The arts are my passion: drama, music, opera, dance, sculpture, painting, art history, architecture, film, literature... old and new... national and international... and after a period living, writing & performing in Australia and Italy this passion has brought me back to London. 'Blog Julie Arts' is a spin-off after success with 'There's Always A Story' at blogjulie.com
I have been in a bubble of sorts in recent months while
focusing everything on the launch of my new book TO KISS OR NOT TO KISS.
It is a light read, I hope humorous, and neither
overtly feminist nor anti-feminist. If anything, it highlights the importance
of being true to yourself, as well as trusting - and, where necessary, defending
- your instincts and values.
I have emerged from this bubble hungry now for new
intellectual, social and artistic stimulation... only to find in the public realm
recently some incredibly disappointing events and attitudes.
Sarah Jessica Parker has come out in a magazine to say she
“isn’t a feminist”. What the ****?
Please Ms Parker, let this be a mistake, a misquote.
Surely you know, SJP, that the people who believe in gender equality received a positive boost recently when Mark Ruffalo made some helpful and
sensible public comments about feminism.Also positive,
and needed, is the HeForShe campaign
fronted by the wonderfully centered Emma Watson from Harry Potter fame. SJP, couldn’t
you have just left the topic alone if you couldn’t be supportive?Apart from the fact that you are privileged
and therefore more able to defend your rights, to say “I’m a humanist” is a
lame excuse for not acknowledging the truth that despite other injustices
in the world women continue to suffer from discrimination and a lack of equal
rights and power.So much for Sex and
the City’s version of girl power.Very
If you want to read more from
me on this topic go to:
The immensely valuable BBC has an hour dedicated to women’s
issues on Radio 4, called Woman’s Hour.It is presented by Jenni Murray and she’s
good value in so many ways.In an
interview recently in The Mail on Sunday I could have hugged her for
saying:”I’d make it a hanging offence for anyone not to pay a woman the same as
a man”.Bravo Jenni! We know she doesn’t
mean it literally but is making an important point.
Then she totally spoiled it – no doubt unwittingly – by telling
the journalist that the last film she saw and enjoyed was Kingsman.“I laughed my
socks off” she apparently added. Please tell me, Jenni, that you also went on
to criticize the film’s sexist ending and that the sub-editor cut out your
other comments?Please don’t be passive
or naive to the link between the unacceptable, discriminatory ending of this
film and the question of equal respect for women, and equal pay for equal work!
Again I am disappointed and can’t believe we still have to
fight, win, fight and re-win the same ground over and over again for gender
equality without making more firm progress.
What century have I emerged into from my literary bubble?
For opinions on that film you
can google pretty much anywhere... and for my thoughts see:
Then I went to the Royal Opera House, where I go probably a
dozen times a year, to see Guillaume
(aka William) Tell. I went along
having learned the day before that there’d been criticism of the opera about a
new scene which had been added, a rape scene.I didn’t want to disappoint the friend who’d paid a lot of money for the
tickets, and felt I should probably see the production for myself before coming
to any conclusions.
Oh dear, what a mistake.I was miserable company, the production was so poor I still can’t believe
anyone thinks it’s up to scratch, and it left me deeply concerned a company
receiving this much public funding – an organisation filled with artists who
regularly feel for and defend against other forms of discrimination and
exploitation – could be so blind as to the standard beneath which they have
fallen on this occasion.
Let’s start with the least of the Royal Opera House’s problems.This production of Guillaume Tell is extremely dull. If not for the reasons above I
would not have remained in my seat beyond Act 1. As a whole the production lacks
energy, dramatic impetus and truth. There is miniscule character or narrative development,
and much that is far-fetched and unconvincing, such that over 4 acts and 3 long
intervals I could have cried with boredom and impatience that so many people
could be spread out on a stage (and paid to be there) to so little dramatic
There is some lovely music. I can’t fault the orchestra (under
the baton of Antonio Pappano) and the principals each have strong moments. Indeed
they struggle to maintain artistic integrity in what cannot be an easy
production to deliver.
Here I should add that I suspect this opera would be hard for
anyone to present persuasively to a modern audience. The director, Damiano
Michieletto, can’t be alone in failing to make it interesting. I don’t know
what opera experts believe but, for me, the score of Guillaume Tell is far too long, the composer, Gioachino Rossini, is
often indulgent, and the central narrative is weak. There are some quality
arias and duets - Gerald Finley as Guillaume Tell, John Osborn as Arnold
Melcthal and Malin Byströmas Mathilde
each show their voices to best advantage in isolated sections. So isn’t that sufficient you may ask?
