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M.G. Lord on Elizabeth Taylor, the accidental feminist [Video]

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You may associate M.G. Lord with "Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll" or "Astro Turf," a family memoir about Cold War aerospace culture. Last year, Lord, who teaches at USC, came out with "The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice."

Speaking at the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lord referenced all three works -- with a heavy emphasis on "The Accidental Feminist." How on Earth, she was asked, did you decide to write about La Liz?

"I never thought I’d write a book about Elizabeth Taylor," she said in a video interview. But "a few years ago I found myself stuck in a vacation house in Palm Springs with a bunch of kids -- people who had no idea who Elizabeth Taylor was. The only thing we had for entertainment was a boxed set of her movies.

"We expected a night of camp," Lord continued. "We started watching [the movies] in chronological order ... beginning with ‘National Velvet.’ We were gob-smacked by the unrelenting feminist messages in every movie. In 'National Velvet,' her 12- year-old character challenges gender discrimination. She poses as a male jockey and wins, exposing the pure bigotry of not letting women race.

"The next movie, 'A Place in the Sun,' was an abortion-rights movie."

Taylor, Lord said, could "communicate ideas non-verbally." The actress was effective despite rigid censorship of film at that time.

"Any student of mine who is complacent about abortion rights ought to take a look at 'A Place in the Sun.' Similarly, take a look at 'Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' It’s a look at a world where a very bright woman played by Elizabeth Taylor is very frustrated."

For more on M.G. Lord and "The Accidental Feminist" please click on the video above.

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