The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice

M.G. Lord. Walker & Co., $22 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1669-9
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Elizabeth Taylor is synonymous with “icon” both on and off the screen, but culture historian Lord’s (Forever Barbie) analysis of her film persona viewed through the lens of feminism is shaky at best. Lord alternates between rehashing biographical details of Taylor’s life—from her upbringing as a child star under strict control of her mother to her multiple marriages and lifelong friendships among the Hollywood elite—and surface-level film theory. She admits that the actress might not be synonymous with feminism in viewers’ minds, but argues that “the Taylor brand deserves credit for its under-the-radar challenge to traditional attitudes,” using films such as National Velvet (1944), A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Butterfield 8 (1960), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) to illustrate her point. But while Lord makes a convincing case that many of Taylor’s best-known roles do go against the grain of prescribed attitudes toward women in studio era Hollywood and beyond—for example, Taylor’s Leslie Benedict in Giant is a mouthpiece for social justice and Gloria, the call-girl she plays in Butterfield 8, is in control of her own sexuality—ascribing that feminist bent to Taylor’s onscreen persona as a whole is much murkier. Perhaps it’s Elizabeth Taylor’s status as a Hollywood legend, but Lord has bitten off more than she can chew, rather than narrowing her focus to a few films that could substantiate her point. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 01/31/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-0-8027-7864-2
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-0-8027-7863-5
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