TOAt one point in Emerald Fennell’s first movie, Promising Young Woman, Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) goes to lunch with a former college classmate, Madison McPhee (Alison Brie). Madison, who is a stay-at-home mom, gets – as she calls it – “drunk in the afternoon” and proceeds to give her thoughts on gender politics. “All boys want the same thing,” he insults. “A good girl.”
This desire, and Cassie’s subversion, is expressed in what she wears. Cassie’s clothing is the epitome of the “good girl” type: pink, floral, and fluffy. There is a baseball jersey with a unicorn on the front. A sweater with daisies. A smooth flowing midi dress in sky blue. Her clothes are sweet, as sweet as the cupcakes on display in the cafeteria where she works.
But there is a twist. Cassie is, at least from the perspective of the male gaze, a good girl turned bad. In an attempt to get revenge for the rape of her best friend, Nina, and the subsequent cover-up, she dresses in a typically sexy outfit after dark, pretends to be drunk, and cheats on “nice guys” who say they want to take care of her and then tries take advantage. At the opportune moment, he miraculously “sobers up” and threatens them with violence.
The disconnect between action and appearance is crucial for the film. Cassie trolls the harmless femininity indicated by clothing that, hemming aside, could have been worn by an archetypal 50s passive and prefeminist woman like Doris Day.
Nancy Steiner, the film’s costume designer (whose previous credits include The Virgin Suicides and Twin Peaks), says this contrast was “very emerald.” “When I first read the script, his character was dark, sad and stagnant. My thoughts went to something darker [for the clothes], “she says.” But when I spoke to Emerald, she really wanted this light pastel, feminine and feminine world … Just reading the script, it doesn’t seem very optimistic. “
Fennell has come through with a suit that is central to the plot. In Killing Eve, for which Fennell served as showrunner in season two, Villanelle uses the costume to achieve masterful effect. She exaggerates her femininity, wearing outfits to mess with people or gain access to her goals. As Luke Jennings, the writer of the novels on which the series is based, told The Guardian in 2018: “Villanelle dresses carefully for her murders. It’s important to her, part of the ritual. “
While Cassie isn’t quite a killer, she plays the sparkly and bodycon party girl at night and disguises herself behind the pretty pink look during the day. It has been described as “Barbie of revenge”. “It’s to hide this dark interior,” says Steiner. “He’s definitely wearing a costume for the day too, to deflect any questions, any interests. It’s so fluffy and light and pretty. ”Steiner says presenting herself this way is part of how Cassie turns men’s fantasies against her.“ It’s like candy, who would fuck with that? ”She laughs.“ It’s the one. image of ‘the sweetest thing that can be’ “.
Fennell, with echoes of an Andy Warhol swagger, recently described herself as “very shallow.” She was so marked with the image of Promising Young Woman that she sent Mulligan images of manicures specific to her character. On an article for Voguewrote of Mulligan’s look in the film: “Who would be scared of a woman in a flowery dress, with her pretty blonde hair in a braid, tied with a ribbon? Who would suspect her? Who would see it coming? You wouldn’t, would you? Not before it was too late. “
Promising young woman, filmed in 2018 and then delayed due to the pandemic, comes at an interesting moment in the timeline of feminism. In addition to winning many award nominations and other accolades, he has been criticized for don’t go far enough with the revenge scenario. Some have said it plays with the #MeToo moment and coincides with where we are in 2021, nearly five years after Weinstein’s revelations and the subsequent movement against sexual violence. Others have criticized him for representing violence against women and to present a confusing treatment of consent.
Cassie is a blonde white woman, the type who has the least trouble getting around the world. While this fact is never addressed in the film, this privilege is central to the plot. It is what allows you to hide in plain sight. Laverne Cox, meanwhile, plays what Slate called “the Magical Black Cupcake Boss with no apparent backstory or life goals other than supporting the frail Cassie.”
The disarming effect of Cassie’s clothing is something echoed by the disguise in another revenge drama about sexual violence: Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. In the final episode, Arabella allows herself to get revenge on her rapist. She wears a little black dress and a blonde wig, tropes of male fantasies, but instead of seducing him, she hits him. This powerful disconnect has been articulated by the show’s costume designer, Lyndsay Moore. Speaking about the scene where Arabella denounces Zain for rape during a literary conference, she said: “This is the great thing about Arabella. She always does what not I was hoping … If she had come up there in a sturdy suit and on stage, we as an audience might have known what she was going to do. “
Promising Young Woman’s dark humor is also reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s 1995 film To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman as a weather killer; Fennell referenced the film when speaking to Vogue. There’s a similar feel to this year’s I Care a Lot, in which Rosamund Pike, also blonde and white, does very bad things while looking well dressed in fancy pastel pantsuits.
In all these films, style is central to a sham of acceptable femininity. In Promising Young Woman, he ranges from the fluffy sweaters to the white shirt and black pants that Cassie wears to meet women, like the dean of the college where Nina was raped. “It’s all costumes, that’s the professional woman,” says Steiner. “He dresses appropriately for each environment he goes to, to fit in.” As Fennell told Vogue: “Cassie knows exactly how useful clothing can be, especially in a crisis, and her outfits are chosen with the precision and stealth of a sniper.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism