A timely opportunity wasted on historical fanfic.
A pet peeve of mine is when films, particularly historical ones, end with text on the screen. It’s a film. You have our eyes and ears for two hours – show us.
In its two hours, Suffragette tells us little actual history. The film’s protagonist, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), is fictional. Of the two historical figures included, Helena Bonham Carter‘s character is only partly based on the actual Edith Ellyn, and Merryl Streep‘s Emmeline Pankhurst is almost mythologised in her mere two scenes. The film also features no women of colour, who I had to look outside of the film to learn were a large part of the actual Suffragette movement.
This is a star-studded, top-tier film production. Audiences would be drawn to watch it for the big names alone (I know I was). It’s a unique opportunity to tell an important story and have it seen by the largest possible audience. Instead, the filmmakers opted to make historical fan fiction and Dickensian torture porn, and then right at the end tell us in text what they could – what they should – have been showing us all along. The fact that this timely opportunity was wasted on fodder for accusations of “feminist propaganda” – the fact that the film undermines its own reason for being – is an insult both to the real women who fought for their rights, and to audiences who deserve better than fairy tales.
“That fight wasn’t just about sex – it was also deeply entwined with race”: I learned more about the suffragette movement in this handful of short videos from NPR, the History Channel and Vox, than Sarah Gavron’s entire film: