Orchids Lovers: Nutjobs & Weird Rich People?

It’s no wonder why many people think orchid lovers are mentally ill freaks of nature, or rich eccentric folks with lots of time of their hands — or some combination of these quirks.  Many film, TV, and written portrayals of orchid enthusiasts perpetuate these stereotypes. The first representation of an orchid lover that comes to mind — probably because it’s one of my favorite shows ever — is Harold Smith, the agoraphobe played by Lenny von Dohlen in Twin Peaks:

Harold the orchid guy on Twin Peaks
Image credit: 25yearslatersite.com

Poor guy was scared to set foot outside his home, but had a beautiful orchid collection in his very own indoor greenhouse. Ultimately, this tortured and odd character (SPOILER ALERT!) hung himself — in his own greenhouse, no less. This guy certainly doesn’t give orchid lovers a ‘normal’ reputation.

Another very well-known instance of orchids on film is Adaptation, based on Susan Orlean‘s The Orchid Thief, stars Meryl Streep as Orlean herself and Chris Cooper as orchid hunter John Laroche. Cooper actually won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role, because he does unhinged and eccentric so very well (remember him in American Beauty??).

Adaptation movie orchids
Chris Cooper & Meryl Streep, Adaptation

Orlean’s portrayal of Laroche in The Orchid Thief was probably as fair and balanced as it could have been; she befriended him (as much someone like him would allow) while she investigated the world of orchid hunting, collecting, and poaching. Laroche did come off as an orchid-loving version of obsessive, twitchy physicist Daniel Faraday from Lost, but it sounds like that’s how he really is. OK, so not all of us orchid lovers are like that. Just saying.

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

In the same vein as The Orchid Thief is Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy, by Eric Hansen. The author traveled all over the world with orchid hunters in search of rare species, and along the way came across many stories of government raids, theft, and even violence. Orchid Fever a fascinating read and I definitely recommend it; the book just doesn’t offer much confidence in the way of orchid lovers’ sanity.  😛

Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen

And now we come to the ‘rich folk’ portion of our discussion. Alec Baldwin made an appearance as “Dr. Barrett Moore” in the second season finale of boundary-pushing plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck. Dr. Moore was a plastic surgeon who retired into a life of leisure and orchid cross-breeding on his crazy-ass country estate:

Nip/Tuck Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin, Nip/Tuck

Dr. Moore is one great example in the media of orchid-growing as a hobby for the wealthy, kind of a throwback to the orchidelirium of the Victorian era. When he appears onscreen with his orchids, he’s even pollinating them, working to create new hybrids.

And of course, since orchids are viewed as a sensual flower (Georgia O’Keefe, anyone??), one has even been used as an impromptu, um, pleasure device. A white phalaenopsis orchid starred in the most memorable scene from early ’00s movie 40 Days and 40 Nights. Let’s just say this: Josh Hartnett + Shannyn Sossamon + White Orchid = Ultimate Pleasure.

40 Days and 40 Nights
Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon, & an orchid, 40 Days and 40 Nights

So those are the main instances of orchids and orchid lovers in the media that came to mind as I wrote this post. Are there any others that you can think of? If so, leave a comment and let me know!

Some of us orchid lovers may be a little crazy and obsessive about our plants, but we’re certainly not all wealthy or certifiably mentally ill. Personally, I leave my house sometimes, I still have friends, and I don’t spend all my money on orchids. We orchid lovers are just…passionate, that’s all.  😀


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