Well actually, no. Opera in the modern world is supposed to
combine strong musical and dramatic
elements; as well as meaningful costume and set design, orchestration,
production values etc. (Actually the large tree as a set piece from Act 2
onwards was something of a relief because it made a strong statement. And the
lighting was imaginative in places.)
Every artist or institution has the right - the need - to aim
high and sometimes fail. That is the nature of art. Yet organizations receiving
generous public subsidy are not immune from criticism on such occasions. The
ROH is not funded to produce material that would be better heard on a CD at
home in one’s armchair. So the sheer dullness of the production is the first
criticism. But I happily embrace and accept that risk, if that was all.
The 2nd criticism, and the most important, is that if
a large and wealthy company choose to commission and present a new production,
and create for that production a ‘new scene’ which explores a (possible) piece
of subtext or tangential narrative, then they better make sure they do it in a
way which justifies its existence - dramatically and musically - and adds to
the overall experience, deepening the audience’s appreciation of the opera. In
all these aspects the Royal Opera House utterly fails with the new ‘rape scene’
in Act 3 of Guillaume Tell.
As a comment about women being raped in war, I can appreciate
the idea may have come up in the rehearsal room. In the background it may have warranted a
small example of intimidation between soldiers and a peasant girl. BUT it definitely
does not warrant the centre stage ‘celebration’ it has been
given.In fact this new scene’s
prominence is disgusting.Here’s why:
·the invented episode is entirely unrelated to the central characters
or the core story;
·a scene dedicated to the rape of an innocent bystander is a huge embellishment
of a possible background element;
·the threatening abusive behaviour goes on for an extraordinarily
long period of time – for no justifiable reason - with increasing violence and
torment for the innocent and defenceless female victim;
·the same point could have been made with a few bars of music and
action (without causing offence to anyone);
·the light-hearted folk music to which her abuse is set in this ‘new
scene’ clashes so badly in tone with the reality of what we are seeing that it seems
to mock her (and any sympathetic person’s) distress;
·it is the only time in the production where the director appears
to have come up with a powerful idea which, when contrasted against the
plodding dullness of the rest, only heightens our discomfort;
·and meanwhile the main story desperately lacks believable
narrative development of its own.
I am a very experienced and robust theatre-goer and I simply would
not have felt so deeply uncomfortable and offended if this scene had been
dramatically justified. But the fact is that this scene is grossly distorting
of the opera’s plot. It is gratuitous, highly sexist and offensive.
It is also unacceptable to use a slimly justified bit of subtext
about violence against women in war to inject into an otherwise dull and sedate
journey a token of dynamism.What a very
poor excuse it is for real creativity or imagination. The Royal Opera House
should be ashamed of itself.
Greatly concerning too is that the ROH was insensitive (dare I say arrogant) in the way it initially handled people’s objections
to the scene. And their efforts after the opening night fiasco to appear
diligent and concerned have been as artificial as the scene itself.
Yes, the ROH has attempted to make the scene less abhorrent by
shortening the nudity. But it’s not the sight of a beautiful naked woman which
offends me; that is nothing in the context of a well conceived play. It is the
ominous threat and cruelty of this extended and (seemingly glorified) scene
which vanquished my spirits as it abused and raped the poor victim – a character
who came from nowhere and whose plight was then ignored.
This lack of respect for women is contemptible – shared knowingly or otherwise by everyone
around this production who was in a position of power and could have made
In the 21st Century how could a publicly funded organisation
such as the ROH completely fail to notice, let alone avoid, an
instance of gross indulgence and offence to women?
Neither the pathetic slip of paper inserted into the programme (if
you happened to buy one or pick it up) or the email some received from
the General Manager warning of the “possible offence”, is enough to make up for
I am bitterly disappointed in the Royal Opera House.Imagine if gay or religious rights were
treated with such disdain how loud the outcry would be?
The only things that hit their targets in this production were
the brave soprano who complained after a dress rehearsal, only to be ignored until the boo-ing began on opening night.And the tenor who expertly shoots the apple
off his son’s head. Bravo for those good shots.Bravo.
But definitely BOO for the rest. BOO and SHAME ON YOU.
