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Film / Iron Jawed Angels

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Suffrage has never been so sexy.

"We're legitimate citizens. We're taxed without representation. We're not allowed to serve on juries so we're not tried by our peers. It's unconscionable, not to mention unconstitutional. We don't make the laws but we have to obey them like children."
Alice Paul

Iron Jawed Angels is a 2004 Made-for-TV Movie produced by HBO, detailing the tail end of the American campaign for women's suffrage.

This movie provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Alice is often shown to turn people to her side with just a well-chosen sentence, like: "A vote is a fire escape."
  • Actual Pacifist: The women in the film, and most of them in real life. The most violent act done is a woman throws a shoe at a window.
  • Anachronism Stew: The film's soundtrack includes, of all things, Lauryn Hill, although the song of hers used wouldn't come out for another 78 years after the film's events.
  • The Atoner: The congressman after reading his wife's journal.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Lucy gets a bruised eye, some girls are portrayed with cuts on their face after the parade, and they all show the effects of the hunger strike.
  • Career Versus Man: A man is introduced simply so he can be rejected as justification for this.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Alice's force-feeding (in which she has her mouth pried open by metal instruments and has a mix of milk and raw eggs shoved down her throat) is shot to depict the barbarism of the prison authorities.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alice.
    "[Helen Keller] is blind and deaf! If she can find the hotel, so can you."
  • Department of Child Disservices: Your husband can take your children away from you, and there's nothing you can do about it because you're a woman and he has law on his side.
  • The Ditz: The congressman's wife plays herself off as such.
  • Failure-to-Save Murder: The death of a woman during state-to-state campaigning is considered this by Alice.
  • Fan Disservice: There is one and exactly one scene with all of the women naked and some of their butts they're wet, shivering, and standing in a freezing cold prison. It's very obvious that the nudity is meant to be more demeaning than arousing.
  • Force Feeding: Happens to Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and a few other suffragists during their prison hunger strike.
  • Gender Incompetence: A major theme is discussing and defying this trope. Specifically, in regard to the participation of women in America's political affairs. The suffragettes passionately argue that one's sex doesn't correlate with intelligence and common sense. The rest of society begs to differ.
  • Gender Traitor: Alice states that women who refuse to fight for their rights are this.
  • Godwin's Law: Nominally averted, since Adolf Hitler is still a no-name Corporal on the Western Front. However, one of the angry sailors at a protest yells something to the effect of "MAYBE YOU'D RATHER GO TO GERMANY?!"note 
  • Imminent Danger Clue: The man throwing the beer bottle during the parade scene. The congressman's wife takes this as a sign, and leaves just before the fight breaks out.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Alice is told she has to know when to do this. She ignores them.
  • Line in the Sand: Knowing anyone who joins the picket line in front of the White House after war has been declared will be imprisoned, Alice asks for volunteers and stresses that this is a choice.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Played with. Lucy and Alice have very long hair, but rarely wear their hair down. Instead, the hair is bundled so high up that it comes across as a bob. Under a hat.
  • Make an Example of Them: It is implied that if they get their hands on Alice, they will try for the maximum sentence they can, to make an example of her. The first words out of the mouth of the arresting officers, the first arrest scene, is "Alice Paul?"
  • Male Gaze: Ultimately averted. While the film does feature nude women, a female masturbation scene, and two girls kissing, all of them are treated fairly nonchalantly, and are more implicit than explicit. (The nude women are seen from the back only, and the two girls kissing are barely on the screen.)
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: While she was sympathetic to the NWP the whole time, it's implied that the congressman's wife's mistreatment is what made her decide to join them fully and openly.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The women are sent to a workhouse for 'obstructing traffic.'
  • Nerves of Steel: All the women. Especially those who stayed around after they started getting arrested, knowing what would happen next.
  • Not Afraid to Die: The movie makes distinction between suicidal ideation and this, when they try to get Alice committed for her hunger strike.
  • Ojou Ringlets: Seen during one of the 'preparatory montages' as a potential hairstyle choice for one of the girls, before they go to a high class event.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Things only get worse for the women when WWI starts.
  • Truth in Television: Though it does invent a few characters, film is pretty accurate historically; there really was, for an example, a senator who voted "yes" at the last second because of a note from his mother. Entire scenes were copied from the history books, like the 'night of terror' where they were beaten, refused medical treatment, and Lucy was handcuffed standing up. At least one of the other women did stand in her position.
  • Trope Trigger: Every time Alice and Lucy 'flip for it' Alice loses.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Alice's description of her being force fed was implied to be the only communication they managed to get out while imprisoned. In reality, Lucy managed to get a network going to keep many letters going out, until they caught onto it and sent her off to a different jail.
  • We Win Because You Didn't: Attempted and failed by the National Women's Party. They tried to boycott Wilson and any democratic congressman who didn't support them. They fail.
  • Women Are Delicate: Discussed very often, most notably with: "In oranges and women, courage is often mistaken for hysteria."