By the powers of Athena and all the powerful goddesses who have come before and after her, Meryl Streep, maybe the most righteous female of all, has joined the cast of a film called Suffragette. The film, directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and written by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame) chronicles, naturally, the beginnings of the women’s rights movement that blossomed in the late 19th century.
Streep will portray British activist Emmeline Pankhurst, a significant figure in the feminist movement and the suffragettes’ battle to get the right to vote. Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union and caused a firestorm with her rallying; after one particularly volatile outing, she and her fellow sisters in arms were sent to prison for disturbing the peace, where they then staged a hunger strike to secure themselves better conditions.
Pankhurst won’t be a main role in the film, but she will be an intregal component of the larger story, giving a pivotal and moving speech about women’s rights during a political rally. Since this is a Streep Speech, it’s clearly going to be the most moving and inspirational stream of dialogue ever spoken about the subject. Who wouldn’t be compelled to take to the streets and fight for their rights after hearing Meryl Streep tell them they should do it? And better yet, who wouldn’t feel ashamed of themselves for denying women the right to vote after getting scolded by Meryl Streep for doing so?
Streep joins a cast that already includes Carey Mulligan in the lead as a “young foot soldier” of the feminist movement who has grown weary that peaceful protests haven’t gotten her and her fellow activists anywhere. Because ladies know how to get stuff done, she turns to violence to achieve results, and expects her colleagues to follow suit. That clearly ends with prison and the aforementioned prison hunger strike, but results are results. It’s only a blip in a movement. Because this is a period drama about feisty women who cause a ruckus and a scene everywhere they go, Helena Bonham Carter is also on board as a suffragette. She will presumably look like she does in her everyday life.
Suffragette will be a welcomed perspective on the early part of the women’s rights movement, something that hasn’t been explored too much in film. There’s the excellent Iron Jawed Angels, the 2004 HBO movie starring Hilary Swank, Margo Martindale, Anjelica Huston and Vera Farmiga that focused on Alice Paul and the American suffragettes who went through many similar experiences as their British counterparts, including imprisonment for their protests and prison hunger strikes. But having a film on a larger scale can’t hurt in raising awareness for a cause — women’s rights — that’s still being fought to this day.