Jackie Ushers in The Year Of the Woman
To quote American actress and singer Ethel Merman, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” I’m calling this the sweet smell of 2017 – the year of the woman. Women continue to reach new heights and harness greater power in the global marketplace. The evidence is everywhere, from the record number of female leaders in the world to Bloomberg’s 2016 Female Factor Report recognizing our 85% purchasing power strength. While this adds leverage to our value proposition in the never ending equity climb, Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s recent film about Jackie Kennedy signals a poignant evolution in our womanscape journey.
Historically people have taken the battles of the world to the cinema and other creative outlets like the stage, television and books. When the world we live in is frustrating, we look to the creative world for escape. During both World Wars, film was a transformative tool 1 and a place for us to work out societal problems. Case in point for women, as well. It’s no secret there has been a dearth of quality roles for women in film even though I’ve written about the incremental change that’s happening (see “The Wild Lens” post). More complex female archetypes are popping up on screen, in the latest crop of movies like Loving, Equity, Kate Plays Christine, Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, and Miss Sloane. But Natalie Portman’s haunting performance in Jackie is a game changer that revisits American history while showcasing the female hero in a whole new perspective.
Noah Oppenheim’s screenplay doesn’t draw from any accredited sources but presents Jackie as a sophisticated and complex female archetype, imbued with an unparalleled strength, conviction and intelligence not yet appreciated in the pages of history. The movie asks us to consider this alternative view of Jackie, created from a journalist’s interview and pieced together through unusual and creative vignettes that travel back and forth from the moment when Kennedy was assassinated in Texas.
The series of Jackie’s heartaches and critical decisions focus on preserving her husband’s presidential legacy and challenge the historical role of her imprint on this legacy. In the movie, Jackie is vulnerable but politically savvy. The movie suggests the legend of Camelot and the royalty of the Kennedys was the result of a brilliant orchestration by Jackie. The effect is twofold: a powerful reinterpretation of the more demure Jackie that most Americans know from her legendary televised tour of the White House; and, a view to Jackie’s impactful leadership helping America through one of its most painful chapters in history, her greatness heightened by her very personal loss.
Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is arguably one of the most beloved First Ladies and casting her in an entirely fresh light rewrites the pages of history. The movie reminds us how subjective history can be and how plausible it is to consider that important voices, aka Jackie’s and many other great women’s voices, may have been overlooked in history.
Natalie Portman’s ” haunting ” performance of Jackie and the burst of other movies highlighting important women in history are casting a supernova spotlight on women in 2017. The explosion of light is fueled by great stories about strong women, real and fabricated, that provide opportunities for inspiration and that climb to all manners of equity in the world.
What lies ahead? The movies have never been more exciting as both the established silver screen moguls and Indie giants like HBO rush to tell stories about some of history’s most fascinating women like Queen Victoria. As we navigate increasingly complex problems in the world, I’ll look to the stars and the brightest talents in our creative industries to pick up the torch. Like Jackie who said, “I am a woman above everything else,” I’ll share this truth as I head back to the movies searching for innovative ideas and creative forces for building real change in the world. Happy New Year!