Honourable Women

 

Maggie GyllenhaalI loved the BBC's recent Jamaica Inn.

Although a handful of viewers made more noise about adjusting the volume on their remote controls (I had no problems), I was totally engrossed in what was a brilliantly adapted (Emma Frost), fantastically directed (Philippa Lowthorpe) drama with a strong character at its core (wonderfully portrayed by Jessica Brown Findlay). 

It struck me that the search for strong and compelling characters – who happen to be women – can take us decades or even hundreds of years into the past.

A quick Google search threw up the following:

Medea, Jane Eyre, Catherine Earnshaw, Beatrice, Lady Macbeth, Portia, Rosalind, Titania, Rebecca, Masha, Hedda Gabler….

What does this tell us? That our predecessors were more tuned-in to the characterisation of women? Is that why the revival of these great women on stage and screen is so frequent? 

The dialogue in 2014 about the lack of compelling roles for women is ongoing. However, if we cast a glance towards The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen or Rue or Nessa Stein (brilliantly portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal in Hugo Blick's The Honourable Woman on the BBC) can we can be quietly confident the tide is turning? Optimistic that these modern creations are lining up with those of the past? What do these characters have in common? They are fully formed, real, their stories are compelling – and they happen to be women.