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The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice

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The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Countless books have chronicled the life of Elizabeth Taylor, but rarely has her career been examined from the point of view of her on-screen persona. That persona, argues M. G. Lord, 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. Other of Taylor's performances explore similar themes. The legendary actress lived her life defiantly in public--undermining post-war reactionary sex roles; helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which restricted film content from 1934 to 1966; fund-raising for AIDS research in the 1980s; championing the right of people to love whomever they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact has been hidden in plain sight. Drawing on unpublished letters and scripts, and on interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, The Accidental Feminist will surprise readers with its originality, adding a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.

Review:

"Elizabeth Taylor is synonymous with 'icon' both on and off the screen, but culture historian Lord's (Forever Barbie) analysis of her film persona viewed through the lens of feminism is shaky at best. Lord alternates between rehashing biographical details of Taylor's life — from her upbringing as a child star under strict control of her mother to her multiple marriages and lifelong friendships among the Hollywood elite — and surface-level film theory. She admits that the actress might not be synonymous with feminism in viewers' minds, but argues that 'the Taylor brand deserves credit for its under-the-radar challenge to traditional attitudes,' using films such as National Velvet (1944), A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Butterfield 8 (1960), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) to illustrate her point. But while Lord makes a convincing case that many of Taylor's best-known roles do go against the grain of prescribed attitudes toward women in studio era Hollywood and beyond — for example, Taylor's Leslie Benedict in Giant is a mouthpiece for social justice and Gloria, the call-girl she plays in Butterfield 8, is in control of her own sexuality — ascribing that feminist bent to Taylor's onscreen persona as a whole is much murkier. Perhaps it's Elizabeth Taylor's status as a Hollywood legend, but Lord has bitten off more than she can chew, rather than narrowing her focus to a few films that could substantiate her point." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

Countless books have chronicled the life of Elizabeth Taylor, but rarely has her career been examined from the point of view of her on-screen persona. That persona, argues M. G. Lord, 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. Other of Taylor's performances explore similar themes.

The legendary actress lived her life defiantly in public--undermining post-war reactionary sex roles; helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which restricted film content from 1934 to 1966; fund-raising for AIDS research in the 1980s; championing the right of people to love whomever they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact has been hidden in plain sight. Drawing on unpublished letters and scripts, and on interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, The Accidental Feminist will surprise readers with its originality, adding a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.

Synopsis:

Movies are individually conceived by writers and directors, but movie stars build their roles into brands--and the Taylor brand is startlingly feminist. In her breakout film, "National Velvet" (1944), Taylor challenged gender discrimination, playing a jockey who had to pose as a male to race. Her next landmark, "A Place in the Sun" (1951), tackles abortion rights. 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. And the classic "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 career and children.

Taylor's personal life, too, is remarkable: financially autonomous, she supported her parents as a teenager. As an adult, she has supported the right of people to love whomever they love--regardless of gender. Her legendary friendships with her gay male costars inspired her to become a major fundraiser for AIDS research in the 1980s, before the cause became fashionable.

Drawing upon unpublished letters and scripts, as well as interviews with Gore Vidal, Robert Forster, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy and others, The Accidental Feminist is a long overdue reappraisal that will surprise and excite a wide range of readers.

About the Author

M.G. Lord is an acclaimed cultural critic and investigative journalist, and the author of the widely praised books Forever Barbie and Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science. Since 1995 she has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the Times's Arts & Leisure section. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Travel + Liesure, the Hollywood Reporter, and ArtForum. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lord was a syndicated political cartoonist and a columnist for Newsday. She teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802716699
Author:
Lord, M G
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Author:
Lord, M. G.
Author:
M. G. Lo
Author:
D. R.
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - General
Subject:
General
Subject:
Film & Video - General
Subject:
Television - General
Subject:
Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Subject:
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20120131
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Color insert
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8 x 5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
up to 5

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Actors » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Reference
Biography » Entertainment and Performing Arts
Biography » General
Engineering » Communications » Television
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General Medicine
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Walker & Company - English 9780802716699 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Elizabeth Taylor is synonymous with 'icon' both on and off the screen, but culture historian Lord's (Forever Barbie) analysis of her film persona viewed through the lens of feminism is shaky at best. Lord alternates between rehashing biographical details of Taylor's life — from her upbringing as a child star under strict control of her mother to her multiple marriages and lifelong friendships among the Hollywood elite — and surface-level film theory. She admits that the actress might not be synonymous with feminism in viewers' minds, but argues that 'the Taylor brand deserves credit for its under-the-radar challenge to traditional attitudes,' using films such as National Velvet (1944), A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Butterfield 8 (1960), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) to illustrate her point. But while Lord makes a convincing case that many of Taylor's best-known roles do go against the grain of prescribed attitudes toward women in studio era Hollywood and beyond — for example, Taylor's Leslie Benedict in Giant is a mouthpiece for social justice and Gloria, the call-girl she plays in Butterfield 8, is in control of her own sexuality — ascribing that feminist bent to Taylor's onscreen persona as a whole is much murkier. Perhaps it's Elizabeth Taylor's status as a Hollywood legend, but Lord has bitten off more than she can chew, rather than narrowing her focus to a few films that could substantiate her point." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
Countless books have chronicled the life of Elizabeth Taylor, but rarely has her career been examined from the point of view of her on-screen persona. That persona, argues M. G. Lord, 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. Other of Taylor's performances explore similar themes.

The legendary actress lived her life defiantly in public--undermining post-war reactionary sex roles; helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which restricted film content from 1934 to 1966; fund-raising for AIDS research in the 1980s; championing the right of people to love whomever they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact has been hidden in plain sight. Drawing on unpublished letters and scripts, and on interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, The Accidental Feminist will surprise readers with its originality, adding a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.

"Synopsis" by ,
Movies are individually conceived by writers and directors, but movie stars build their roles into brands--and the Taylor brand is startlingly feminist. In her breakout film, "National Velvet" (1944), Taylor challenged gender discrimination, playing a jockey who had to pose as a male to race. Her next landmark, "A Place in the Sun" (1951), tackles abortion rights. 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. And the classic "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 career and children.

Taylor's personal life, too, is remarkable: financially autonomous, she supported her parents as a teenager. As an adult, she has supported the right of people to love whomever they love--regardless of gender. Her legendary friendships with her gay male costars inspired her to become a major fundraiser for AIDS research in the 1980s, before the cause became fashionable.

Drawing upon unpublished letters and scripts, as well as interviews with Gore Vidal, Robert Forster, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy and others, The Accidental Feminist is a long overdue reappraisal that will surprise and excite a wide range of readers.

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