I discovered quite late yesterday that it was #nationalkissingday. This made me smile for several reasons:
1.I rather like the idea of a whole nation celebrating one of my favourite activities.
2.It reminded me I really should remember to tweet more.
3.And yesterday I launched my new website to begin to publicise the upcoming release of my new book: TO KISS OR NOT TO KISS
Perhaps it’s a good omen?Or like the serendipity which goes into a good kiss?
I guess you’ll have to read my book and decide for yourself.It will be out on Amazon and Kindle on the 22nd July 2015.
Meanwhile, I was asked recently to make a comment about my book for a press release. And this is what I said:
My interest in short stories developed from my blogs, with female readers in particular responding well to romantic yarns - the good, the bad and the ugly.The book idea emerged over lunch with friends and, as singing and kissing are two of my favourite things, that led naturally to the book’s hook... and from there a theatrical title and musical theme.It developed so organically I decided I should trust and go with it – like a good kiss really... you don’t want to over think it!
So thank you to all my blog readers over the past few years on www.blogjulie.com and www.blogjuliearts.comIf not for you my focus for this project might never have come together. And that’s why I’m making an exception today and posting the same news on both my blogs.
If you like to kiss - or you agree with me that a kiss can work miracles – please check out www.juliemullins.co.ukfor a little preview.
TO KISS OR NOT TO KISS. Romance in bite-sized pieces.
I decided to self-publish my own book I knew it was time to put a stake in the
ground, to ‘just do it’.I felt that ignoring
excuses and setting a deadline would focus my energies and attention, forcing
me to make compromises and get to ‘curtain up’ just like you have to with an
opening night or a live event. Percolation had gone on long enough. Perfection
is a status reserved for those who never publish. If I really am going to be a
writer and take myself seriously it is time to put out there one of the four
manuscripts I have written since making a solid commitment to my writing in
facing that deadline now, on the 22nd July, with the soft launch of my
light-hearted book of short stories, To
Kiss or not To Kiss. That means getting printed copies of the new work to potential
reviewers as close as possible to the 22nd June; as one month is a
standard lead time for newspapers. In an ideal world I’d be operating three
months ahead, as that’s the average lead for magazine publicity, but I decided
not to let that deter my commitment to moving forward. Magazine coverage,
if/when I am lucky enough to get it, will just have to wait until after my book
is up for sale on Amazon; after which I hope to organise a broader distribution
schedule and a more comprehensive PR/Media launch. Sometimes you just can’t do
everything at once.
brings me to the different hats I’m currently wearing: author, co-editor, brand/design
manager, publisher, event co-ordinator, marketing manager, and general dog’s
body. I have hired professionals into key roles (you’d be mad not to) but still
I’ve been close to drowning under the pressure this week. The writing of a book
is one thing – the most obvious job – and then there’s an intense but enjoyable
process with editor and designers. While still completing those discussions, I
am now turning my head to things which I’d generally understood would need
attention... but which I hadn’t quite been prepared to encounter all at once in
such a challenging timeframe.
is, to be frank, like an avalanche, which no amount of planning on a whiteboard
can avoid. The last few days I have felt that my brain might explode - as I read
(at speed) endless online articles, specification documents, and digested arguments
for the pros and cons of a myriad of details pertaining to the business of book
production and print on demand service agreements.And that’s before a single step in the direction
of marketing and publicity, both of which must kick-off the second I have a
finished cover image to use on social media.
wonder I had three glasses of wine last night in quick succession after 10
hours on the computer.How else was I
going to stop my head exploding?I did run
11kms before I sat down to dinner, which definitely helped to clear my head,
but it also meant I absorbed the wine faster into my bloodstream!
I am not a complete novice when it comes to marketing or print materials. I
have managed staff and agencies who have delivered marketing strategies and
marketing collateral for arts and events businesses over many years.I knew the kinds of questions which needed to
be asked and I’ve been reading about self-publishing for an extended period. But
until you are actually in the HOT SEAT, you don’t really realize how much of
this ‘new industry’ you are yet to assimilate and how much you still have to
learn. It’s a little like taking up a new sport, where you may be fit, flexible
and well informed... but your muscles aren’t going to operate as if it’s all
natural and easy until you’ve clocked up the necessary hours on the turf.
