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She's Beautiful When She's Angry - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
She's Beautiful When She's Angry
Directing: B
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

She's Beautiful When She's Angry offers a vital look back at the beginning of the modern women's rights movement, the seeds of the changed world we live in today when it comes to the sexes. It couldn't come at a more appropriate time, with so many states restricting the rights previously gained, particularly when it came to the unifying issues of abortion and birth control. It may seem silly and playful to see a present-day protest sign that reads, IF MEN COULD GET PREGNANT BIRTH CONTROL PILLS WOULD BE AVAILABLE IN GUMBALL MACHINES, but there's also a dark truth to that sentiment.

There is also, however, a troubling lack of diversity among the talking heads, looking back at the beginning of this fight. There are a couple of black women featured, but they don't show up until roughly halfway through the film, long after we've already seen several different white women talk about how they helped get women of color involved. Of course, here I am, a white guy offering criticism of someone else's approach to race relations. But even from my perspective, it seems odd. Did director Mary Dore really have that hard a time finding women of color to speak for themselves? The resulting subtext of the film, intended or not, is that of the stereotypical white savior -- the key difference being this time it's a woman.

That aside, this film is still jam packed with key players in the women's lib movement of the late sixties and early seventies, plenty of them very open about tensions within groups (no one ever says the word "infighting," but that's what a lot of it was, as in any civil rights struggle). Some of these anecdotes are rather amusing, such as the indignation of lesbians being treated by straight women activists the same way men treat them. One group of them infiltrated a meeting and cut the lights, only to have them brought up with all their LAVENDER MENACE T-shirts revealed. The clips of interviews with Rita Mae Brown are particularly fun to watch.

We learn about the formation of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.), the Women's Liberation Front, and many other organizations, which range in tactics from legal to social to theatrical. A favorite is the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, or WITCH, which featured women dressed as witches and pretending to hex passing men. This alone is an indicator of how times have changed; how, with all the 21st-century talk of the "War on Terror," no protest group would put the word "Terrorist" in their name today. That could also be an indicator of how people today take themselves a little too seriously.

Not that that's that big a change. Certainly plenty of women in this movement took themselves too seriously back in the day, and resented the more theatrical antics as cheapening what they stood for. It's somewhat reminiscent of the now decades-old debate in the LGBT community regarding serious protest versus pointed flamboyance.

If anything, She's Beautiful When She's Angry demonstrates how even wildly disparate approaches helped move society at large toward a common goal. The film opens with a protest in Texas from just a couple of years ago, in a battleground state for current abortion rights, which are being severely restricted. These are frightening developments, and Mary Dore's point is clearly that they should frighten us all, not just women. Even to use the word "just" is misleading; it's preposterous to think of women as a minority group when they make up half the population. That makes them by far the largest oppressed group in the world.

There's a flip side, which Dore thankfully makes a point of showing: Things really are, generally speaking, far better now for women -- at least in the United States -- than they were forty years ago. They're not near good enough, but massive progress has been made. It's the continuing insidiously institutionalized misogyny that continues to threaten that progress. But films like this one show how the gains made thus far were achieved, and the people of today, particularly young ones, have much to learn from this history. I just wish the history shown here could have been painted with broader strokes, with a bit more color. Just because smaller minority groups have unique challenges doesn't mean they don't have universal lessons to share.

Early feminists spark the women's rights movement as seen in the somewhat incomplete SHE'S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE'S ANGRY.</a>

Overall: B
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