‘The Children’s Hour’, Coming Out and My Affection For Martha

Contains Spoilers

In a time of what seems to be around one lesbian film release a month, (bless my little, queer heart) I wanted to draw people’s attention to The Children’s Hour (1961), an American drama based on a 1934 play of the same title by Lilian Hellman. I was first introduced to the film through The Celluloid Closet (1995), a documentary detailing the way LGBTQ+ characters have been represented across cinema, especially Hollywood, up to that point. The protagonists of the story, Martha and Karen, are played by Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn and personally, I couldn’t understand how a queer film starring both actresses had gone over my head. Opinion is divided over whether it counts as a queer film at all but either way, I immediately sought it out. Overall, I must agree with MacLaine’s comment that there would be a “outcry” if the film were released today. As The Celluloid Closet explains, The Children’s Hour comes from a time when the taboos of the Motion Picture Production Code, otherwise known as The Hays Code, were being “whittled away”. Although homosexuality was being talked about on screen, it was only as “something that nice people didn’t talk about”, which clearly positions it as something immoral. Yet I hope to shed some light on why I still have a fondness for the film and view it as an important staple in queer cinema.

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Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children’s Hour

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‘Mamma Mia,’ Motherhood and Female Relationships: A Personal Perspective

This piece is by our guest writer, Julia Blackwell.

I am sure that many of you will be well aware of the phenomenon that is Mamma Mia (2008), and its recent sequel Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018), the latter of which I have now watched at least five times. The first film has also had multiple viewings over the years and contains one of my most beloved scenes from cinema. Predictably, I was in tears when Donna (Meryl Streep) sings “Slipping Through My Fingers” to her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). The song expresses a mother’s realisation that her daughter is now growing up and that she has been unable to spend as much time with her as she had planned. In the film, Donna sings it to Sophie as she helps her dress for her wedding, preparing to give her away. Despite her potential fathers telling Sophie they will give her away during a previous scene, Sophie chooses to reach out to her mum. After all, her mum is the person who has supported her throughout her life so far. “Slipping Through My Fingers” plays over Donna and Sophie not just getting dressed, but laughing together and enjoying their time away from the chaos of the rest of the wedding planning.

My mum passed away when I was ten, four years before the release of Mamma Mia and, as I’m sure others who have lost someone close to them will agree, the full impact of that person’s absence rarely hits you right away. For some it can take years to sink in as you gradually adapt to going through your life stages without them and encounter moments when you wish that, at the very least, you could talk to them. This is how I listened to and watched the “Slipping Through My Fingers” scene. For me it awakened moments I will never have with my mum. I don’t have any burning ambition for a wedding day, but I did find myself wanting to curl up next to her and have her paint my nails.

In the years that followed my first viewing of Mamma Mia, important events began happening for me and even though my mum was not around, I was by no means alone as I went through them. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible group of supportive women around me, especially in the wake of other losses. My dad is a wonderful person, but there are certain topics I would never discuss with him. He’s not very good at painting nails either! In Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, it is revealed very early on that Donna has passed away and that Sophie now lives with one of her dads, Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Yet Sam is not the character we see Sophie confide in regarding subjects such as her relationship with her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper). Instead she turns to her mum’s old friends, Tanya and Rosie (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters), who have travelled to Greece to visit her. While there may be men in her life that Sophie can turn to for advice and support, I for one have no interest in listening to Pierce Brosnan wail “Angel Eyes.”

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