in my crash course about publishing in the last week, I have had to work out
how to apply for ISBN numbers. I have had to estimate the number of pages in my
book, something difficult to do when the manuscript is not quite finished being
edited, nor has it been formatted for print. I’ve had to decide: how large (or
small) I want my book to be, while respecting industry standards for genre; the
colour and thickness of the paper; the gloss or matt finish of the cover; the
type of binding; the estimated thickness of the spine; the font to be used for
the interiors; dozens of tiny manuscript formatting and type-setting questions;
submission guidelines for each platform; unit cost per book; recommended retail
prices (for the US, UK, Australia and Europe); the purchasing of websites and
business names; longer-term distribution strategies after my 90 day exclusive
agreement with Amazon finishes; American IRS tax exemption forms (definitely
the most tedious); and whether or not I need permissions for musical quotes
when every document I read about the legal status of copyright suggests
something different and is ultimately rather confusing.
Just writing that list makes me tired.No doubt you too.So imagine what actually doing it is like?!
but nothing good happens in life without a bit of effort... so I just have to
pace myself, take one hurdle at a time, and ensure I stay focused on the
ultimate goal.And I am very happy to
say – on the blog I’ve been sadly neglecting lately - that I will soon be able
to hold my new book in my hand, knowing that years of life, years of artistic percolation
and writing practise, and some dedicated months of study and practical effort
has made a long held dream a reality. Then it’s in the world, like a new baby, my
baby, and it can make its own way.
July 2015 –To Kiss or Not to Kiss–
live on Amazon and Kindle.
I have been lying on the beach thinking about the lovely
girlfriends I have called Emma.They
are, it has to be said, thoroughly good eggs - exceptional lasses in countless
ways who I’m lucky to have in my life.
I can say the same about fabulous women with many names...
but after noticing this comparison I realised I also feel quite a deal of
affection for literary heroines and actresses called Emma.So, writer that I am, I got to thinking about
whether a name might inspire a person to be a certain way?
A name certainly affects, I think, the way an author
feels about her character... or how could Jane Austen have crafted such a
perfect curve of personality and plot development for her Emma?And similarly couldn’t parents and teachers respond
to children differently depending upon their fondness for a name?
So perhaps you’ll allow me to disagree with Shakespeare’s
Juliet who famously said:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.
She was, after all,
hopelessly in love with a stupidly cute Latin boy.And I rather fancy the idea that if you are
called Emma you are more likely to be intelligent, generous, interested,
loving, open, kind, motivated, practical and... special.
It may be a generational
thing, perhaps Elizabeth or Mary were the fabulous girls half a century
ago?Or maybe I’m simply too inclined to
make connections between odd and disparate things?It has been said.But to that I reply: isn’t that how one
weaves a story?And isn’t that, in fact,
how we live and view our lives?Read my
blogs if you don’t believe me... or my soon to be published book (watch this
However, before I go on
with this theme, I must give immediate credit to Samantha Ellis for her book How To Be A Heroine.In this book Samantha goes back over her
reading life to draw all sorts of comparisons between her literary heroines,
highlighting how they have impacted on her life, and that’s what inspired me to
think about my Emma friends.Anyone with
any serious interest in English Literature, storytelling, the development of
characters, narrative and feminism should read Samantha’s charming work.Its premise is hugely imaginative and its
research far reaching.The author does
not waste a single word or illusion, and there are so many familiar connections
and satisfying new allusions that I found it thoroughly entertaining and
stimulating. I even read in this exploratory
work a reference to a man I have kissed (passionately) and a place in Tuscany I
had a particular romance. Who would have
thought?Yet even without these personal
parallels, I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone interested in
female characters and the building of meaningful literary and dramatic themes.Thank you Samantha!Maybe you’re leading a trend for Samantha to
be the next ‘special name’.
Anyway, with that as
background, I’ll flatter Samantha further by imitating her fascination with a
fiction-life crossover... and allow Jane Austen’s Emma to supply my benchmark.I always do write arts-life crossover stories
in this blog (as opposed to reviews) so I hope Samantha won’t mind.
Austen’s Emma is described
as having a bright and happy disposition.That is just as I’d describe the Emmas in my life.Emma Woodhouse is known for being
exceptionally pretty; as are my friends Emma G, Emma H and Emma W.Austen’s Emma takes special care of her
friends and family, going out of her way to make herself available to them, and
in this my friends definitely resemble her.The comparison remains true in so far as my girlfriends and our literary
heroine take active steps to help the people they love achieve their ambitions,
and empathise sincerely when plans or aspirations do not blossom as hoped.
