Wednesday, May 5

Enter a feminist superheroine … no catfights and ass kicks | Gloria Steinem

The film industry has long been criticized for its stereotypical portrayals of women, from damsels in distress to the love interest of a male lead. But the drive for equality in acting roles has led to on-screen depictions of female characters who are empowered by physical toughness rather than intellectual prowess, according to a lead director.

“Equality for women in film has recently been about women kicking butt,” said Julie Taymor, whose award-winning productions include The Lion King. “These are women with little clothing, but being able to fight, do karate, use weapons, be a superhero.

“It is not with his intellect,” he added. “Or with their positions of power in politics or in business. And if she is, she is usually some kind of tough woman who does something that makes her unpleasant. “

Julie Taymor, left, and Gloria Steinem
Julie Taymor, left, and Gloria Steinem at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Photograph: John Salangsang / Variety / REX / Shutterstock

In 1998, Taymor became the first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for her Broadway performance. The Lion King, a production that has been seen by 100 million people around the world. Its features include Frida, a biographical film of radical Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, starring Salma Hayek, and an adaptation of Titus Andronicus starring Anthony Hopkins.

His last movie, The Glories, is a “non-traditional biopic” of Gloria Steinem, the pioneering American feminist and political activist, a key advocate for the women’s liberation movement who spoke out about everything from civil rights to violence against women.

Last year, Steinem was one of the central characters of Mrs. America, a televised account of feminist history from the 1970s that had Cate Blanchett in the lead role as Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent conservative activist.

In The Glories, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander are among several actors who portray Steinem at various stages of her life, intertwining with each other. It also stars Timothy Hutton and Bette Midler, and is based on archival footage.

Based on Steinem’s memoirs from 2015, My life on the road, launches on Sky Cinema on Sunday, before International Women’s Day on Monday.

Steinem, now 86, was inspired by the way Taymor handled his story. On the contrary, she dismissed as “ridiculous” last year’s brilliant television account of the feminist history of the 1970s, Lady america – in which she was played by Rose Byrne. Taymor said: “Almost all movies about women have to do with a boyfriend, a would-be husband, a would-be lover, abusing this or that. It wraps the man. This is a love story about women who love women, and not sexual. It is about women who come together, enjoy sharing their work together, their dreams and also their mission in life … They are not women fighting against women, which is what Lady america was.”

Referring to the series Desperate housewivesSaid: “A whole genre of television is about women being disgusting to each other. My movie has very little violence and no cat fights. So maybe Hollywood or the producers will think ‘not enough blood’. I don’t think that’s what we all want all the time. “

Alicia Vikander, left, and Janelle Monáe
Alicia Vikander, left, plays young Steinem in The Glorias, while Janelle Monáe plays fellow activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Photography: Sky Original Film

She struggled to get The Glories done. Independent filmmakers rejected it, despite the fact that “it’s not just for women,” and men “like it equally.”

The film follows Steinem as he travels through the United States and India. Taymor describes it as a road picture about “an amazing life”, rather than a feminist movie: “If you use that word [feminist], it’s broccoli. It’s like eating something that’s good for you … I never use that word anyway. Am I a feminist? Of course. Anyone who believes in equality and likes women is a feminist. But he’s been so maligned. “

Part of the problem, he said, is that the industry pigeonholes everything: “In Hollywood, they ask, are you a thriller? Are you a girl movie? Are you a Quentin Tarantino shoot-em-up? What are you? This just doesn’t go with The Glories. “

The money he was offered paled in comparison to budgets for movies about male heroes, he argued. Funding eventually comes from anonymous philanthropists for women’s causes, and any proceeds from the film will go to those causes.

Taymor, who co-wrote The Glories With Sarah Ruhl, she sought Steinem’s approval and was relieved that he loved her. “How often do you make a movie about a living hero? Working when your main character is alive means you can call in and ask questions … She gave me more material than in any other book. It was phenomenal “.

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