Today I’ll be participating again in First Chapter First Paragraph, hosted by Diane, at Bibliophile by the Sea.
I’ll also be spotlighting my excerpt in Teaser Tuesdays, at Should Be Reading.
Today I’m excerpting from The Accidental Feminist (How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness), by M. G. Lord.
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….
You could say it began in 1944 with National Velvet, when Elizabeth Taylor, age twelve, dressed as a boy and stole America’s collective heart. By “it,” I mean the subversive drumbeats of feminism, which swelled in the star’s important movies over decades from a delicate pitty-pat to a resounding roar.
Feminism may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Elizabeth Taylor. But it might if you share your definition with writer Rebecca West: “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
Elizabeth Taylor has been called many things, but never doormat—not in life and not on screen. (Except in Ash Wednesday, her 1973 movie, where that was the point). The characters she played were women to be reckoned with. And many of her roles—the great and the not-so-great—surreptitiously brought feminist issues to American audiences held captive by those violet eyes and that epic beauty. While I know that writers and directors create movies, stars create a brand. And the Taylor brand deserves credit for its under-the-radar challenge to traditional attitudes: a woman may not control her sexuality; she may not have an abortion; she may not play with the boys; she may not choose to live without a man; she must obey her husband; and should she speak of unpleasantness, she will be silenced.
What do you think? Will the author be able to hold your attention?
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