Peripheral to the Story

On this question of exploring peripheral material, my answer is a resounding YES!!

The sidelines action is all the good stuff, forgotten or edited by the men and now available for us to exploit for unique point of view.

For example, in the movie Beckett, Peter O’Toole plays Henry Plantagenet and Richard Burton plays his chancellor (and archbishop) Beckett. There’s a scene where Henry speaks to his wife Eleanor in harsh tones saying her bed was cold. She is depicted as bound by restrictive fashion and relegated to a sewing circle.

However, this wife of Henry is Eleanor of Aquitaine who was Henry’s equal in matter of state, finance, property, and war. She was older than him, had more property than him, bore him 8 children, opened schools and hospitals, wrote law where women could own land, saw her kids married to the royal families throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, even in Russia, and was the mother of Richard the Lionhearted who she rescued from prison in Germany when she was 80 years old.  Why are there no movies about this peripheral material?

Eleanor is shown again in The Lion in Winter (played by Katherine Hepburn with Peter O’Toole still doing Henry) where she has spent 10 years in the Tower of London and is still his best sparring partner in matters of state, family, and finance.

The Lion in Winter is a great example of how a strong woman character makes the male hero look better. When we place the female protagonist stage front-and-center, we may displace the male lead, but we strengthen him as well by providing dimension. If a female character is solving problems about how to manage the kids and live on a budget, the male character has contributed to those questions and must bring his (partial) answer to the theme.

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