The Daily Mail and Emily Lloyd: Yet another actress stands accused of being human

In 1987, the year in which the film Wish You Were Here? was released, I spent most of my time in a mental hospital. I was 12 years old and suffering from anorexia. For most of the summer and a good part of the autumn I was on on bed rest, intermittently awarded and denied “privileges” based on weight gained and lost. For several weeks I was denied visitors, phonecalls and reading material. Fortunately, one day I found a copy of 19 stuffed down the side of the bed. For a long time the magazine was all I had to look at, other than the carpet, the wall and the ceiling. So I read it again and again.

The feature I remember most was an interview with the actress Emily Lloyd, star of Wish You Were Here?, then aged 17. Entitled “Here’s Emily”, the piece was illustrated with a photo of Lloyd in a silly pose, arms above her head, soft stomach sticking out. She looked really different, and really cool. When asked what her biggest flaw was, she said “I’m greedy. For food, mostly”. I was impressed. I wanted to be like her, and not like me. This desire only increased a year later, when I saw the film on VHS. She was brilliant (so inspired was I that, years later, I considered announcing my first pregnancy to HR by saying “a man’s willy has entered my person and left a little visitor behind”. Obviously I didn’t. But I, um, could have).

I didn’t end up being remotely like Emily Lloyd – famous, talented – or even anything like the character Lynda – outspoken, brave, memorable. These days I could at least say that Lloyd is more like me, insofar as, by our standard measures of sanity, she doesn’t appear to measure up. But this is a vague and tenuous similarity, not that such things make any difference to the Daily Mail, who, as Rethink highlighted today, have decided to publish a piece castigating the actress for simply walking down the street while not being the person she’s apparently meant to be.

“She was once a radiant and glamorous woman” begins the article, before going on to describe how “the last two decades have been less than kind to the Bafta winning actress due to a tragic battle with depression and insomnia”. Perhaps it’s tragic by normal standards, but for the Mail, it’s actually a gift. For a paper that spends so long scrutinising successful women, searching out every single “flaw”, bullying and provoking, Lloyd presents someone who doesn’t even need that extra push towards the edge. She’s meant to be there already, what with her various mental health diagnoses. Once she seemed strong, confident and different and now, according to the Mail, she’s not. Ha. If only all other women who think they’re something special could hurry up and have a fucking breakdown too.

Of course, this misses the point. Lloyd remains a tremendous talent in a way that no one who writes for the Mail will ever be. She inspires affection in a way that no one who writes for the Mail ever can. Even if she never makes another film, she’s made at least one that’s very special. If going from those heights to walking your dog without wearing makeup constitutes “failure”, then I think most of us would like to “fail” in that way.

We’re all of us in decline – all of us getting older and uglier and more and more tired. The Daily Mail can throw this in the faces of women in particular, day after day, but it’s not the accusation the writers think it is. There is no shame in being human, and no shame in being mentally ill. I used to fear there was, back when I first read about Emily Lloyd – when I had already “failed” – but now I don’t. Up yer bum to that stupid paper and all of its pointless hate.


12 thoughts on “The Daily Mail and Emily Lloyd: Yet another actress stands accused of being human

  1. I wish Emily Lloyd would read this, it could counteract the poisonous shit that the Daily Hate thinks it’s ok to print about her. They really are a soulless bunch of vile misogynist arseholes. I remember that film with great affection, and shock horror, it starred a real person! Up yer bum indeed. Rachel xx

  2. What are you talking about? I look at the DM quite regularly. Online of course I don’t waste my money on it. Anyway, for every criticism of a woman/women in general, there are a dozen (I’m guessing the figure) criticisms of a man/men in general. You can multiply that by hundreds in the more left wing media. Emily Lloyd is an actor who turned in one memorable performance but completely failed to follow it up. I have only seen one other film with her in it (also starred Keifer Sutherland) and it stank. So the fact that she is a woman means no one is allowed to criticise her? Isn’t that, er, sexist? I obviously wish her well in her problems with insomnia and depression. (I have suffered them both in great quantity but I’m a man so no one ever gave a toss.) And Lynda? (Based on a real person- a young Cynthia Payne- I am told)- was “brave, outspoken, memorable”? I recall the film quite well- so definitely memorable- but if she struck me as arrogant and emotionally inadequate. If the protagonist was a young man he would have been seen as a hateful antihero. Sexism. Against men. Again.