My general sense is that an
Emma is a no-nonsense type of girl, who is always there for you, gets a job
done, and is down-to-earth and classy at the same time.Emma laughs and loves, thinks and reflects,
without being fussy or heavy.She has brains
and practicality, is a sensible, gentle and caring person without being
overly-sentimental. In particular, the light and warmth which infuses Emma’s
courage and humanity is no less sure for being under-the-radar.
Even my muse for this
story, Samantha Ellis, has a best friend called Emma who sounds like my clever girlfriends.And you can’t ignore the fabulous Emma
Thompson for a role model can you?I saw
her in Sweeney Todd recently at the ENO singing and commanding the stage with
Bryn Terfel as if she was born to play Mrs Lovett (yes, of course I was jealous).When I played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing some years ago, I
couldn’t watch her tremendous film with Kenneth Branagh again until the season
was over, because I knew damn well I didn’t have a hope in hell of playing it
any better (hey, I’d have settled for half so well, and I’m usually ambitious with
Back to Jane Austen: Do my
Emmas live on an enormous country estate?Do they set me up with the wrong man and then realise they have to
apologise?Do they mock the maiden aunt
for talking too much, or marry their next-door neighbour after years of not
noticing they were in love?No; not so
far.So I won’t draw the comparison
literally.Yet the qualities established
above serve sufficiently well to highlight that the name and character of Emma appear
to come with many delightful attributes.Let me show you.
Emma G is a remarkably
centred, informed twenty-something who is lots of fun and wonderful company at
a dinner party or on a holiday.We
worked together on the Olympics and have grown increasingly close ever
since.She is as happy debating the
politics of the day as she is sitting in a wine bar chatting with unexpected
eccentric characters, cooking a cheesecake, navigating her Boris bike across
London (I find this very impressive), absorbing the architectural feats of La Sacrada Familia,or unpacking the mysteries of a play or contentious media
article.Smart, that’s what she is, and
exquisitely modern – neither of which take away from her sincere social values
or physical beauty.I love that with Emma
G we can switch from laughter and flippancy to serious feminist dialogue
without missing a beat.She can also
remind me, when I need to hear it, that true feminism is not just about being
strong or brave or fighting hard to resist paternalistic limitations, it’s
about not letting men shape the argument or dilute our ability to view our life
(our choices and feelings) in a way which is uniquely feminine or, more
importantly, true to ourselves.(That’s
what Samantha Ellis refers to, cleverly, as ‘defining yourself’ rather than
allowing anyone else to do it for you.)
Recently I was telling
Emma G about a niggling sensation I had over an encounter with a certain man, a
negative feeling, and she pulled me up short because my story had started with
a positive perspective: “hey, don’t let his reaction shape the way you view
what happened... who cares what he thinks... you work out what you think and
stick with that”.How could you not love
her?!Equally, Emma sometimes tells me
I’m brave and adventurous and that when she’s older she wants to be like me...
and though I’m sure she’ll be far more accomplished and amazing in her own way
by then (she already is) her validation never fails to hearten me.Female friendship and respect is so precious.
Emma H is also smart and wise.She can google, gather and forward relevant
information faster than anyone I know and I only wish I was currently running a
company so I could employ her.She seems
to have a ‘bullshit detector’ which allows her to navigate around rubbish and
stay focused on the important things, and in this she is immeasurably practical
and positive.She is non-judgemental and
gentle too, her strength quiet and unassuming.We met on a yacht in Greece when unexpectedly forced to share a bed...
and it could have gone so horribly wrong if she’d been a snorer or a
wriggler... I confess I wriggle after a few wines... but she stayed on her side
of the small, odd-shaped bunk without a moment’s discomfort or
inconvenience.Seriously, how can any
stranger be that easy to get on with in such intimate circumstances?But that’s Emma H - she’s a no fuss girl,
while still being hugely sensitive and mature (again beyond her years).
I was in a funk not long
ago after a particularly lovely man caused me a considerable amount of pain
(not because he’s not a nice guy, but because sometimes people’s needs
just don’t align), and I was desperate to jump on a plane and get the hell out
of London.However it was school
holidays and flights were exorbitant.What did Emma H do, she simply offered me her (and her partner’s) car to
go exploring in the UK instead.She
knows me, she knew I needed movement to begin the ‘letting go’ and refocusing
process, and she offered as if it were the most natural thing in the world.I feel compelled to make an Emma Thompson
comparison here – in her role as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility - for Emma H is just like that much-loved character
as portrayed by Emma T: loyal, sensible, sensitive, aware and ready to put
others before herself.Again, how could
you not love her?!
