Monthly Archives: August 2014

Girls on Film

As an aspiring screenwriter, one of my greatest pleasures is watching films (unsurprisingly) but some of that joy lies in the fact that I can now classify it as ‘research’. In fact, most of life has now become ‘research’ which is brilliant… you can’t write about life unless you live it, right?

I decided it would be fun to write about all of the incredible women who had influenced me in film starting from when I was a young girl.

  1. Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)

Oh dear.

It seems there weren’t many inspiring women in the films I watched as a child. I should quantify here that I was a weird child. I didn’t really like cartoons and was therefore not a shoe-in for the fairy-tale propaganda spouting of Disney or other overly simplistic tales. I liked Rapunzel because she had long hair. And also because it had a bittersweet ending (blindness, a long-time before redemption etc) but there has never been a good film made of it. I also liked the naughty twin in The Parent Trap, particularly when she covered the cabin in string and glue, but the eventual reconciliation in that film jarred with the reality of my divorced household, so I only watched it once or twice.

Fraulein Maria however was rebellious and brave but with an enchanting vulnerability which Captain Von Trapp just couldn’t resist and neither could I. She also ended up facing her problems, after The Reverend Mother asks her, “What is it you can’t face?” (insert in-joke here) which was a very valuable lesson for me, which I still rely on once in a while.

The theme of righteous rebellion continued with later films that I could relate to but the trouble is, I can count them on one hand. When you look at the huge films of the 80’s and 90’s it is genuinely shocking how few of them had strong female leads.

The first one which I remember making a big impact was Emily ‘up your bum’ Lloyd in Wish You Were Here (1987) set in wartime England, which I was obsessed with anyway, it about a girl who was just a little bit wild, liked boys, and wouldn’t do as she was told. I have a horrible feeling that something deeper was revealed later in the film which explained her behaviour, like a dark secret, but this wasn’t necessary for the plot of the film, she didn’t need some form of forgiveness or redemption, she was the freest, most honest, and engaging character I had ever come across and I loved her.

This was closely followed by Beaches (1988) which featured another free spirit in Bette Midler and one of the most heart-breaking studies of friendship ever, then Mermaids (1990) with Cher as the crap but ‘free spirited’ mother – I never understood why Winona Ryder complained about her so much (but I wanted to be Winona so I forgave her), then Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Café (1991) with the very definition of free spirit in Idgie Threadgoode and A League of Their Own (1992) which featured a full baseball team of free spirits.

Basically there was one film a year during this period which was of any interest to me and my friends. Not even sure if there was ONE in 1989…

Later I caught up with other brilliant films with recognisable women and friendships in. Heathers, Working Girl, Steel Magnolias, Mystic Pizza, even Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind! I probably (definitely) missed a few – after all, films for women never got a very wide distribution and they were often only in cinemas for a week and then not bought by the TV channels for years, if at all.

It seems that the female film-going market is only recently being recognised as a potential money-spinner. ABOUT TIME!

As much as I still love and admire the characters I grew up with, I am disappointed that I was so happy in my own ignorance that I didn’t even realise how under-served women have been in cinema. There were still great films with great characters and heroes, Indiana Jones, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, all of which I loved dearly, but often the women in them were pretty pathetic. There were a few films in the early 90’s which seemed to threaten the status quo, but nothing really came of them.

The first 18 film I saw in the cinema was The Silence of the Lambs (1991) my friend Rachel and I sneaked into the cinema in Bristol. We were so enthralled, and terrified, we hid behind our hands most of the time, but Jodie Foster as the main protagonist did not look remotely out of place and I don’t think we even commented on it, she did a great job, and was a great character. Rachel and I had been brought up in such an isolated world that we didn’t understand this was ground-breaking, we just thought this was normal. We simply didn’t realise how much work there still was that needed to be done for equality. It appears as though the tide is changing again and hopefully today’s tweenagers will have a much wider selection of heroes to look up to. Right, I’m off to see Lucy (2014), wish me luck.

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Doing A Degrassi

I’m aware that it will be a very small minority who will have any idea what ‘Doing a Degrassi’ means, but hopefully, if you don’t, you can at least relate to the weirdness I am about to describe.

Back in the late 1980’s, I found myself in regular conflict with my mother over whether or not I could watch Grange Hill. She always won. I wasn’t giving up that easily though and I soon found an alternative in Degrassi Junior High – a series from Canada which my mother deemed acceptable because we have family in Toronto. It was so much wilder than Grange Hill!

There was a character called Steph in Degrassi who would leave her house in the morning dressed like a ‘nerd’ and then get changed in the school bathrooms transforming herself into a scrunch-dry haired, blusher and lipstick wearing goddess, in my eyes. She appealed to my ingrained rebellious nature and, as is so often the case with characters who exist in our formative years, has stayed with me as a reminder of our ability to transform ourselves into what or whoever we want to be, and also that things, and people, are not always as they appear on the outside.

