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CRITICAL ESSAY – HISTORY OF

CINEMA
Gender in the United Kingdom films during the decades 1970s-
2000s

History of Cinema (2018 MOD000251 SEM1 F01CAM)

Anglia Ruskin University


Gender in United Kingdom films during the decades 1970s –
2000s

This essay will discuss four films about female gender in the United Kingdom
from the decade of 1970s until the 2000s. Throughout the essay four films were
chosen in order to explain the chosen category, being those, A Clockwork Orange
(Stanley Kubrick 1971), Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies 1988), The
Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo 1997), and Bend It Like Beckham ( Gurinder Chadha
2002). I will argue some of the issues, such as the social problems that the female
gender has gone through in the United Kingdom during this four decades, as well
as the development of that same gender.
The crucial historical developments in these decades were portrayed by the
development of the role of women within society. Throughout this decades it was
possible to observe women transcending from housewives to prime ministers, and
based in historical facts, priests ordained by church. During this time, it was
possible to witness Margaret Tatcher gaining the role of prime minister and re
gaining that role later on (Dawtrey, 2011). This essay will focus on the important
development of females and its contribution for history. For a good understanding
of that development, issues such as, objectification, housewives and equality
when portraying women in film, will be discussed.
A Clockwork Orange it is a film realised in 1971, and directed by genius Stanley
Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess's eponymous book. Alex DeLarge is a young
man who has very peculiar tastes, one of those tastes is leading a gang with his
friends (druguis). DeLarge commits atrocities, like the rape of a woman in front
of her husband and the beating of them but everything changes when his friends
revolt and leave him temporarily blind in a scene of a crime, so Alex is arrested
and convicted, stopping in jail, until the emergence of a very alternative treatment
(Burgess, 2007). Clockwork Orange is clearly one of the most controversial films
in history, because of all the issues that are discussed in the film. The less
appreciated controversial scenes are undoubtedly the rape scenes that appear in
the film on some occasions, being this because, the female body in the 1970’s
was mostly objectified and used for mere cheap and sexual entertainment,
however throughout the film it is possible to understand the use of the female
body as a symbolic and thematic image within this film. (DeRosia, 2003).
The film Distant Voices, Still Lives is based on the real experiences of director
Terence Davies during childhood and adolescence in Liverpool. It is the portrait
of a dysfunctional family, led by an authoritarian and violent father, from whom
everyone tries to escape. The events of the film are placed after the World War II,
and it represents how working class families would survive in that era. The man,
also known as, the provider of the family falls into a deep depression which
causes a certain distress and anger towards the family, having the wife as the
main victim (Koresky, 2014). Throughout the film it is understood the
representation of how women, the housewives, would suffer in order to support
their families. Another accurate representation on the film is how women were
the matriarchs that would support any abuse or mistreatment in order to hold the
families together. One of the scenes to highlight is when the family is together for
the Christmas dinner, Tommy, the father, claims his seat at the leader of the table.
At that point, with no notice, his fingers start to tremble and his entire body
shakes up. Suddenly Tommy pull off furiously the tablecloth with all the dishes
on the table, while shouting to his wife, and saying "Clear this up!” This sequence
arrangement catches the inconsistent direct of a heavy drinker father, subject to
conflicting driving forces, goings from extraordinary delicacy to wild ruthlessness
(Mauthner, 2005).
The Full Monty takes place in Sheffield, England, a city once known as City of
Steel, the home of a massive metal industry, which has made it possible to create
a large number of jobs. Since the 1990s, it has been declining: industries are
increasingly layoffs, which generates a large number of unemployed. One of
them is Gaz (Robert Carlyle), who is about to lose custody of his son for not
having the money to support him. It is in this scenario that Gaz and a group of
unemployed friends decide to set up a striptease show for women in order to get
some money (Beaufoy, 1997). On the other hand, the representation of women in
this film becomes increasingly independent. In the 90s it was possible to
understand the independence of women as a husband is not needed to support
them because it is possible to do it on their own. In turn, the struggle for equality,
sexual liberation and independence creates much stronger women, more like a
man. In that sense, women also want to see naked men, look for definite
masculine bodies, release and be able to look at a man with the same desire with
men looked at them (Howard, 1999).
Bend it like Beckham is the story of Jesminder Bhamra, an Indian girl living in
London, shows the cultural, class and gender barriers that will have to face to
play football. Jesminder’s Hindu family, very traditional, does not approve the
practice of this modality, directing it to study Law and glimpsing a future
marriage. Jules, a girl with the same age and a daughter of a native English
family, was watching Jess playing football, immediately offered a place on the
team. Both share the same passion, football, sport more directed to male athletes,
reason why society does not take very seriously the professionalism of women in
this area (Grainey, 2012). The film also mentions biases about whether they both
escape the stereotype of women today, homosexuality, and racial discrimination.
When Jess’s mom finds that Jess has joined a young ladies' football group, a
debate takes place, and here it is possible to understand that a woman is still
surrounded by stereotypes in football practice (Anon., 2005).
When comparing the film industry in the United Kingdom with the film industry
in Hollywood it is possible to understand that a difference between “reality” and
“fiction” is established, meaning with this that, the United Kingdom aims to show
real issue, controversies and social problems, whilst the Hollywood industry is
mainly based on the “American dream”, which means that the main goal is to
exhibit a perfect world with all of its glamour. However, even with such
differences, both of this industries relate at some point, whether through the
financial investment of Hollywood on British productions or through the
“donation” of Britain of material needed to the production of Hollywood.
Regarding the subject being discussed, when analysing the roles the women
portray in both film industries, it is possible to observe that in both industries
women’s roles have shown to be inferior than the men’s, for example, being
solely a house-worker, however, with times passing, both developed as well. In
this way, these industries can contrast and relate to one another (Lennon, 1998).
Throughout the history of cinema the way women are portrayed developed with
the world. In the beginning of the four decades previously discussed, the 1970’s,
changes began to happen regarding the role of women in film, however it was
possible to understand that women were still mainly treated like an object and
were mostly portraying roles inferior to men. With all of the changes in the
outside world regarding women’s rights and feminism, cinema changed it ways
and the way women are perceived. Nowadays it is possible to understand that
with the development of cinema, women are portraying roles that involve power
and equality to men (Dubel, 2016).
In conclusion, it is possible to verify that the women in the mid of 1970s in some
films were only served as housewives, objects, and other representations as
sensitive and fragile. An exception was A Clockwork Orange, and Distant Voices,
Still Lives these movies were controversial films because of all the violence
events that occurred. In 1970s and 1980s, the feminist movement began to expand
and to question the place of women in society, at social, economic and political
levels, giving more voice to this minority. With this in mind, the decade of 90s it
is possible to see that in the film The Full Monty, the representation of women
becomes more independent with them having more rights than formerly. In the
00s Bend it like Beckham sums up the problems of nowadays, preconception,
equality and the simple existence of a film with this theme demonstrates that if,
on the one hand, women's entry into sport can still be considered a taboo. It is
important that films such as these cannot be ignored and that the analyses of these
productions can produce rich reflections about the space that women have been
conquering in society and how society has been responding to this movement.
References

