I Am Woman. Hear Me Roar

         Women through the years have been looked upon as being frail and defenseless, but many times that is just wrong. Women can play any part they wish to play in life. They can be the needy type, the strong-willed, independent type, or the helpless type all in the same day. Through the years in life and in movies, we have seen women change. Women's issues are somehow neatly placed in movies and books or plays. The topic of women's issues would make for a full agenda for a film-literature class. What to include and begin with would be the hard part to decide.

         With women's issues, one can incorporate many other topics to think about, such as family, abuse, love, and drive. Many of the film-literature combinations of this semester have dealt with women's issues. To begin with, I would probably choose to read Washington Square, Henry James's 1880 novel, then read and watch the 1948 play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, and the 1949 movie version, The Heiress, directed by William Wyler. The book, play, and movie show how a woman can stand up for what she believes in and not give in to the better end of the deal. Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) wants something she cannot have under the terms of her father (Ralph Richardson); and, when her father asks her if she still loves Morris (Montgomery Clift), she admits that she does so her father will not be right for once. The book, movie, and play show how a woman can go through something terrible but remain strong, a quality not often found.

         Another film-literature combination I would use would be Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913, and My Fair Lady, filmed by George Cukor in 1964. In this combo, we see Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) wanting to better herself and become someone. Therefore, she learns how to talk properly and how to be a lady. This movie and play show how a woman can be focused and have dreams of a better future. She does not sit back and wait for something to come to her; she goes after what she wants. This is a very positive view women need to adopt.

         One of the other film and literature combos I would include in my agenda would be A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947 by Tennessee Williams. This play and the movie, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951, touches on many different issues a woman has to face. Some of the topics in the play do not happen really often in reality, but they do happen. For example, when Stanley (Marlon Brando) rapes his wife's sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), Stella (Kim Hunter) has to face the fact that her husband did this, and on top of that she has had a child with this man. She has to make a decision on what to do, much like her having to send Blanche to a mental hospital because she cannot handle reality anymore. Stella is a woman who needs to be cared for and loved by her husband, or she likes to be cared for, but she can hold her own by herself. In the end, we see her taking on the role of mother and independent woman because she is extremely mad and may not forgive Stanley for what he has done.

         There are a few film-literature combinations that I would probably not use. One in particular would be the 1898 book The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the 1950 play adaptation by William Archibald, and Jack Clayton's 1961 film version, The Innocents. This movie addresses women's issues but in sick and twisted ways. The new governess, also known as Miss Giddens in the play and movie, finds love in an eleven-year-old boy under her care. That is not something women need to be associated with. Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) was a really young woman on the verge of sexuality and love, but she found it in the wrong place; plus she sees ghosts. This woman definitely has some issues that need help, which she does not realize.

         There are a couple of film-literature combinations that I am not sure if I would show or not. The first one is Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë. This book and the movie, directed by William Wyler in 1939, show how women sometimes do not follow their heart because it would not be the proper thing to do. Catherine (Merle Oberon) loves Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), but he is a poor stable boy. Edgar Linton (David Niven) has money and fancy things and adores Catherine, so she marries Linton because he is the proper choice. Catherine also faces the fact that Heathcliff marries Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), Edgar's sister, out of revenge. So Catherine in stuck with no place to go but out, so she lets herself die, not the wise way out.

         Another movie and literature combo I am not sure of is A Doll's House, written in 1979 by Henrik Ibsen and filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively. This combo has good and bad women issues to deal with. Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) wants to leave to find herself and become her own person instead of assenting to the expectations of her male counterpart. This is good because Nora wants to have her own thoughts and ideas. What is bad is that, when she leaves, she is not likely to come back, thus leaving her husband and three children without ever seeing them again. Women do not need to do that. We have enough family problems in the world; we do not need women walking out of families to "find themselves."

         If a particular agenda centering on women's issues was to be followed, it would not be a difficult task to do. The narrowing-down part would be the hard part. Through all the film and literature combinations, positive and negative women's issues have come up. It is all just based on how one looks at the book or movie. If one sees it as good for one's topic or agenda, then one should show or read it. If it is negative so far as one's agenda is concerned, one may not want to show it, or one may want to get the other side of the perspective. Determining which direction to take the course in would influence one's choices.

Crystal Newsom

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