Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen, and takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms.
Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist.
I first encountered Sally Wainwright through watching a series that she wrote, created and produced entitled Scott and Bailey, which revolves around the powerful friendship forged between three women detectives in a police unit despite their stark differences in hierarchy, age, and personalities. I haven’t looked back since, continuing to watch as much of her filmography as I can. What I received out of it was a profound understanding on the myriad of ways women lift each other up, and how important it is for us to recognise that the bonds between women have to be strong, necessarily so. They have to be filled with kindness, empathy, and love for us to quite literally, survive in a world that isn’t in any hurry to stop men from hurting us. In short, what summarises my tender fondness for her work is this quote put forth succinctly by Wainwright herself:
“Women do have very strong relationships with each other and you don’t often see that dramatised on telly. In fact, friendship itself isn’t dramatised terribly well on television. I’d suppose I do like reflecting on friendships. A lot of warmth and humour can come from the relationships women have with each other.”
For this spotlight, I have decided to focus on Sally Wainwright because I am, frankly, exhausted of seeing women pitted against each other on television. Most shows can spend up to seven seasons churning out feuds between women, reducing our identities to pure cattiness and jealousy, with harmful implications. Such representations perpetuate the false sentiment that there is no room for women to succeed because other women exist, which distracts us from the truth — there is no room for women to succeed because we live in a patriarchal world that simply doesn’t want us to. As a result, it’s all the more imperative that the portrayal of women on television affirms the strength that can be drawn from our love for one another, and this is exactly what Wainwright’s writing offers. I know that my relationships with other women have saved my life, and continue to do so. Continue reading “Female Director Spotlight: Sally Wainwright on the Importance of Solidarity Amongst Women”→
This interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.
The Cannes film festival made history this year with the inclusion of Rafiki, the first Kenyan film to premiere along The Croisette. Playing as part of Un Certain Regard, it is also a ground-breaking piece of Kenyan filmmaking for its loving depiction of a same-sex relationship. I sat down with the director Wanuri Kahiu to discuss the ban on the film, the importance of religion in Kenyan culture, and why homophobia is un-African.
Redmond Bacon: Can you explain the situation regarding the decision to ban the film in your country?
Wanuri Kahiu: The film was banned. This means it can’t be broadcasted, exhibited, distributed or be in anybody’s possession within the Republic of Kenya. That includes the poster and the trailer, although the trailer cannot be suppressed because it’s on the internet. But if we were to get a poster here and take it back home [then] we would be breaking the law. And it is possible to appeal, but you have to appeal to the same board that banned the film. So right now, what we’re doing is just concentrating on being here and being present in Cannes to represent the film. Once we get home we’ll figure out what the way forward is.
This is my very first post here at Much Ado About Cinema, and because I’m a fine upstanding member of the community, I thought I’d use this opportunity to highlight some true saviours of the film industry – the handful of lesbian movies that actually provide us with light-hearted relief. As many social media posts of late have picked up on, sapphic films are often incredibly serious and/or depressing, regardless of their artistic merit. As the following five movies prove, however, not all is lost for us; gay women can indeed hold their own when it comes to awful chick flicks.
But I’m A Cheerleader (2000)
As one of the more well-known entries on this list due to its status as a cult classic, “But I’m A Cheerleader” follows the story of a high school cheerleader, Megan, who is sent to a residential camp to be cured of her rampant lesbianism – hence the name. It’s a crude, tongue-in-cheek comedy that wasn’t exactly well received by critics at the time of release, but the film takes its difficult and serious topic to a farcical level, allowing a fair amount of laughs at the ridiculousness of the assumptions people make about sexuality, whilst incorporating a cutesy gay love story to boot. Starring a young Natasha Lyonne, who later went on to become lesbian royalty as Nicky Nichols in “Orange is the New Black”, and the always appreciated Clea DuVall, there’s a lot here for fans of lesbian culture to enjoy.