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The commercial about scientist Millie Dresselhaus isn’t new, but I’ve seen it reappear quite a lot on TV lately, and it got me thinking about what a shame it was that I had never heard her name before. Which was, of course, the point of the ad.
There are so many stories about amazing women we’ve never heard, but if the reception of Hidden Figures is any indication the desire to see them told is undeniable. Studios need to get it together, because it’s not as if there’s a shortage of women with cinematic lives. I’ve even gotten the ball rolling, and if they start now maybe they can secure themselves a seat at the Oscars in a few years. Without looking all that hard, I found four women whose stories would make killer movies.
Taking “live fast, die young, bad girls do it well” to heart, in 1707 Julie d’Aubigny died at the age of 33 but filled her short life with so many adventures that it’s almost unbelievable. A sampling: She was a feminist, bisexual swashbuckler, who once broke into a convent to rescue her girlfriend and then set the place on fire; When a man insulted her she stabbed him in the shoulder, and when she felt guilty enough to go see how he was doing he forgave her and they ended up becoming lovers (Imagine having that much game, that you can literally stab someone and still be able to turn it around); She went on to be an opera singer and once famously beat the hell out of a guy who was being a creep to her and the other actresses; When three men once caught her kissing a woman, they challenged her to a duel like fools, and she destroyed them all. #goals
This one might have to be more of a Netflix mini-series, because this woman’s life was so full that a single movie won’t suffice. Born a slave and freed after the Civil War, Mary Fields became besties with a nun, and lived and worked in the Old West, which was one hell of a rough place. She once fought off an entire pack of wolves with a shotgun, and was known as such a crazy badass in the city she lived in that the Mayor gave saloons- who didn’t serve alcohol to women who weren’t prostitutes- special permission to serve her whenever she wanted. Over six feet tall and known for smoking cigars, you messed with her and you got wrecked. When some pissbaby white guy complained that a black woman was making more money than him and started talking trash, she literally shot him in the ass. She also tried running a restaurant, but it closed rather quickly because she served anyone who was hungry whether or not they could pay. She was also the second woman and first black person to work for the US Post Office. Mary Fields lived to be 82, not bad for that time, and especially incredible for someone whose life was so rough.
A British WWII Special Operations Executive agent who was the Gestapo’s most wanted person (there was a 5 million franc reward on her head), Nancy Wake was called “the White Mouse” because she was so good at evading capture. But more importantly, and perhaps the most badass thing I’ve ever heard: during a raid, in order to stop an SS guard from raising alarm, Wake killed him intently with a judo chop to the throat. SHE THROAT PUNCHED A NAZI TO DEATH IN ONE GO. Bonus: it was the first time she had ever actually done it in real life and was apparently “really surprised” by the result. That one scene alone would be worth the price of admission.
Maybe it’s because we just celebrated the Fourth of July, but I’m feeling it for women who fight for their country. Did you know that a teenage girl, Sybil Ludington, rode twice the distance of Paul Revere to warn American troops that the British were coming? And yet almost nobody has ever heard her name, while every American has heard that stupid poem about the Midnight Ride. She would be a good biopic subject too, but my first thought was about Deborah Sampson. Taller than a lot of the men of her time at 5 feet 9 inches, Sampson disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War, but was shot twice during her first battle. Afraid that she would be discovered, she dug out a musket ball out of her leg on her own with a knife and ran away. She was eventually discovered, but was given an honorable discharge in a time when women were usually punished for serving disguised as a man. Deborah had to fight for, and won, back pay that was withheld from her and her friend Paul Revere (who I was kind of bitter about a few sentences ago but actually seemed like a pretty cool guy) wrote to the government arguing that she should receive a military pension, which she would later receive.
What other women are long overdue for a biopic?