Just before World War I broke out the "suffragettes" of Britain–unlike their generally peaceful American sisters who agitated here for women's votes–annoyed just about everyone in the U.K. by smashing windows, fighting with cops, burning stuff, and in the case of one of them, running out into a horse race to be trampled to death by George V's nag.
And yesterday, ironically, history, seemed to be repeating itself as farce at the London opening of Suffragette, the (nearly) all-women film about the women's suffrage pests who have been turned into martyrs by today's feminists. The U.K. Guardian reports:
More than a hundred feminist protesters jumped the barriers onto the red carpet at the premiere of Suffragette in Leicester Square. Women were seen being physically carried and pushed back over barriers as green and purple smoke bombs filled the air outside the Odeon cinema in central London on Wednesday.
Activists from Sisters Uncut, who campaign against domestic violence, attended the red carpet event saying they wanted to bring attention to the cuts to domestic violence services and declaring “the battle isn’t over yet”.
Naturally the stars of the film, who attended the opening, being self-described feminists themselves, didn't mind in the slightest:
Helena Bonham Carter, one of the stars of the film, was seen to mouth “Oh golly” as the protesters jumped the barrier as she was walking the red carpet. Undeterred she continued signing fans posters and posing for photographs. Interviewed by Sky News at the premiere, Bonham Carter said: “I’m glad our film has done something. That’s exactly what it’s there for,” adding that the protest was the “perfect” response to the film.
The actor Romala Garai, who also stars in the film, was giving interviews as the protest broke around her. She said: “I haven’t spoken to them [the protesters] or seen their demands but I’m happy to see the suffrage movement is alive and happening.”
New mother Carey Mulligan, who plays aspiring suffragette Maud Watts, said: “Hopefully this film will inspire everyone in the way they view the world. We are an unbalanced society – women and men – and films like this inspire conversations about how we can correct that imbalance.”
Now, I'm happy to have the vote myself–so I can vote against whatever Amanda Marcotte votes for–but I have no intention of seeing Suffragette unless somebody pays me. From reading this rave review elsewhere in the Guardian, it sounds like tedious good-versus-evil agitprop, in which denying women the vote is to blame for every social ill to befall women, from mean bosses to wife-beating to mansplaining:
There are historical figures in this movie: Meryl Streep contributes a commanding if faintly Maggie-ish cameo as Pankhurst and Natalie Press plays Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who ran in front of George V’s horse at the 1913 Derby, and created the pictures and headlines that astonished the nation: an unthinkably shocking spectacle of fatal self-harm, mingled with conceptual lèse-majesté. Gavron and Morgan persuasively suggest that this act was courageous but chaotic, improvised, semi-intentional: it stunned its perpetrator’s allies as much as the enemy. Press is an excellent, underused performer: maybe her Davison could have occupied a greater part of the film.
At its dramatic centre is a fictional character: a laundry worker named Maud Watts, played with a compressed and focused energy by Carey Mulligan. She has risen to a notionally advanced position, one of physically wearisome and soul-sapping responsibility with no actual power, on the say-so of the obnoxious, bullying manager, Mr Taylor: bad-guy typecasting for Geoff Bell. Watts is radicalised by her experiences of arrogance and sickening abuse – all entirely plausible – and is drawn into the movement by her friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), who is to introduce her to agitators like the pharmacist and covert munitions expert Edith Ellyn, played by Helena Bonham Carter.
Stills from the movie, with every suffragette attired in a couture picture hat, make it look like a cross between My Fair Lady and The Magdalen Laundries–with a heavy dose of didacticism. I think I'd rather be run over by George V's horse.