Like live oaks, biscuits, and sweet tea (a.k.a. “the house wine of the South”), Steel Magnolias is a Southern staple. While the film focuses on an inter-generational friendship between a group of women who bond over life, love, and armadillo cake, there are many valuable lessons that everyone can learn from this classic film—including men.
The film, which stars an A-list cast of Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Sally Fields, is an authentic portrait of life and love, friendship and family and what is truly important in this world. The film makes you laugh and cry in equal measure as it poses questions about what we value in this world and how we cope in the face of tragedies. The story will make you reflect on your own life and your own values, while giving valuable advice about moving forward when times get hard—and even laughing in the face of despair.
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Here are a few lessons that men can learn from watching Steel Magnolias:
Beauty rituals are sacred
Don’t interfere with the sanctity of the beauty salon, because between the haircuts and nail polish, Truvy’s Salon served as church, meeting house, and watercooler. Besides, if you want the women in your life to feel self-confident, don’t interfere with their visits to the salon. As Truvy notes, “It takes some effort to look like this!”
Football is not actually a reason to live
“I really do love football, but it's hard to parlay that into a reason to live,” said Clairee, before becoming a color commentator and reporting live from the locker room.
There are different interpretations of “Southern values”
For instance, Shelby’s in-laws believe Southern values mean: “Ya either shoot it, stuff it or marry it,” at least according to M’Lynn.
Men and women have different ideas on romance
For instance, Truvy wasn’t wild about her husband’s version of a romantic gesture. “The last romantic thing my husband did for me was back in 1972. He enclosed this carport so that I could support him!” she said.
Sometimes friendship works in unexpected ways
Friends are always there for each other, in good and bad. Sometimes friendship works in ways you would never expect like when Clairee suggested that M’Lynn make herself feel better by slugging Ouiser. “Ouiser, this is your chance to do something for your fellow man!” said Clairee, trying to get Ouiser to step to the plate to get slapped. While M’Lynn passed on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Clairee’s ploy worked and M’Lynn’s spirits were lifted.
Best friends and worst enemies can occasionally be the same thing
Ouiser and Clairee squabbled constantly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. “Ouiser can never stay mad at me, she worships the quicksand I walk on,” said Clairee.
Persistence can pay off
It took Owen Little almost 40 years to convince Ouiser to let him court her, but now his Mercedes can be spotted in her garage on Saturday nights. In other words, don’t give up on your dreams.
Everyone—including men—should smile more
As Truvy said, “It increases your face value.”
There are many shades of pink
You may have heard of those infamous 50 shades of grey, but there are just as many shades of pink, including blush and bashful. Just accept it.
Aging is natural
“Time marches on and eventually you realize it’s marching across your face,” Truvy said.
There are some unexpected side effects of aging
According to Clairee, “The older you get, the sillier you get.” While Ouiser believes that “the older you get, the uglier you get.” Either way, it happens to everyone.
Eccentricity is the birthright of the older Southern woman
As Ouiser explained, “I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why. I don’t make the rules!”
Never tell a pregnant woman you’re uncomfortable
As Anelle said, “We'll talk about uncomfortable when you're nine months pregnant!”
There is no such thing as too much
That goes for everything from Christmas decorations to hair to friends and, perhaps most importantly, accessories. After all, as Clairee wisely noted, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”
Women aren’t as sweet as they may seem
“If you can’t say anything nice about anybody come sit by me,” Clairee said with a smile.
Nothing comes between a mother and her daughter
She may be daddy’s little girl, but nothing comes between a mother and her daughter. After all her brought her into this world and sometimes might have to shepherd her out of it. As M’Lynn said, “I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”
Laughter—and friendship—can always ease the pain
When tragedy strikes, friends—especially those with a wicked sense of humor—can help. They may not be able to cure your pain, but can certainly lessen it whether with hand holding, brazen jokes, or a casserole that “freezes beautifully.”
Men might be tough as leather, but women are like steel
If you disagree, just watch the movie again.