And that brings me to the effortlessly
appealing Emma W: we did our Masters of Commerce together in Australia and
became friends quickly.Emma W can talk
clothes, handbags, shoes and girly magazines (she’s often catches me up on media
gossip, especially about Liam Neeson of whom I’m stupidly fond), but that light-hearted
side belies her keen intelligence and capacity for engagement in many a diverse
analytical topic.It also doesn’t tell
you how flexible or resourceful Emma W can be.For example, I never fail to smile when I remember Emma’s response when
I invited (probably cajoled) her to be on a group project with me worth thirty
percent of a subject’s final grades: “oh but Julie, you are an A student and
you’ll expect to get an A on this assignment, and if I don’t do the work you
expect you’ll get tense and I don’t think either of us needs that”.(I would highlight Emma was running a
household and caring for children as well as studying so her need to be
practical and set realistic boundaries was sensible and important.)I was a bit shocked at first, disappointed, thinking
she’d want to study with her friend, but when she said “isn’t our friendship
more important?” I couldn’t argue.And
actually the group I did ultimately work with did piss me off and, as I saw it,
drag me down, so Emma’s decision was not only honest and wise but
prophetic.When I haven’t set clear
enough boundaries in my life – yep, that’s happened a few times – I remember
this experience and sincerely wish I had Emma W’s objective assessment skills.
Some years later, this university
friend (and her husband) were so incredibly understanding and supportive of me
in the midst of a major personal crisis – generous beyond description – that I
still cannot think of their kindness without a tear in my eye.I won’t bore you with the details, but in
this case Emma’s giving was utterly without boundaries or rationality, and it
showed to me a capacity for love and care which is not only remarkable but
typical of this warm-hearted and special woman.You might hear that the attributes of tall leggy blondes or beach-babes
are all on the surface, but I tell you this Emma has it all going for her - on
the outside and the inside – and again so much of what she does and who she
helps is low key and pragmatic.
All in all, it’s no wonder
I have a terrific impression of the name Emma – these women are rich in so many
qualities, not to mention brilliant company!And they just happen to share a name with one of my favourite literary
characters.So thank you Samantha Ellis for
inspiring me to reacquaint and reappraise the heroines in my life – in my ‘real
life’, in books, plays, television and movies - as the gift that these women
are... the many women I value... is a gift which just keeps on giving.
'crossing over the footlights' into arts and events management, and
subsequently more traditional project management, I have often thought
about the skills which transfer. I
was invited recently to write a guest blog on the topic, and it
made me stop and reflect. It's certainly not an exact science
but if you’d like to read more please follow the link.
I have said in this blog that I write arts-life crossover
stories, as opposed to artistic criticism.I have said, too, that I don’t tend to write about productions I don’t
I’ve just changed my mind.
have seen a film that very much troubles me.And I saw it before I heard the furore.
Usually I go to the cinema to see a particular director
or actor’s work.Or I go because I’m interested
in the story.Occasionally I
go to a random film because that’s what is on when I am meeting a friend at a
particular location. This was one of those
occasions, and random is what our experience turned out to be.
Kingsman is an
action comedy which appeared to suit our Friday evening mood.It was never going to be a great film, the
premise too far-fetched and the characters so light they are flimsy.However the film is entertaining, sometimes
slick, fun and silly.That is not a negative
observation as the same can be said of some of my writing, it is just what it
is.For most of the film it also ‘does
what is says on the packet’.It bubbles
along and gives you a giggle.So far so good...
Until, that is, you get to the final scene.You may have heard about the controversy and
if not you should.Because what the
makers of this film have done by way of a substitute for a real ending is disgraceful.Indeed I would go so far as to say, criminal.
If you think I’m exaggerating, let me ask:
·Do you agree, over history, that it is a
travesty warriors have arrived in a place and, no sooner asserted their
authority, gone on to rape and pillage?
·Do you think a super hero, a special agent,
or anyone acting the part of a ‘protector’ should take advantage of the
·Do you agree there are standards and values which
popular cultural has some responsibility to uphold?
·Do you agree that sexism is wrong?