Anon., 2005. Linda C. McClain. Bend it like Beckham and real women have curves:
Constructing identity in multicultural coming-of-age stories,, Volume 54, pp. 701-1325.

Beaufoy, S., 1997. The full monty. London: Eye : ScreenPress 1997.

Burgess, A., 2007. A clockwork orange. London: London : Heinemann.

Dawtrey, A., 2011. ron lady continues to divide.(FILM)(ex-British prime minister


Margaret Thatcher). 425(4), p. 6.

DeRosia, M., 2003. An Erotics of Violence: Masculinity and (Homo)Sexuality in Stanley


Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. New York: Cambridge University press .

Dubel, I., 2016. Equal rights for women. Arrows For Change,, 17(1), p. 5.

Grainey, T. F., 2012. Beyond bend it like Beckham the global phenomenon of women's
soccer. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press c2012.

Howard, G. C. P., 1999. Exhibitionism and repression in The full monty.. 24(1), pp. 22-38.

Koresky, M., 2014. Terence Davies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press 2014.

Lennon, D., 1998. Boom times for UK films. (United Kingdom)(Capitals: Cinema). Issue
379, p. 38.

Mauthner, M., 2005. Distant Lives, still voices: sistering in family sociology.. 33(1), pp.
177-184.

Filmography

A Clockwork Orange Stanley Kubrick (1971) United Kingdom


Bend it like Beckham Gurinder Chadha (2002) United Kingdom
Distant Voices, Still Lives Terence Davies (1988) United Kingdom
The Full Monty Peter Cattaneo (1997) United Kingdom