As a feminist and mother of a daughter I do occasionally get a little hot under the collar with Hollywood.
Case in point: Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger.
I loved this movie, thought it was a nice, simple romance about a person who I admired (namely Beatrix Potter).
And then I read Beatrix Potter’s journal.
Turns out that Hollywood did what it does so well and changed the story of her life – not in a big way. But in a couple of little ways that add up to the conclusion that women aren’t allowed to be strong and independent. They need the help and support of a good man.
This irks me somewhat.
Here are the changes they made (sorry if you haven’t seen the movie):
In the movie, in the hopes of being independent and realizing her dream, Miss Potter peddles her drawings of animals and her story of Peter Rabbit around the publishers, none of whom are interested. Finally she gets the attention of one of them, who offers to publish it for her. The publisher in question ultimately falls in love with her and romance is born.
There’s more to the plot of course, but this is the bit that got me riled.
You see, in reality, Miss Potter was making money from her illustrations long before she got her first story published. She was already independent and becoming a successful illustrator before the idea of writing a book appeared in her world. In Hollywood this was unacceptable, apparently. She needed to be given her big break by a kindly love interest.
As a full time writer and eternal optimist, I find this somewhat insulting. Why couldn’t Miss Potter have been shown as she was? A woman already on the way up, who decided to branch out into a new field? Wouldn’t this be a more inspiring story for young women?
It’s subtle, I know, and perhaps I’m going to far with my interpretation. But I can’t see why there was any need to change this detail. To make the love story more powerful, I hear you say. But why should love be better when it involves a man with power rescuing a woman with none? Why couldn’t the powerful man admire the successful woman? Why is woman as supplicant such an attractive idea?