Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"The Accidental Feminist"

New from Walker & Company: The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice by M. G. Lord.

About the book, from the publisher:

From the brilliant cultural historian M. G. Lord, a fascinating examination of the unexpected feminist content in Elizabeth Taylor's iconic roles.

Countless books have chronicled the sensational life of Elizabeth Taylor, but rarely has her career been examined from the point of view of her on-screen persona. And that persona, argues M. G. Lord, in its most memorable outings has repeatedly introduced a broad audience to feminist ideas.

In her breakout film, National Velvet (1944), Taylor's character challenges gender discrimination: Forbidden to ride her beloved horse in an important race because she is a girl, she poses as a male jockey. Her next milestone, A Place in the Sun (1951), is essentially an abortion-rights movie—a cautionary tale from a world before women had ready access to birth control. In Butterfield 8 (1960), for which she won an Oscar, Taylor's character isn't censured because she's a prostitute, but because she chooses the men with whom she sleeps—she controls her sexuality. Even 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. Other of Taylor's films and Broadway performances explore similar themes.

The legendary actress lived her life defiantly in public—undermining postwar reactionary sex roles; helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which restricted film content from 1934 to 1967; and as a member of the vanguard of fund-raising for AIDS research in the 1980s, which was entirely consistent with her championing the right of people to love whomever they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact was hidden in plain sight. Daring in conception, and drawing upon unpublished letters and scripts as well as interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Robert Forster, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, The Accidental Feminist will surprise Taylor and film fans alike with its originality—and add a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.