New Statesman: “I did not want her to become a decrepit old hag.” Why elderly men kill their wives

“I did not want her to become a decrepit old hag. I loved her too much for that.” Those are the words of 89-year-old Philip Williamson, who last week received a suspended two-year prison sentence for the manslaughter of his 83-year-old wife Josephine.

A retired teacher, Josephine was suffering from dementia and becoming increasingly dependent on her husband, who had terminal cancer. Philip claims to have been following his wife downstairs when “something took over me and I pushed her”. Once she had reached the bottom, he also strangled her. The judge presiding over the case, Joanna Cutts QC, accepted that in killing Josephine Philip “felt this was the only way to limit or prevent her suffering”.

Philip Williamson is not the first husband to make such a decision on behalf of an elderly wife suffering from dementia. In December last year Ronald King, 87, shot dead his wife Rita, 81, at the care home where she lived. King told staff that his wife “had suffered enough”. He was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, in what the investigating police officer described as “a particularly sad and tragic case”. Other cases, such as that of Angus Mayer and his late wife Margaret, who had Alzheimer’s, have yet to come to court.

Read the full post at the New Statesman


The Pool: Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser about body image

The last time I was ID’d when buying alcohol I was 32 years old. This may not sound too bad, except before I’d had the chance to respond, the cashier looked up and said “actually, it’s alright – I just hadn’t seen your face.”

I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it, other than that I didn’t look under 18, which ought to have been fine, since I wasn’t. But of course I went home and scrutinised my obviously-not-underage face. “You ought to be pleased,” said my partner, “it must mean your body looks younger than your head.” I told him this wasn’t helping.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who worries about looking old, not least because that’s the kind of thing old people do. I’ve got enough to worry about, body-image wise – the tops of my thighs, my uneven smile, acne scars and a midriff I can’t even bear to touch. I had always assumed that by the time I was bothered about crow’s feet and a saggy neck, I’d have stopped noticing the rest.

I imagined there being a finite amount of body image worry a person could have. You were allocated it at birth and once it was used up, you were no longer capable of giving a toss. I even fantasised that having suffered from anorexia and bulimia throughout my teens and twenties, I’d have “used up” my worry faster than everyone else. Soon I’d be safely on the side of not caring. Now, at 41, I’m starting to fear this might never happen.

Read the full post at The Pool

A feminist’s fear of forty

I can remember my mum turning 40. I was 11 at the time. She looked sad and told me “I feel so old” so I said “no, you’re not,” obviously thinking “yes, you are” plus “I’ll make sure I never get like that.” Deep down, some part of me felt that if my mother didn’t like being 40 so much, she shouldn’t have let it happen to her. As far as I was concerned, ageing was a failing on her part.

Now, of course, it has happened to me – today, in fact. I might be 29 years older, but I haven’t lost that sense that getting old is a woman’s own stupid fault. After all, we live in a culture in which women are constantly told that they can “turn back time” and find “eternal youth” with the latest creams and serums. Rationally, we know this is nonsense – that it means, at best, “be margially less obviously wrinkled than you would have been had you not used this product which you can’t even afford” – but still it feels as though it is literally our responsibility not to pass the age of 35 (and that should we do so, we deserve everything we get). We know what’s coming – we all get a shot at youth and plenty of time to think about how to hold on to it – therefore once the inevitable happens, we’re left feeling it wasn’t inevitable at all (obviously, I’m aware that reaching 40 is far better than not reaching 40, yet I can’t shake the feeling that it was down to me to find a middle way between getting older and dying young. Isn’t that what all women are meant to do?). Continue reading

Louise Mensch’s Unfashionista: A missed opportunity for un-learning

Every now and then, fashion-y  types decide that the most fashionable thing ever is to pretend to be anti-fashion. Witness, for instance, the so-called “anti-fashion” movement of the 1990s (which, from what I can work out from Wikipedia, involved dressing as though you were either very poor or in a CK One advert, providing you were both thin and not actually poor). I’ve always thought this kind of thing was not just bollocks, but snobby bollocks, the kind of thing a manipulative playground bully would try on (“wear this! Ha-ha! Fooled ya! What we actually meant was wear the precise opposite! It’s un-fashion!”). But hey, what do I know? I’m properly unfashionable, as opposed to being fashionably unfashionable, which is something completely different. Continue reading

Hate the way you look? Best get over it now

You know that thing you have, when you think you’re fat and ugly and totally unfit to be seen in public? Well, here’s some news: it never, ever ends.