·Do you agree that information which is disseminated
and shown to be discriminatory – especially in Great Britain, the United States
and countries claiming the moral high ground – should be allowed to circulate
in the public realm without repercussions?
·Do you think power should be used wisely and women and young people protected?
·And do you agree that a film should be
classified as suitable for young people if the contents of that film – physical
or psychological – could harm them?
If you have answered yes to any or all of these questions
then even before you know the details you should appraise Kingsman with your eyes open.
I am not a prude; nor is the young woman, Emma, seated with me
in the cinema.She is educated, in her
early twenties, and working at the London School of Economics.Yet we were utterly shocked by the sudden
turn of this film. Indeed everyone in
the cinema was stunned; the general reaction one of jaw-dropping silence.We, and many, are appalled by what the makers
of this film – and those who released it – think is an acceptable way to end a
film in the 21st Century.
Has the fight for women’s rights, for respect and
equality, receded that far?
Is sexism so entrenched such that the people who
contributed to the decision to leave that ridiculous scene in the film can no
longer see it?Or can they see it but
just don’t care?
Or do men really feel that it is not only acceptable, but
humorous, to send a message to young people around the world that it is normal
and impressive for a conquering male to use his power to take extreme sexual liberties
where and how he may?
I make no judgement on anal sex.What consenting adults do in their own beds doesn’t
concern me in the least.It is the context
here which is so reprehensible:
·the woman offering up her “arsehole”, as she
so elegantly puts it, is captive and reliant upon the hero for her release from
·the hero has champagne and acts as if it’s
all a laugh and why shouldn’t he – a virile and conquering male – get from the
damsel in distress what all men want (so it suggests)
·the woman doesn’t know him and has had no
relationship with him (barely with the audience)
·there is no intimacy or respect
·there is no relevance to the story
·there is an underlying aggression about his
desire (and his arrogance)
·there is aggression too in the implied need
for him to take the one thing left on this rescued planet that he hasn’t yet
·the scene is utterly gratuitous and in the
worst possible taste
·the scene, the ending, lacks any creative
credibility or real imagination
·and it ruins an otherwise frivolous romp of a
narrative - undermining anything of value which has gone before (including all the
I didn’t need to read a review to know that this ‘ending’
was a spoof on the ending of James Bond films, where Bond always scores the
girl.But that excuse from the director is
as pathetic as the scene itself – because it lacks all Bond charm and
class.Even the Bond franchise has grown
with the times and wouldn’t dream of being so crass.
a desperate wannabe and – unless the ending is changed - it doesn’t deserve an
audience.Nor does it deserve for it to
be allowed to continue to play in cinemas, or God Forbid, on television.
We should all be considering this very seriously.
What message is this widely released film sending young
women and boys – children from ten to twenty-five years – who have limited
sexual and sensual experience?For it
seems to me, and the girlfriend who saw it with me, to suggest that women are
to be conquered as and how a man pleases, and it is the woman’s job to comply,
to lie down and take it, whether she wants it or not – and especially if she is
in a position without power and therefore reliant upon him for her liberty.
Where is the respect?Where are the women who were involved in this process of decision-making
and who did not stand up and say “this is not acceptable now or ever”?Or did they, but weren’t heard?Because doesn’t that tell you what a fight we still have on our hands to resist the
ugly tentacles of sexism?
For make no mistake (and again I say this without reading
any other commentary), any film-goer knows that this was not a decision made by
a few people, but many - many men and women over many months from draft scripts,
to approved script, in the shooting, editing, post-production, marketing, classification
and release of the movie.This is no
accident or over-sight.The ending
chosen for this film is intentionally arrogant and shocking – and every single
one of these people should be ashamed of themselves.
And so should we if we do nothing about it.
I have never been as depressed at the end of a film as I
was at the end of Kingsman – because I
thought the world had made some progress.
It is no wonder we can’t protect girls and women from
enforced circumcision in other parts of the world, from every sort of
enslavement, if we think a film with an ending like Kingsman is acceptable.
It isn’t even funny.
We need to find and harness our outrage.Don’t reserve it for the current episodes of Selfridge, where one hundred years ago
women and men seemed to have more fight for the subject of sexism.
All the young boys and girls you care about are relying
P.S. If you want to see a film which takes discrimination
head on, which moves you, is worth the ticket price, and leaves you (and the
world) uplifted and inspired, then give Kingsman
a big miss... and see SELMA.Everyone
involved in that project can be proud.