The Accidental Feminist
How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to NoticeBook - 2011
The author of Forever Barbie reveals how Elizabeth Taylor's on-screen persona introduced influential feminist ideas to mainstream audiences, from gender discrimination and birth control to the roles of women and sexual choices. 35,000 first printing.
From the brilliant cultural historian M.G. Lord, an intimate examination of the unexpected feminist content in Elizabeth Taylor's iconic roles--published on what would have been her 80th birthday, February 27, 2012.
Movie stars establish themselves as brands--and Taylor's brand , in its most memorable outings, has repeatedly introduced a broad audience to feminist ideas. In her breakout film, "National Velvet" (1944), Taylor's character challenges gender discrimination,: Forbidden as a girl to ride her beloved horse in an important race, she poses as a male jockey. Her next milestone, "A Place in the Sun" (1951), can be seen as an abortion rights movie--a cautionary tale from a time before women had ready access to birth control. In "Butterfield 8" (1960), for which she won an Oscar, Taylor isn't censured because she's a prostitute, but because she chooses the men: she controls her sexuality, a core tenet of the third-wave feminism that emerged in the 1990s. Even "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) depicts the anguish that befalls a woman when the only way she can express herself is through her husband's stalled career and children.
The legendary actress has lived her life defiantly in public--undermining post-war reactionary sex roles, helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which censored film content between 1934 and 1967. Defying death threats she spearheaded fundraising for AIDS research in the first years of the epidemic, and has championed the rights of people to love whom they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact has been hidden in plain sight. Drawing on unpublished letters and scripts as well as interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, The Accidental Feminist will surprise Taylor and film fans with its originality and will add a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.
Movie stars build their roles into brands--and the Taylor brand is startlingly feminist. In her breakout film, "National Velvet" (1944), Taylor challenged gender discrimination, playing a jockey who had to pose as a male to race. Her next landmark, "A Place in the Sun" (1951), tackles abortion rights. In "Butterfield 8" (1960), she is censured not because she's a prostitute, but because she controls her own sexuality. And the classic "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) depicts the anguish that befalls a woman when the only way she can express herself is through her husband's career and children. Taylor's personal life, too, is remarkable: financially autonomous, she supported her parents as a teenager. As an adult, she supported the right of people to love whomever they love--regardless of gender. Her legendary friendships with her gay male costars inspired her to become a major fundraiser for AIDS research in the 1980s, before the cause became fashionable. Drawing upon unpublished letters and scripts, as well as interviews with Gore Vidal, Robert Forster, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy and others, this is a long overdue reappraisal.--From publisher description.
Reveals how Elizabeth Taylor's on-screen persona introduced influential feminist ideas to mainstream audiences, from gender discrimination and birth control to the roles of women and sexual choices.