Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Mean Reds

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Do you ever get that feeling?

“The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”

Throughout Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly tries to escape that fear. We don’t necessarily see it when Paul Varjak rings Holly’s buzzer to get into his new apartment building or at Holly’s fabulous—and hilarious—first party. But the fear is there, underneath the breeziness with which Audrey Hepburn plays her most famous role. The fear makes Breakfast at Tiffany’s more than just a forgotten romantic comedy but transforms it into a, if somewhat anachronistic, classic because it is about more than the characters: it is about us.

We want to dress up and look glamorous, to run away from our old lives and forge new identities, to—at least—steal masks from the five and dime and run home, laughing. Yet, just like Holly Golightly, the persona takes work; she has to periodically visit Tiffany’s so the mask won’t fall away. We, perhaps, visit other places.

Paul, though, is able to see to who Holly truly is. He names her fear—while she’s been too afraid to name her cat. “You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, ‘Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.’ You call yourself a free spirit, a ‘wild thing,’ and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s allures us with its glamor, its fun, its romance; but we remember it because we’re all afraid of something; all somehow caged.

Do you ever get that feeling?