Oscar-nominated star Carey Mulligan, of “An Education” (2009), “Drive” (2011), “Shame” (2011), and “The Great Gatsby” (2012) fame wants to remind voters the importance of their say. With the release of director Sarah Gavron’s newest historical drama “Suffragette,” a portrait of an early-20th century feminist group of militant, foot-soldiers who pursue the right to vote amidst a dual oppression by their merciless British state, voters are reminded of the weight of their rights. “We’re kind of a generation of apathetic voters and it’s exciting that this film is a reminder to people for when they use their vote, what was done for them to have it.” She continued, “I think it certainly made me think about what my vote really meant.”
Towards the beginning of our interview, Mulligan chimed in on West Chester’s recent controversy surrounding the “inflate-a-date” doll that was being sold at the campus bookstore to the displeasure of many students for what was perceived as WCU funding misogyny and promoting the violent objectification of women. “I certainly think that the doll sounds like a ridiculous thing, and it should be talked about. It’s just an incredibly distasteful and stupid thing to provide to people.” She elaborated, “Even if someone does take it as a distasteful joke, it has a wider impact and the connotation of something like that is so negative, outdated and upsetting that I wouldn’t see it as something trivial that should be swept under the carpet. Taking action against that is important and these are good conversations to have.”
“Suffragette” weaves real world political activist such as movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), with newly created fictional ones, among which is Carey Mulligan’s character Maud Watts, a twenty-four year old laundress who, after losing custody of her kids and undergoing harsh sexual subjugation in the workplace, joins a group of radical protesting women who smash windows and blow up mailboxes because, as Maud says ““war is the only thing men listen to.” Carey went on to explain, “Our film shows the side that’s least discussed: The acts of civil disobedience, the bombings, the imprisonment and the force feedings, all stuff we’re currently trying to write out of our history books in England is what we want to show.” Furthermore, Mulligan stressed how her and the filmmaking team went to great lengths to honor the legacy of these marginalized, real-life women who saw peaceful petitioning achieve nothing and were forced to exercise acts of violence as a last resort course of action for real change. “It’s sort of a salute and tribute to them. I think we wanted to show their courage and conviction. We’re talking about a group of women who had everything to lose.” She continued, “There was a huge amount of sacrifice made and at that time to make the choice be a suffragette was incredibly dangerous and risky. It could ruin you, yet they stood behind it and endured everything you see in the film and more because they felt so strongly they needed to do this, and not really for themselves, but for future generations.”
Additionally, Mulligan had a few words to speak regarding the coincidence of doing a film about the early fight of women’s right to vote, when there’s a current discussion about the discrepancy of salary between men and women in the film industry itself. “There’s lots of things that we haven’t improved on in one hundred years, the pay gap being one of them. I think that’s a great conversation to be having because it is unfair and it’s always been unfair. We talk about it in the film industry because common people look to film industry and listen to a lot of the things that actresses and actors say.”
She went on to add, “It shouldn’t be a self-serving conversation. It should be about the wider society and how women are treated in the workplace in general.”
So many Hollywood films are directed by men, but Mulligan was quick to make the statement that she felt “Suffragette” absolutely needed to be made by a group of women. “Honestly I don’t think it would have been made by a man. I don’t think this film was going to be made by a group of men either. I think it was always going to take a particular group of really tenacious women to get it made and Sarah Gavron just led it in the most brilliant, thoughtful way.” She elaborated, “We felt very excited to be the ones that were going to tell this story because it’s such a huge part of our history that’s been so completely neglected. So to get to be the ones to do it, as a group of women, we felt very inspired by that.”
“Suffragette” is now playing in limited release and will go wide sometime before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Rob Gabe is a fifth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.