"Suffragette" underscores the urgency of social change

By LEAH DOYLE
On November 20, 2019

Photo courtesy of eva rinaldi, Flickr

What does it take to impose lasting and meaningful change into the societal structures that plague our world? The 2015 drama “Suffragette” paints an eye-opening expression of the true sacrifice that early 20th-century British women faced while fighting alongside the suffragette movement. The movie primarily follows the journey of a young working mother named Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan.

Watts joins the suffragette movement to fight for political rights for herself and other women, who felt powerless in their everyday lives. This film depicts the manner in which women were treated in the early 20th century. These women were virtually powerless, forced to adhere to the societal hierarchy that flowed through every aspect of life. Viewers are privy to this lack of power in the film every time that a woman is sexually harassed with no outlet for justice, every time that a woman is ripped from her child because of a one-sided story and every time that a woman is belittled by a male counterpart, simply for advocating for what she believes. 

This film depicts the hard road that suffragettes faced, sacrificing their families, jobs, and ultimately, their freedom. Inspired by political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep, the movement becomes increasingly radical, utilizing conspicuous displays of destruction and militance. They fight for their cause by committing arson, blowing up mail-boxes, and breaking windows, exposing them to increased media coverage and police action. 

Through his role as Inspector Arthur Steed, Brendan Gleeson flawlessly depicts the male perspective on the suffrage movement in early 20th century Great Britain. Throughout the movie, Inspector Steed attempts to thwart the suffragettes’ actions. He is the film’s face of male oppression, often imprisoning and belittling the suffragettes. Brendan Gleeson won a British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor as Inspector Steed. 

Throughout the film, this diverse group of empowered women faces horrible odds. They are imprisoned, separated from their children, force-fed, belittled and abused, yet their passion never subsides. The undeniable passion that is displayed by the suffragettes is the heart and soul of this film, effectively inspiring its viewers to follow in the suffragettes’ footsteps and fight for a more just world, despite unlikely odds or dangerous circumstances.

At its core, this film conveys that our fight for equality persists and continues to bear a treacherous path; even so, it is a path we must accept with honor and servitude. In this film, it is clear that Watts knows that the fight for suffrage likely would not be achieved in her lifetime. However, she is fighting for a cause bigger than herself. This film is meant to give homage to the women who paved the path for gender equality in order to inspire others to finish what they started. “Suffragette” is more than simple entertainment. Its core message is a call to action to challenge unjust societal structures by taking radical and meaningful action. Viewers are inspired to finish the job that the suffragettes started and create societal equality in every regard.

4/5 stars

 

ldoyle1@ramapo.edu

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