One of the nice thing about having a scheduled day off during the week is ability to see matinees. (Since this was my first day off in three weeks, I was celebrating. I had moved on from yelling, “Dobby is a Free Elf!” like I was when I got home the night before.)
The problem with going to matinees is that other theater goers are also people who can go on a Friday afternoon. That is mostly retired people. I have nothing against old people. I’m going to be one soon. But, the sight of two elderly ladies entering a movie theater terrifies me. They have a tendency to not understand the plot and to discuss their misunderstanding loudly during the movie. They also have a tendency to sit right behind me.
I will admit that I’m a person who probably takes movie going too seriously. Nevertheless, I truly believe that no one should ever speak while a movie is playing unless you look like this.
I went to see Suffragette. It is only playing in one theater in the entire metro area. It is in a small room. I was pleased to see it well attended but I was worried because everyone was old and sitting close together. I was in a row with a group of two elderly women and a man. I told myself not to stereotype. It was going to be ok.
The previews started and one of was for Race, the upcoming Jesse Owens biopic. At the end of the trailer that is all about Jesse Owens, the man says to the woman next to him, “I think that movie is going to be about Jesse Owens’ life.” I knew we were doomed.
The next trailer was for The Danish Girl, a story about the first sex change operation. We were 3/4 through that one before the woman said, “Hey, that’s the same guy playing a woman!”
Suffragette is the historical fiction version of the British fight for women’s right to vote. It has been highly criticized for having an all white cast and for having the stars appear wearing shirts with Emmeline Pankhurst’s quote “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave”.
The movie does not attempt to tell the whole story of the suffrage movement. This is a story of a few women in one neighborhood. They are not historical characters with 2 exceptions. They are the foot soldiers with the expendableness that that implies.
The movie shows all the problems that women face from domestic abuse to sexual harassment to unequal pay. The main character, Maud, gets into the movement and ends up estranged from her family. The man at the end of my row wasn’t having it. He launched into a rant about how she was a wife and mother and she shouldn’t be sacrificing that for any cause. He was echoing the words of the men on screen but sadly didn’t seem to see the irony.
Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the leaders of the movement. At the time of the movie she is in hiding from the government. She appears once to give a speech. She is referred to often though. There are many newspaper headlines about her. The woman are derogatorily called “Panks”. It is even graffitied on a wall once.
When the credits were rolling, the man said, “Meryl Streep was in this film?”
The woman replied, “Yes, she was the one that gave the speech on the balcony. I don’t remember her name though.”
Oh. My. God.
Hopefully, other people who see this movie will get more out of it. It isn’t perfect history. It doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t try too. It introduces a time period of women’s history that a lot of people don’t know about. “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave”? Hear it in context before making judgements.
Want more info?
In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into Indian royalty. Sophia, god-daughter of Queen Victoria, was raised a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman: presented at court, afforded grace and favor lodgings at Hampton Court Palace and photographed wearing the latest fashions for the society pages. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary.
Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality, a far cry from the life to which she was born. Her causes were the struggle for Indian Independence, the fate of the lascars, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War – and, above all, the fight for female suffrage.
Something a bit lighter?
Miss Frederica “Free” Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women’s rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope…but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.