We didn't set out to make Winona Ryder the leitmotif of this podcast, but when we started picking our favorite films of the 1990s, she inevitably kept popping up. We've already covered her twice in the first ten episodes: Girl, Interrupted (Episode 6) and The Age of Innocence (Episode 7). We even turned her into an actual 'icon'. [*Spoiler Alert! There'll be at least two more Winona outings before this series is through.]
What is it about Winona? We've started developing our own theories. First of all, there's probably no other actress whose career is most closely associated with the 1990s. Her breakthrough roles (Heathers and Beetlejuice) hit just as the 80s were ending, while 1999's Girl, Interrupted, the last of her major iconic roles, served in retrospect as a kind of swan song (with troubling premonitions of the supposed 'breakdown' and arrest for shoplifting for which she will always be associated in the tabloids).
And what a decade it was! For an actress whose "imperial phase" basically ended at age 30, Winona's career encompassed teen flicks, comedies, costume dramas, sci-fi and work with directors like Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, as well as two Oscar nominations. Unlike other young female stars, she's not closely associated with romantic roles and it's her pairings with other women (in movies like Mermaids, Little Women, Girl, Interrupted and many more) that spring to mind more readily than a pairing with a guy (expect perhaps her real-life boyfriend Johnny Depp). She's the cool indy girl who doesn't know how pretty she is, and doesn't care - who's both smarter and more cynical than girls are expected to be.
Fellow Winonologists will enjoy devouring Soraya Roberts's comprehensive long-form essay "Winona, Forever" recently published in Hazlitt. Full of quotes from the woman herself and from her collaborators, the piece gets downright ontological about Winona's enduring appeal, calling her "a human embodiment of 90's nostalgia."
Here at Broad Appeal, we were particularly struck by Winona's own account of what first drew her into cinephilia:
A cool indy girl who identifies with old movie actresses? No wonder she's the patron saint of this podcast.