Lolita

References in media

Literary memoir
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir about teaching government-banned Western literary classics to women in the world of an Islamic Iran, which author Azar Nafisi describes as dominated in the 1980s by fundamentalist "morality squads".[91] Stories about the lives of her book club members are interspersed with critical commentary on Lolita and three other Western novels. Lolita in particular is dubbed the ultimate "forbidden" novel and becomes a metaphor for life in Iran. Although Nafasi states that the metaphor is not allegorical (p. 35), she does want to draw parallels between "victim and jailer" (p. 37). She implies that, like the principal character in Lolita, the regime in Iran imposes their "dream upon our reality, turning us into his figments of imagination." In both cases, the protagonist commits the "crime of solipsizing another person`s life." February 2011 saw the premiere of a concert performance of an opera based on Reading Lolita in Tehran at the University of Maryland School of Music with music by doctoral student Elisabeth Mehl Greene and a libretto co-written by Iranian-American poet Mitra Motlagh. Azar Nafasi was closely involved in the development of the project and participated in an audience Q&A session after the premiere.[92]
Film
  • In "The Missing Page", one of the most popular episodes (from 1960) of the British sitcom Hancock's Half Hour, Tony Hancock has read virtually every book in the library except Lolita, which is always out on loan. He repeatedly asks if it has been returned. When it is eventually returned, there is a commotion amongst the library users who all want the book. This specific incident in the episode is discussed in a 2003 article on the decline of the use of public libraries in Britain by G. K. Peatling.[93]
  • In the Woody Allen film Manhattan (1979), when Mary (Diane Keaton) discovers Isaac Davis (Allen) is dating a 17-year-old (Mariel Hemingway), she says, "Somewhere Nabokov is smiling". Alan A. Stone speculates that Lolita had inspired Manhattan.[94] Graham Vickers describes the female lead in Allen's movie as "a Lolita that is allowed to express her own point of view" and emerges from the relationship "graceful, generous, and optimistic".[95]
  • In the 1999 film American Beauty, the name of protagonist Lester Burnham—a middle-age man with a crush on his daughter's best friend—is an anagram of "Humbert learns". The girl's surname is Hays, which recalls Haze. Tracy Lemaster sees many parallels between the two stories including their references to rose petals and sports, arguing that Beauty's cheerleading scene is directly derived from the tennis scene in Lolita.[96]
  • In the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, Bill Murray's character comes across an overtly sexualized girl named Lolita. Although Murray's character says it's an "interesting choice of name", Roger Ebert notes that "Neither daughter nor mother seems to know that the name Lolita has literary associations."[97]
Television
  • A January 2012 episode of the television series Pretty Little Liars revealed that the character of Alison (who has read Lolita) has an alter-ego named Vivian Darkbloom (slightly older and with different hair), named after a character in Lolita (and also Nabokov's Ada). TV Fanatic reviewer suggests this casts an eerie light on several of the pairings of older men and younger women in the series, in particular Ali's relationship with Ian.[98] Huffington Post has described the show as generally having a strong Lolita theme, noting that the novel became a plot point in one major episode.[99]
Popular music about the novel
  • Moi... Lolita (English: "Me... Lolita") is the debut single of the famous French singer Alizée, which was released on her debut album Gourmandises (2000) when she was 15. It was popular in France, Spain, Belgium, Georgia, Austria, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and many other countries, in the media the singer is called the most famous of the Lolitas.[100]
  • In The Police song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" about a schoolgirl's crush on her teacher in the final verse, the teacher "starts to shake and cough/just like that old man in that book by Nabokov", a direct reference to the male protagonist in Lolita.[101]
  • In the title song of her mainstream debut album, One of the Boys, Katy Perry says that she "studied Lolita religiously", and the cover-shot of the album references Lolita's appearance in the earlier Stanley Kubrick film. Perry has admitted on multiple occasions to a fascination and identification with the Lolita character and concept.[102]
  • Marilyn Manson's song "Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)" was indirectly inspired by the novel and the heart-shaped glasses worn by Lolita in the poster for Stanley Kubrick's film. In a BBC Radio One interview, Manson said he had been reading the novel as a consequence of now having a much younger girlfriend, Evan Rachel Wood. She consequently showed up to meet him one day wearing heart-shaped glasses (which she also wears in the music video of the song).[103]
  • Mexican singer Belinda released in 2010 a homonymous song, extracted from Carpe Diem. The song refers to the novel in the line "Sin duda Nabokov fue el que me escribió", which literally translates as "Without a doubt, Nabokov was the one who wrote me." It became a moderate hit at Venezuelan charts.[104]
  • Rolling Stone has noted that Lana Del Rey's 2012 album Born to Die has "loads of Lolita references",[105] and it has a bonus track entitled "Lolita". She has herself described the album's persona to a reviewer from The New Yorker as a combination of a "gangster Nancy Sinatra" and "Lolita lost in the hood." Their reviewer notes that "Her invocations of Sinatra and Lolita are entirely appropriate to the sumptuous backing tracks" and that one of the album's singles, Off to the Races, repeatedly quotes from the novel's opening sentence: "light of my life, fire of my loins."[106] Many of Del Rey's unreleased demos also refer to the novel, such as 'Put Me In A Movie' and '1949'.

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