“Misbehaviour” celebrates different aspects of women’s liberation struggle
By Patricia Rodriguez
London, Aug 27 (efe-epa).- “Misbehaviour,” a 2020 British comedy-drama film, pays tribute to the different paths forged in the women’s liberation struggle while also encouraging reflection on pending issues in the fight for equality, its director told Efe.
Philippa Lowthorpe explained in an interview that the movie is centered around the historic victory by a black woman at the Miss World 1970 beauty pageant, an event at London’s Royal Albert Hall that was the most-watched television event of its day with more than 22 million viewers in the United Kingdom and around 100 million worldwide.
One scene depicts the moment when feminist activists led by Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley), who considered the event degrading for the contestants and all women, disrupted the live broadcast by throwing flour bombs.
More controversy ensued when Grenada’s Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) beat out the favorite, Sweden’s Marjorie Christel Johansson, to become the first-ever black Miss World.
One intriguing element of the film, which premiered in London in March and was released via Internet in the United States on Tuesday, is its juxtaposition of two diametrically opposed perceptions of the same event.
On the one hand, the 1970 Miss World saw her participation in the pageant and her surprise victory as a golden opportunity to uplift black women; but at the same time, the feminist movement viewed the pageant as yet another means of objectifying women and promoting sexism via the media.
“So it seemed very, very interesting that this event in 1970 was like a lightning conductor for political protest: the anti-apartheid movement and the women’s liberation movement, all protesting at the Miss World competition,” Lowthorpe said.
But at the same time “it’s also good to celebrate the first black woman to have won Miss World. That’s an amazing achievement,” she added.
“It’s a very entertaining film. It’s funny and it’s smart and sassy and provocative, but also there’s an underlying message of what the women’s liberation (movement) did for us. They fought for our rights, and it’s really good to say thank you and to honor what they did,” the director said.
The mission does not end there though, according to Lowthorpe, who said she hopes the film sparks further reflection and called on people, herself included, “to think to ourselves, what else is there to do?”
“What can we do now for women’s rights and to inspire young women, I think, to say, what can we do now? How can we keep fighting to make our world a more equal place for women and men?” she said.
In Mbatha-Raw’s remarks to Efe, she noted that liberation does not mean the same thing to each and every woman.
“I just felt the message was really about women coming together and fighting for their rights, and also really the inter-sectional nature of the film, that every woman has a different journey to freedom and every woman has a different journey into their own power,” she said.
In researching her character, the English actress contacted the real-life Hosten, now 72, and arranged for them to meet up in Grenada.
“This is a wonderful story of many women’s perspectives. It’s not the Jennifer Hosten movie,” Mbatha-Raw said.
“Before the Internet, before social media, they’re both using the competition. In a sense, the liberation movement are hijacking the competition and using it as a media springboard. And the women in the competition are obviously front and center of the competition, but it could potentially open many doors for them and provide them with amazing opportunities for the rest of their lives,” she added.
Hosten also spoke with Efe and said she had her doubts about how “Misbehaviour” would turn out and therefore wrote a 2020 book about the events titled “Miss World 1970: How I Entered a Pageant and Wound Up Making History.”
“I wasn’t sure really how I would in the end be portrayed, if it would be an accurate portrayal. But I was really pleasantly surprised,” Hosten, who has pursued careers in broadcasting, diplomacy and other fields, told Efe.