Author(s): M G Lord
Countless books have chronicled the life of Elizabeth Taylor, but rarely has her career been examined from the point of view of her on-screen persona. That persona, argues M. G. Lord, has repeatedly introduced a broad audience to feminist ideas.In her breakout film, "National Velvet" (1944), Taylor's character challenges gender discrimination: Forbidden as a girl to ride her beloved horse in an important race, she poses as a male jockey. Her next milestone, "A Place in the Sun" (1951), can be seen as an abortion rights movie--a cautionary tale from a time before women had ready access to birth control. In "Butterfield 8" (1960), for which she won an Oscar, Taylor isn't censured because she's a prostitute, but because she chooses the men: she controls her sexuality, a core tenet of the third-wave feminism that emerged in the 1990s. Even "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) depicts the anguish that befalls a woman when the only way she can express herself is through her husband's stalled career and children. Other of Taylor's performances explore similar themes. The legendary actress lived her life defiantly in public--undermining post-war reactionary sex roles; helping directors thwart the Hollywood Production Code, which restricted film content from 1934 to 1966; fund-raising for AIDS research in the 1980s; championing the right of people to love whomever they love, regardless of gender. Yet her powerful feminist impact has been hidden in plain sight. Drawing on unpublished letters and scripts, and on interviews with Kate Burton, Gore Vidal, Austin Pendleton, Kevin McCarthy, Liz Smith, and others, "The Accidental Feminist "will surprise readers with its originality, adding a startling dimension to the star's enduring mystique.
"For MG Lord, it's curvaceous, charismatic icons of femininity that hold her imagination hostage...What Lord did for Barbie, she now does for La Liz in 'The Accidental Feminist'...Lord takes her readers on a chronological journey through the actress's signal performances, analyzing each film with a theory scholar's eye for telling detail, brightened with bloggerly brio, emotion, and use of the first person...When watching her significant films in succession, you see that, as Lord maintains, each serves as a cinematic Rorschach of social changes percolating through postwar society, in which Taylor stars as the protean blot...With 'The Accidental Feminist, ' MG Lord makes the intriguing case that for Elizabeth Taylor, too much as never enough--not for the woman, not for the actress and not for the society that produced the theater of her life."--New York Times Book Review"An affectionate portrait of Taylor and her event-filled life... an excellent, compact guide to Taylor's film roles."--Wall Street Journal
M.G. Lord is an acclaimed cultural critic and investigative journalist, and the author of the widely praised books "Forever Barbie "and "Astro Turf" " The Private Life of Rocket Science." Since 1995 she has been a frequent contributor to the "New York Times Book Review "and the "Times"'s Arts & Leisure section. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including "The New Yorker," "Vogue," the "Wall Street Journal," "the Los Angeles Times," "Travel + Liesure," the "Hollywood Reporter," and "ArtForum." Before becoming a freelance writer, Lord was a syndicated political cartoonist and a columnist for "Newsday." She teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.