business and some of its leading yogapreneurs getting the chide factor from the press lately, why on earth would they skip out on a major Hollywood film with a yoga twist and a multi-million dollar budget destined to cash in tremendously on merchandise, franchise fees and box office sales? It’s the perfect storm!
While many people have been truly touched by the memoir, and are surely thrilled to “live” it on the big screen, there are others not so starry-eyed and enchanted. Meet Marta Szabo who, as the NYPost’s Sara Stewart reports, a couple decades ago underwent a very Liz Gilbert-esque journey to find herself, traveling to India and landing, like Liz, at Siddha Yoga’s Gurudev Ashram. Unfortunately, along with meditation she found a “derailed” life and encounters with “enlightenment junkies” who went to great lengths, and credit card balances seeking happiness. Yes, instead of enlightenment, and a handsome Felipe, many sojourners found little more than debt!
Just yesterday we posted about the high cost of a luxury weekend retreat with Jen Aniston’s yoga guru, and followed with the question: Then again, can you really put a price tag on spiritual evolution? While we were being a tad cheeky, some of you out there replied, yes you can!
But do we have a new generation of retreat fiends?
“It’s almost like it’s become a sport that is dependent on paying the most money to go to the best ashram, to write the most amazing experience,” says Texas journalist Joshunda Sanders, who coined the term “priv-lit” (for “privileged literature”) in a recent article for Bitch magazine about Gilbert’s book.
And it’s never been a better time to compete in the Enlightenment Olympics. To coincide with the release of the film, numerous travel agencies are offering “Eat Pray Love”-themed tours to Italy, India and Indonesia (the three countries Gilbert visits in the book). Even Lonely Planet, the handbook for cheapskate travelers, offers suggestions on its Web site for re-creating Gilbert’s trip at Roman gelaterias, Indian meditation courses and Indonesian surf beaches.
Are we a culture of the Self-seeking obsessed? Love it or hate it, there is an underlying theme in EPL that reinforces the inner journey. But the movie version, and surrounding hoopla, seems to only be perpetuating the cycle of instant gratification and big money. Julia Roberts isn’t one of to the top 10 highest paid actresses, but $20 million ain’t bad!
“It does go against the yogic principle of looking inside rather than outside of ourselves for happiness,” says 28-year-old Jennilyn Carson, creator of the blog YogaDork, who’s been chronicling “EPL” mania over the past year. “[But] people want to be happy, and if something can be purchased to facilitate that happiness, they’ll do it.”
And on that note…we’re gonna go find us something tasty to make us happy, because damn it if that freakin’ Eat, Pray Love gelato cart isn’t to be found in NYC.