M. G. Lord.The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness. New York: Walker & Co., 2012.
The author contends that several portrayals by Elizabeth Taylor brought awareness that challenged conventional views regarding the roles of women in society. In “National Velvet”, Taylor challenged that only men can be horse racing jockeys by posing as a male jockey. Her character in “A Place in the Sun” provides arguments favoring abortion. In “Butterfield 8”, her character is a woman who controls her sexual fate. In “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”, she shows a woman’s angst at her life’s difficulties. In her personal life, she was devoted to combatting AIDs.
Taylor’s acting style often presented strong presentations of strong women. The author favors theories of feminism that considers the role of women in social and economic contexts. While Taylor may not have consciously been acting towards feminism, the content shows per personal power helped define that women could become more powerful. The roles shoe had showed gender discrimination, abortion, and sexual freedom during an ear where more females were traditionally more feminine.
Taylor filmed during times of sexual repression in movies. MGM hired people to make certain Taylor did not expose too much bust line. They placed an orange between her breasts and no show showing the orange was allowed.
The Production Code Administration was a private organization that, between 1934 to 1966, fought to see that movies avoided criticizing marriage and religion. In 1966, the organization became the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures that became less aggressive on insisting upon movie morality. The movie studios promoted marriage, even requiring gay actors to engage in phony marriages.
Taylor commanded the most pay for a female actor and could choose her own roles afte 1961. She chose to portray controversial characters.
Taylor was, at age 11, an MGM contract employee when her mother advocated her being in “National Velvet”. The role of a girl who disguises herself as a male jockey sent a message to girls to not let gender hold back their aspirations.
In “A Place in the Sun”, Taylor’s character works courage to ask a doctor for an abortion.
In “Suddenly Last Summer”, the author observes “Taylor’s character stands up for herself following a traumatic rape and refuses to accept a lobotomy.
The author describes Taylor in “Butterfield 8 as a “sex positive feminist”.
Taylor portrayed women of strength and intelligence in “Giant” and in “Cleopatra”. “Cleopatra” grossed the most money for any movie in 1963 at $22 million, yet it cost $44 million to produce.
Taylor portrayed bisexual characters in “Secret Ceremony” and “X, Y, and Zee.”
In 1968, Taylor no longer was in the top ten of stars in box office revenues. The author observes tht Taylor lost some of her confidence and she began choosing less successful roles until she performed in “Ash Wednesday” in 1973 where she boldly showed what plastic surgery can achieve. Her character defends plastic surgery if done for the proper reasons, It can make an aware woman feel better but it cannot guarantee a desired change in life such as improving a marriage.