Every year a handful of actually important films come out, and of course my position is that those are the ones you should watch. If you haven’t yet seen Selma, then add it to your queue. Suffragette is the British version of another women’s voting struggle film: Iron Jawed Angels with Hillary Swank.
Both are similar, and both are based on true events. The terroristic nature of the government is a central factor that pushed people to go to further extremes to achieve basic rights. These governments have long, bloody histories of gross injustice.
Carey Mulligan is a composite of various suffragettes drawn into the movement. The story lags a bit, as it is slow paced and dramatic with much nuance and detail. Iron Jawed Angels was tighter and more of a sustained war.
Women will appreciate that it was written, produced and directed by women, with all the major roles being female. Meryl Streep makes an appearance, as does Helena Bonham Carter. The militancy of various groups enters the picture, where today they would be labeled as terrorists. Their movement prompted the first photographic surveillance (abuses) by the British government. The actions of the police were as illegitimate and misogynistic as you’d expect.
I often look back on these developments and find the victories short-lived and illusory. Today the vote has given us all a corrupt system that is essentially a protection racket for international war criminals. As long as the victims are brown and in other lands there is no struggle over the injustices we inflict upon them. Great injustice is still with us, but it is covert, hidden away, lost in the cacophony.
The history of the suffragette movement is clearly something that should be part of the curriculum. The films are pretty good at presenting us this history so that people don’t forget the value of the rights they largely take for granted.