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The Next America Culture 2012 / Culture

Fractured Feminism: New Film Explores Different Definitions of Movement

June 11, 2012

It’s a familiar story line: Uptight successful woman returns to her mother’s house, young children on the cusp of adulthood in tow, after a personal tragedy (in this case a divorce) upends her world.

What follows for the characters in Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding is a familiar negotiation between familial love and conflicting worldviews and values systems between the generations.

Movies about intergenerational strife abound, Chloe Angyal, wrote last week in The Atlantic. What makes Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding unique, she says, is its exploration of the definition of feminism and what that has come to encompass in the 40-plus years since feminist protesters tossed bras, cosmetics, and high-heeled shoes into a trash can outside the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.

Although the word feminism does not appear in the film, the three generations of women represent the fragmented but inclusive reality of American feminism, Angyal wrote.

The film focuses on the lives of Grace, a sixtysomething Woodstock resident, whose world still closely resembles that of the 1970s; Grace’s daughter Diane, a conservative lawyer who lives in New York City, who returns to her mother’s house after a 20 year hiatus; and Grace's two children, Zoe and Jake.

Zoe, an idealist aspiring poet, spends much of the film trying to find “a pragmatic sweet spot between principals and practicality,”  Angyal says.

To find that sweet spot, Grace, Diane, and Zoe must forgive each other’s shortcomings as mothers, daughters, and wives. It’s a negotiation reflected among today’s feminists.

According to Angyal, feminism is now more than the free love of Grace’s generation. It’s more than a woman’s right to higher education and a successful career of Diane’s generation. Feminism exceeds past definitions and encompasses, among other things, the need for LGBT rights, racial equality, disability rights, and socioeconomic equity.

In Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, the characters are learning to deal with that fragmentation and nuance.  It’s a process that today’s feminists are undergoing as well, Angyal writes.

“They’re making tough decisions about what to do when the rubber of idealism hits the road of reality. They’re making learning from their mothers’ and grandmothers’ successes and failures,” Angyal notes. “In Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, as in the real world, that goes for the person and the political.”

Read more here.

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