Often when I’m researching on the Internet in preparation for a movie review (what actor played what character, location of filming, director, etc.), I come across reviews by other people. I don’t usually take the time to read them because I like to make sure what I write is completely my own thoughts, and I prefer not to be influenced. But sometimes, in scanning through for the information I want, words leap out at me. This is what happened when I was searching for info about Far From the Madding Crowd. Several reviews stopped me dead in my tracks.
I’m definitely going to have to read the book, now, to get the detailed perspective as written by Thomas Hardy. Watching this movie, I saw Bathsheba as a confident, vibrant, quick-witted, clever, and independent woman who saw herself as complete and in need of nothing else in her life to make it more so. When she inherited the huge acreage of farmland, her first instincts were to protect the livelihood of her workers, learn everything she could about farming, and make a success of her endeavours. In her own words, she intended to “astonish them all”. Nor was she about to be intimidated by an incompetent worker and a bully. Admirable qualities, I thought.
Imagine my surprise, when I read, not one, but several reviewers commenting that Bathsheba was narcissistic and vain. (One reviewer used the word vain twice in the same paragraph.) Oh, yes. If a woman doesn’t see herself as incomplete without some man ruling her life, she must be vain! What tosh! Especially when you consider that when this was written, a woman was ruling the British Empire without a man by her side.
Bathsheba, at least as portrayed in the latest movie, had all the characteristics of a successful businessman — good instincts, self-confidence, determination, a willingness to learn and to take risks — plus a kindness and largess toward her workers, as well as a reluctance to hurt any man or beast. It is unfortunate that the only man with the boldness to step up and show her what she might be missing was a cad who was definitely narcissistic and saw an easy life for himself, and, if Bathsheba hadn’t taken the initiative, the steadfast and patient Gabriel would have sailed away to the new world even though she was the only woman he had ever wanted.
I think one of the best things about our day and age is that more women are writing reviews and bringing a fresh perspective to an area where men have predominantly held sway in the past: that of the critic. Back in the Victorian age, women writers often assumed a male name in order to be published and taken seriously as writers. When do we put envy aside, and treat the opposite sex with respect? Even today, terms like “chick lit,” “chick flick,” and “bitch” are used as a put down of women, and I find it deplorable when these terms are perpetuated by women. Misogyny, today, in many instances, has taken on a more subtle form than in the past, and needs to be, if not trodden down, at the very least, pointed out, and then dismissed for the rubbish it is!