At 37 I am still fascinated by our real selves as opposed to the projected image of ourselves we offer to the world and am never more aware of this in myself than when I go from my ‘real’ self, who appears when I am relaxed, happy and un-stressed to my projected self, who appears when I am highly strung, stressed and trying to be something I am not.

In my current job I have to get up at 5am on a Monday morning to get to work, travelling from London to Glasgow. I am not a morning person. This is an understatement. I roll out of bed, onto the tube, onto the plane and arrive in Glasgow bleary-eyed at about 0845. But, I have managed to find some joy in this commute. Never have I had a better opportunity to re-enact my childhood idol’s transformation than when I enter the toilets at Glasgow Airport. Often changing in a cubicle, I emerge smartly dressed and stand in front of the mirrors, just me and a couple of flight attendants, and prepare to apply the war paint.

I get to work transforming the puffy, sallow looking face in front of me into a powerful and energised business-ready visage. I work in TV so it’s hardly about powersuits and shoulder pads but I am not afraid to admit I am struggling on this current production so a bit of armour is vital. TV is a great industry in terms of working environment and generally you get a lot of like-minded people on a team and every one just wants to make the best programme they are capable of making. And we all know that what you wear and what you look like has little to no impact on that outcome. But I have found over the years, after wearing jeans and converse throughout my 20’s that actually, as a production manager I feel much more in touch with the job I am supposed to be doing if I dress a little smarter, a little less comfortably, a little more ‘managerially’. And so I do, and I enjoy it, and it helps. But the character I have created for work doesn’t feel like me. It is a necessary creation in order for me to do my job, but I find it hard to reconcile this character with who I become at the weekends and evenings when I either don’t wear any make-up or go all out and create a 50’s style and character which is more me than the business type.

It feels important to me to separate these two parts of my personality but I need to accept that the character I create for work is just as much a part of who I am as the character I am outside of work and I need to embrace my Degrassi transformation. It makes me feel stronger and have more faith in my own ability, and  I need as much help in that department as I can get at the moment.

I wonder if men have such trouble switching between character roles or even if it crosses their minds? Maybe in fact I am a rare woman who does this and other women feel completely themselves in their work job and I am just in the wrong job, which is entirely possible! Do you feel more confident if you dress a certain way at work? What outfit makes you feel brave or different?

 

Let’s Talk About Sex

Yes, This is me. Face framed by plastic cocks, falling out of a Wendy House at dawn, with a spanking paddle in my hand. I shouldn’t have to explain that this was after a particularly messy hen party, but I will – just in case anyone thinks this photo illustrates an average Saturday night for me…it genuinely does not. Now I shall stop explaining before I protest too much.

It’s an embarrassing photo granted, and one that at the time I insisted be deleted immediately, never to see the breaking light of day, but it wasn’t deleted and I am re-publishing it here because I can. Because in the world I live in I am free to laugh about sex, to talk about sex, to have sex. I am also free not to have sex, to make my own choices, to expect those choices to be respected. I know this world I live in is not perfect, but I am still free to expect equality and fairness and justice, to have my voice heard. There is work left to do, but the UK is one of the best places for women to live right now, and being in this place of privilege I am finally realising it is important for me to speak up, after all we have only progressed this far through communication and education, education, education.

About a year ago I was invited to write for a brand new online erotic journal. It was an idea spawned from the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but the concept behind it was the antithesis of that. We wanted to write real stories about real sex by real women. We all agreed that FSOG, while undeniably popular, was not true enough, was lacking in sensuality, did not reflect our real desires and was too narrow in its exploration of BDSM.

So we started writing. To date we have written seven erotic stories each (some from real experiences, some fantasy) and I have written one op-ed piece exploring the difference between pornography and erotica. This publication is still awaiting approval from the powers that be at Apple but the publishers have rushed through another publication, called Quite Frankly, which will be a high-quality luxury print magazine of erotic images chosen by women for women. It will showcase known and unknown artists, photographers and models and contains interviews with the contributors and also with women who are working in the erotic world. It’s going to be beautiful and brilliant.

Writing about sex and being so honest about it has really opened my eyes to how important it is to normalise our sexual experience, our bodies, our sexuality itself. I fear it is the on-going cloak and dagger approach to sex which is in part responsible for the explosion of hardcore pornography and the sickeningly easy availability of it online. I am so scared for a generation whose first exposure to sex will be this graphic and unrealistic interpretation. No matter how hard the censors try, it is not going to go away so I intend to fight fire with fire and am looking forward to being involved with Quite Frankly – sub-editing and sometimes writing for them too.

The publication is aimed at adults but it’s the kind of thing which might be found by teenage children, in the same way that I found ‘The Joy Of Sex’ (how innocent my first exposure to sex was!) and I would much rather they found Quite Frankly, in addition to any of the stuff they might see on the internet, and that it provoked frank and honest discussions with their parents. I am looking forward to being at least a small part of this movement to find the beauty and the FUN in our sexuality instead of focusing on the fear, control and inequality which gives sex such a bad name.

Issue One launches 1st September, register your interest here: http://www.quitefranklymagazine.com/

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