“Big Eyes” Biographical Drama Sheds Light on Feminism

It can be hard to decipher the true aims of feminist movements these days.

While some seem heroically focused on recognizing and valuing the beauty and assets that women impart onto the world, others seem like no more than schemes aimed against women. These movements manifest subtly in “women’s rights” movements that defend abortions, a procedure that cause women to be pressured, used, and leaves them mourning silently and alone for a loss that these lobbyists consider a sign of freedom. Another example is movements that encourage more women to find careers in male-dominated fields; while women should be encouraged to pursue their talents regardless of the gender ratio in the field, this cause too often leaves other women feeling pressured and made to feel guilty when they choose a career that offers more flexibility and time for their family and children. So, when does or how can feminism really concern itself with the good of all women, with all of their varied passions?

A biographical drama available on Netflix Instant might offer some enlightenment for today’s seemingly confused feminism. Directed by Tim Burton, the film “Big Eyes” starring Amy Adams tells the story of painter Margaret Keane, a woman who had to fight for the authorship of her artwork in the 1960s after her husband claimed the art as his own. The film shows how Margaret’s husband began secretly selling her artwork as his own under their ambiguous shared last name, and forced Margaret to paint for him for years even once she found out, threatening her that if she ever spoke about the lies, even to her own daughter, she would suffer. Meanwhile, he became famous worldwide for a unique art style that was not even his own.

Despite the obstacles that made Margaret feel like she could never escape, the film details how she went about declaring her authorship and freedom so that she could become the acclaimed painter she is known as today. What’s more, the film emphasizes the values that pushed Margaret to bravely change her life. Margaret didn’t speak up because she inherently hated men, or because she saw the art space as a male-dominated zone. She didn’t fight for her cause because she felt other women had to live their lives the same way as her. Rather, she valued her daughter and the artistic talent she was given and that she knew she should defend as her own.

For many feminists, this film might disappoint as not being pivoted strongly enough against men and their supposed aims to victimize and ruin women. But for those who believe in a feminism that promotes the goodness and freedom of every individual woman, this film illustrates the dedication to family and purpose that one courageous woman fought for in her own life, even when people around her continued to control her and tell her what she should do and want.

We could all learn something from Margaret and remember that feminism isn’t about telling a woman what she should want, but rather preserving woman’s freedom and purpose and defending the goodness of all women.