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Film / Suffragette

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Suffragette is a 2015 British historical period drama film directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan.

The story is set in London during The Edwardian Era and centers on Maud, a working wife and mother who becomes an activist for the Suffragette cause alongside women from all walks of life.

The film stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Natalie Press, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep.

The film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Advertised Extra: Despite being prominently featured in the film's advertising, Pankhurst barely appears in person in the film, except for when she gives a speech to the suffragettes, and only has a few minutes of screentime.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Never surrender. Never give up the fight."
    • "Deeds, not words."
  • As the Good Book Says...: Violet quotes Revelation 21:4 to comfort Maud when her husband throws her out.
  • Badass Boast: Maud gives one to Inspector Steed:
    Maud: "What are you going to do, lock us all up? We're in every home. We're half the human race. You can't stop us all."
  • Department of Child Disservices: Maud's son gets taken away from her because she's deemed "unfit" to look after him.
  • Determinator: The suffragettes themselves, especially Emmeline Pankhurst who has been arrested multiple times, and Emily Davison who throws herself in front of a horse.
    • The movie plays it a bit like Emily meant or knew she was going to die. In Real Life it's believed she was just trying to attach a suffragette banner to the King's horse (which the movie portrays accurately.) Either way, she became a powerful martyr for the cause.
  • Domestic Abuse: Poor Violet. Her husband is a violent drunk and everyone is well-aware of this.
    • Financial Abuse: The married women have no money of their own, as their husbands own all the money the woman earns, as well as the dowry she brought into the marriage. When a wealthy man pays caution to get his wife out of prison, she begs him to pay to get her friends (they all participated in a demonstration and were arrested for no discernible reason) out, too. He refuses, just to spite her, pointing out that he owns all the money in their marriage.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Steed is disgusted when Maud is force-fed whilst in prison.
  • Force Feeding: During Maud's hunger strike in prison, she's held down and made to eat because if she dies she becomes a martyr for the suffragettes.
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: An unusual example in that the people using the disguise are actually women.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Emmeline Pankhurst admits to and goes to prison for the destruction of an (empty) manor house by the group of suffragists to which the protagonist Maud belongs.
    • Emily Davidson throws herself in front of the King's horse and is trampled to death.
  • Mama Bear: Maud, for both her son George and later Violet's daughter, whom she rescues from the wandering hands of her former boss, who molested her at the same age.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Maud's husband can't even cook for himself - when Maud is in prison, he has to marshal one of the neighbors to make him dinner.
  • The Mole: Steed attempts to recruit Maud as one. She refuses.
    • Alice Haughton serves as a mole of a sort for the suffragettes, using her high social status to pass along information regarding targets to them.
  • Police Brutality: Jesus. When the suffragettes are understandably pissed off they've been refused the right to vote, again, the police waste no time in beating them with truncheons as they scramble to arrest as many as possible.
  • Shameful Strip: When the suffragettes are arrested, they are forcibly stripped despite being political prisoners. In retaliation, they go on a hunger strike.
  • Shrinking Violet: Maud starts out this way, but she grows out of it.
  • Suffrage and Political Liberation: The film portrays harsh parts of women's struggle, like civil disobedience, vandalism, violent protests, imprisonment etc.
  • The Suffragette: A full film of Suffragettes. They try protesting peacefully, but are ignored. They begin 'civil unrest', destroy property etc. in order to be taken seriously. They are arrested multiple times, Emily Davison throws herself in front of a horse and dies, they get beaten by police, they are force-fed (which is horrible torture) and they must sacrifice their family life. Emmeline Pankhurst appears as a Historical-Domain Character.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Steed, who even says "I am the law" whilst arguing with Maud. He, however, doesn't believe the anti-suffrage arguments that women are mentally inferior to men; he just sees it as his duty to enforce the law. It's implied that he came to this viewpoint after seeing the Fenian cause (aka Irish Home Rule/Irish Republicanism) destroy the lives of its adherents.
  • Token Good Teammate: Edith's husband is one of the few men who consistently loves and supports his wife.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Maud takes off her wedding ring after her husband threw her out of the shared flat and gave their son up for adoption without her consent. Shortly after, she writes a letter, refusing the offer to become a spy and betray her fellow suffragettes in order to get her old life back. It symbolizes her commitment to the cause of voting rights for women.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The suffragettes tried protesting peacefully, but were ignored. It's only when they begin 'civil unrest' (aka destruction of property) that they start to get taken seriously.