Oh but the Yanks might not like it

Facebook told me Meryl Streep and the Pankhurst slogan is trending, so I took a look at the trending…and was embarrassed. It’s so creepily and narcissistically US-centric that it makes me cringe. Apparently everyone everywhere is supposed to be alert to what Americans Might Think About This and act accordingly. And that’s supposed to be a progressive view? Please.

This piece by Yohana Desta at Mashable for instance –

Some quotes are timeless. Others are ill-timed.

The hive mind behind the film Suffragette, a biopic about the women’s suffrage movement in England, is learning that lesson the hard way after a recent gaffe that shows the film’s stars wearing shirts with an ill-advised quote spoken by suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in 1913. Meryl Streep plays Pankhurst in the film.

Cringe. It wasn’t an ill-advised quote for Pankhurst! And the film is about Pankhurst, and her context. It’s not about Americans and their contemporary context.

In a photo shoot for Time Out London, Streep, Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff and Romola Garai all sported shirts with the quote: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

While it’s safe to assume that British activist Pankhurst didn’t mean to evoke the American Confederacy —which adopted “rebel” as its descriptor of choice — her quote has unfortunate implications when read by U.S. audiences. It may have made sense in 1913, but that phrasing has a different connotation in 21st century America — and the quote also reads as though its speaker is implying that being a “slave” is somehow a choice.

So what? The movie is not about 21st century America, Time Out is not an American magazine – why is the whole world expected to worry about what the connotation might be in the 21st century United States? The US is just one country, it doesn’t get to veto what other countries say about their own history. Fucking hell – this is “social justice” as sheer narcissism.

To be fair, the film is thoroughly British and is catering to its home-turf audience; that may be why the quote didn’t initially raise any eyebrows across the pond. Still, it’s hard not to cringe when you see it splashed onto a shirt worn by arguably the most famous actress alive.

Not at all. On the contrary. The slogan resonates with other, similar slogans, such as La Pasionaria’s “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” It doesn’t even slightly suggest “the Confederacy.” The word “rebel” does not suggest that to the rest of the world, and it’s incredibly US-centric to assume that it does and should.

In an era where celebrities are quickly being called out every time they put their feet in their mouths (Matt Damon, for example), someone should have thought twice about that particular quote being singled out and emblazoned on a magazine cover.

Bullshit. It’s none of our business. In fact now I feel peeved that they didn’t get a UK actor to play Emmeline Pankhurst. Francesca Annis? Helen Mirren? Penelope Wilton?

It’s appropriation, that’s what it is.

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