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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Mimesis | Authenticity: Please, I’m a Star!

Mimesis is a biweekly blog that analyzes media through a philosophical and narrative lens.
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Nicholas Cassano | Staff Illustrator

I’ve discovered, through vast swathes of experience, that “what if” is the most horrible phrase in the history of the English language. 

You name it, I’ve “what-iffed” it. What if I shouldn’t be an English major, what if my essays are irredeemably bad? What if law schools reject my years of effort? What if I crash and burn atop a pyre of student loans and regret?

Typically, the worst never comes to pass in cases like these. In fact, such things tend to work out in their own special way. And yet in my mind’s eye, my writing is garbage, my intelligence mediocre, my academic ability B-level at best.

A side effect of such a mindset is a strange fear of being deemed a faker, an imposter, a liar. I’m convinced my instructors will find out I’m a fraud. I wait with bated breath for the moment they peer between the lines of my submissions and see the atrocities disguised as essays. 

My nastiest habit is inserting my voice into objective pieces. In research, I ramble, my paragraphs begging on their hands and knees for the slightest consideration of concision. 

There is a languishing desire to weave stories into every assignment I touch. Some are more egregious than others, but by this point in the term my offenses are becoming harder to resist.

In my spare time I try, and fail, to write creatively. I’ve conceived novels half-baked and left to fester at the tips of my fingers. I would kill to pull them out of myself, to finally find the words to breathe them into being. Instead, I settle for keen observation of cinema. Vicariously living through the minds granted an outlet to realize their “what ifs.”

So, I’m in the depths of a film kick. Yes, a kick so bad that I downloaded Letterboxd and wrote half-assed reviews in my notes app. One such movie was A24’s “Pearl,” a quaint little film about honest self-expression and a hell of a love for dance.

“Pearl” is the second installment in the “X” trilogy. The movie is the story of its namesake, Pearl — a farm girl with an intense desire to follow her dreams of becoming a famous dancer. It’s stomach turning, and I’m not referencing the ax murder or rotting pigs. 

Yes, the scariest part of “Pearl” is when she’s vulnerable and honest about herself. 

At the movie’s apex, she admits her true nature to her unsuspecting sister-in-law, Mitsy. The two auditioned for a traveling dance troupe, and Pearl was tragically not selected. It’s intentionally left unclear whether Mitsy received the part herself. She claims to Pearl that she was also rejected, but the truth of her statement remains uncertain. Mitsy is a young, beautiful blonde girl — the justification by judges for Pearl’s dismissal being that she was none of those things. 

As displayed by her murder of a hesitant projectionist, Pearl doesn’t take kindly to liars. She perceives Mitsy’s answer as deceptive, and takes matters into her own hands. I interpret Mitsy as telling the honest truth, her desirable image adding irony to the miscommunication. 

Growing up, my mother offered me an adage to combat my fear of taking action — “if you can’t beat your fear, do it afraid.” So I did just about everything with a familiar weight in my stomach. Pearl’s monologue was eerily relatable — my ever-present dread of discovery proving too intense to restrain. She frames the speech as a letter to her husband, Howard, who is away fighting in the Great War. Pearl resents his absence with a fury, holding him responsible for her abandonment on her family farm.

Pearl’s frustration is malignant. It grows and mutates in representations of her own fear. She wants more than anything to be loved. Her murderousness is a product of abandonment by those she values the most – her family. They know the extent of her moral decay, discouraging her from chasing the dreams of adoration. It’s only a matter of time until she cracks, unable to bear the burden of hiding herself away. 

The scene is chilling. Mitsy masks her fear, trying to appease Pearl’s delusions. It’s not enough. 

While I wouldn’t take measures so desperate as Pearl’s, I fear failure with a fierceness. I’m afraid of not making it off of the proverbial farm, of not being a star. I think we all nurture unlikeable, raw and downright disgusting perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. Our true selves are a reflection of those feelings. To Pearl, speaking her ugly truth is setting it free. 

Our dreams are mere mirages that distort and vanish in the heat. If approached carefully, perhaps an oasis lies behind the screen. Or perhaps the veil lifts without a trace, and we’re left to cross the desert alone.

Needless to say, the melodrama is unnecessary. I mold my writings into heavenly bodies. They guide my journey through the abyss that is authenticity — the wasteland of “what ifs.” Navigating uncertainty is a learned skill, but sometimes you just have to take a stab at it.

About the Contributor
Chloe Woodruff, Staff Writer
Chloe is an English Writing and Philosophy major with a love-hate relationship with reading. Ironically, she primarily blogs about literature and narratives across mediums.  Write to her at  or check out her Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/chlobees