    1. I find it very strange to read “the fact that she is a woman means no one is allowed to criticise her” into anything I’ve written. I don’t think anyone should be criticised for suffering from mental illness, getting older or daring to be seen in public while failing to look like Marilyn Monroe. That is, I think, quite different.

      1. But you did though! Going on about “scrutinising successful women” etc. I think its awful when a person’s failures and tragedies are held up for everyone to observe. Total agreement with you. My objection was your (in my view) inaccurate injection of gender politics. As if Emily Lloyd’s gender makes her somehow immune. But in your reply to me you decide to extend that to anyone. Not so in your original post. Indeed, no one should be criticised for getting older, suffering mental illness or failing to look like Marilyn Monroe. I am guilty of all of these things, (though I have made no substantial attempts to look like Marilyn to be honest).

        1. Hmm. I understand we disagree on whether the Mail is harder on men than on women. But that’s all I think there is. I really don’t see how you can read a belief that women should be immune from criticism per se in anything I’ve written. I think a dislike of women motivates some of the Mail’s criticism – I realise you don’t. But this isn’t the same as me saying it’s fine for anyone else to be criticised on equally spurious grounds.

      2. To pursue my point I’ll have to spend much more time scrutinising the Daily Mail and I really have more agreeable things to do with my time. Like ingesting fecal vomit. So that’s that I guess but I genuinely think you have shoe-horned a gender element into a story where it does not belong. Emily Lloyd was just not that good. She had one performance in her. Compare her to her near-contemporary Kate Winslet, who put on an equally or more impressive debut (Heavenly Creatures- seen it? You should!) but unlike Lloyd she followed it up with a series of even better costume drama performances, hit paydirt with Titanic and it has been acclaim and awards ever since. And Kate has had to deal with her own eating disorder and some ghastly treatment from the likes of the DM etc. (Having sworn off women I admit that Kate is my kryptonite). Under the public glare Kate had the talent and confidence to stare it back down and sadly Emily did not. Not a gender thing. More to do with the growth of celebrity culture which is, in my observation, pretty much a girl thing. Who cares what Emily Lloyd looks like now? Well, if anybody, other women. Or how much the latest female pop star “insert name” weighs this week? Or how drunk was Tara Blinky-Blenkinsop/whichever low end-socialite last night? Mostly again women. If Kate put on a load of weight I’d still think she is bloody fantastic but the icy judgemental stare of the tabloids would be cast upon her for the benefit of their female readers. It just seems to be catnip to them. Yes of course there are ‘lads’ mags’, page 3 etc. but that’s just brief titillation. Its not clever, commendable or healthy and its certainly not my cup of tea but its nothing more than a squint at the boobs and move on with your life. Immature, sleazy and I wish it would stop but way less damaging than the superficial tut-tut gossip “ooh look at her” material that women seem to crave.

        1. Just reading Emily Lloyds book and sad to hear about her mental breakdown. Being a former psychiatric nurse for over 30 years I can understand her description of life in a psychiatric unit but what upsets is this obvious talented actress and very human individual is not seen more often on the big screen. Just saw a few clips of Emilys firs movie, WISH YOU WERE HERE on ytube and fell for her acting and personality. So charming and natural. Cant someone employ her??? Please!! Raymond O’Donoghue

  3. Excellent as usual. That Daily Fail article you link to however is just so shockingly lacking in critical analysis that it has to be written by a man 😉

    1. …anyone can make a mistake. But only a special few can make remarks that are so poisonous, hurtful, obnoxious, inaccurate and sexist.

  4. she had what most people didn’t… a chance at stardom and she made the most of it.. the fact that she is dealing with her mental illness..and admits to it.. makes her brave.. hope she comes back… I will definitely be rooting for her

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