I have to say though, that I have increased respect for Mike Newell and therefore am looking more forward to HP4 (which comes out on December 1 for us unlucky ones down under. Pity us, people).
I got really excited after watching the film for some reason. I think it's because I've always been a feminist, and since I'm an art student, the movie combined both interests for me. Shame that I watched this after the semester's over, because I think it would've helped me gain more interest and put more of a perspective on postmodern women art.
Some of the stuff in the movie just astounded me - I had an idea on how Western women ... more specifically American women were back then, but not to this point. They were basically kicked out of work, made to conform to be housewives and then told that they should be lucky because they now have education. Education in this case was basically just a form of containment - keep them satisfied for a while, and have enough knowledge to entertain you (the man) somewhat, but they're not going to have any future besides cleaning the house and serving you meals at the appropriate times. Granted, without education it might've taken longer for the feminist movement to take hold. And if there wasn't so much suppression, this sort of outburst probably wouldn't have taken place.
It just annoys me terribly to think that you have women out there who are suppressed, who are being told what to do and who basically have no future besides their full-time occupation of 'marriage', and yet who thinks by all means that it is right, and that it is the only way to go. These people are excited about their future (or lack of) and are willing to put up with the crap from their husbands to fulfill these roles.
I know this is a far stretch to compare Mona Lisa Smile with Harry Potter but I was doing a project on feminist issues in HP and this made me think of it.
I mean, has society really changed all that much? HP is even written by a woman. Her story was to bring forth quite realistic social issues and combine them cleverly with her bit of magic. People often look to it and are happy with parallels that run with the story, and many believed that her stories are both entertaining and a good way to bring forth issues and in a sense 'educate' them about society, especially about issues of racism (bloodline).
Anyway, the first female character we meet in the entire series was Petunia Dursley who is nothing more than a housewife. She is ruled by her husband, and even ruled by her young son. At the same time she doesn't seem to dislike her situation. She wholeheartedly takes on her position and has her source of amusement by sharing gossip.
Let's go to another female figure: Molly Weasley. Another housewife. Most of her kids are grown-ups or at least the age to take care of themselves. Seeing their financial situation, the Weasleys would have benefitted greatly if Molly were to get a job and help support the family by financial means, and pursue a career at the same time. I mean - what does she do when all her kids go to Hogwarts for most of the year? Knit all those Christmas jumpers? Yet, she remains to stay at home. Every time we see her, she's cooking, cleaning, washing, knitting. She's always being the motherly one, and even then, she is criticised. In OotP when she did not want Harry to know details about Voldemort, her opinions were suppressed by Sirius.
I'm seeing parallels already. It's a bit sad to think that in some aspects, nothing really had changed. After all, it's been more than 50 years, and we've been through two female liberation movements.
Back to the movie though ... it didn't escape my notice that although it showed the issue of females having a choice and being individuals, their studies and what they learn are still dictated by the male. Wives shaped their behaviour around their men. The teachers conformed to their superior - the headmistress - who was unable to take on such a big job as managing the school on her own and thus needed a committee (which included men - MEN who decide what is good or not good for all the girls) to help decide her direction. The paintings that Katherine (Julia Roberts) told the students to study - Van Gogh, Pollack, Da Vinci - male artists. The students are told what is beautiful, what is 'individual', what is art by paintings drawn by men. They are looking at art at a male point of view. These artists were accepted and praised. If the girls strived to be like these artists, can it be said that they just wanted to conform in another sense?
I admit there weren't many female artists back in those times, so it would be kind of hard to pull them out and study them in the first place ...
I also watched some of the featurettes in the specials of the DVD. One of the actors was commenting on the society back then and how the girls were being 'manipulated' by men. Okay, I know that I'm exaggerating a little, but think of the relationship between the director and the actor. The director - Mike Newell - tells a bunch of female actors what to do and how to do it. Then in the editing room he chops out what he doesn't like and keeps in what he thinks is the best way to portray these females. The females are still being moulded by a man, and we are forced to see things in his point of view.
Yes yes, I love the movie and all, and I honestly think it's great. And yes, I'm probably over-analysing. But it just makes me wonder sometimes.
So ... if no one's asleep or clicked out already, feel free to leave a comment on what you think ^_^