A Remarkable Human, a Remarkable Life, Too Bad Hollywood Ruined It
Gertrude Bell is one of the most remarkable people (of either sex) to have ever lived...but you wouldn't know it from this film. Archaeologist, mountain climber, poet, translator, linguist, explorer, diplomat, spy, (to name just a handful of her many accomplishments) and all in a time in which women were virtually prohibited from doing any of those things, for the most part, and in territories that even men of the time feared to tread. In addition to being the world's expert on both Sunni and Shiite relations before, during and after WWII, she was charged with drawing up the boundaries for modern day Iraq. She was respected, admired and desired.
But, since she was female, it took nearly a decade to green light a movie on her life and then some man decides to make her life story an epic "romance" and, of course, make the MEN in her life central to her story. How heartbreaking that her story was so terribly contrived to conform to Hollywood's stereotypes about women and women's lives. And how more tragic that this film could not even find a U.S. distributer as of this writing. This is why we live in a world that thinks women make little to no contributions to history. We rarely tell their stories and when we do, we stuff the round peg of a remarkable life into the square hole of Hollywood sexist tropes, believing no one wants to see a film with a female protagonist unless she's spending at least half the movie pining over some man in order to feel whole.
While the movie does cover many of her remarkable accomplishments, my beef with the film is the need to weigh her story down with overly melodramatic, poorly written scenes of tragic love instead of celebrating a superlative life of unique and notable triumphs. I wanted to see more on her travels, her discoveries, her diplomacy, her efforts during the war. Just gender flip this film (although it would be hard to find a man of history as accomplished in multiple fields as she was) and you'll see how ridiculous is the script's focus on what was only one facet of the brilliant gem that was Gertrude Bell.
I urge anyone interested in history to read about this woman's life. Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, by Janet Wallach is a great biography.
Hollywood has perfected the fine art of trivializing and "romanticizing" women's history...yet again.
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