Like me, you might have thought there’d be some vaguely-defined point – getting thin, finding your own style, meeting your Fairy Godmother – when it would get sorted. But no. Sorry. Feel shit now? It’s quite possible that you always will. Why did you ever think it would stop?

You may have counted on the ageing process to put everything in perspective. God knows, this is what I’ve been placing my bets on. I thought that once I actually looked the way I half-think I look anyhow, I’d be forced to accept it at last. Turns out I was wrong. According to Professor Nicola Rumsey, co-director of the University of West England’s Centre for Appearance Research (which is, one imagines, one massive lab lined with mirrors), older people remain as hung up on their appearance as the rest of us. In fact, once you start getting proper wrinkles, as opposed to “first signs of ageing” mini-creases, the way you feel can get worse. You don’t just think “ah, fuck it, battle’s already lost!”, which is certainly what I’d hoped. Quoted in The Observer, Rumsey says the following:

It can cause substantial distress to look in the mirror and see an ageing body, especially if [people] have very visible conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or an obvious skin condition, for example, yet in the UK we can be very dismissive of what is often construed as vanity. GPs are not trained to deal with the psychological impact of these anxieties, which can have a significant influence on overall wellbeing.

Well. How’s that for a total fucker? I’m scared enough of death itself. Now I’ll be torturing myself on my deathbed for wasting not half my life, but my whole life worrying about my appearance. Plus I’ll still be worrying about it then, and about whether the morphine’s making my complexion look even worse.

This is such a contrast to the usual message we hear. Plonked in the midst of a youth-obsessed culture, magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman and Home present us with “well-preserved” women in their forties and fifties claiming that they’ve never felt better. They’re now comfortable in their own skins, and don’t put themselves under the same pressures any more. Those “mature skin” serums that are being advertised on the following pages? Well, don’t take them seriously. The magazine editors don’t. They’re just suggesting you part with fifty quid for the sheer hell of it.

My nan is in her nineties. She swears that she got this far by dyeing her hair (it’s deep red and it’s ace). She still cares about how she looks. I’ve always known this, yet I’ve considered it something of an anomaly. I’ve always looked at her and thought “she looks good, but when I’m her age I’ll just be stuffing myself on Werther’s”. Except now it seems entirely plausible that I won’t.

Why can’t being old enable one to put things in perspective? I mean, I could try to put things in perspective now, I suppose. But it’s too hard! I thought you magically got perspective upon hitting 60! And I thought this applied to everything! Love, money, career, all of it – I want to stop giving a shit, albeit without it involving any actual effort on my part! I thought the simple fact of getting older would do it. It’s sooooo not fair! *teenage stomp*

I am so pissed off about this. It’s all such a total swizz, this life business. A total swizz, and then you just cease being. Actually, that sounds quite philosophical, for me. Maybe I will buck the trend after all.

Facing up to oldie feminism

So I am learning that my somewhat extreme response to Snow White and the Huntsman is not common to all feminists. What the fuck’s wrong with them, the fucking fuckwits? Only kidding. I guess it’s fair enough. Going to see a film that pitches ageing, secretly ugly woman (evil) against young, perfectly pretty woman (good) is not the best of ideas on your 37th birthday. Particularly when you realise that the ageing, secretly ugly woman is played by someone your age. And that compared to her you ming. No wonder my response is a bit “out there”.

There is a bit of me, though, that looks at some responses to the film and thinks “well, of course you don’t give a shit. That’s because you’re young. You identify with Kirsten Stewart, see her leading an army and think that’s all there is”. And all of that sounds incredibly patronising. But hey, I still think it. Moreover, I feel a bit patronised, too. Don’t you think I can’t see it? I can see all the shitty feminist manoeuvres that stupid film makes. But they’re all annulled by the narrative itself, and the positioning on beauty, ageing and a woman’s worth.

I’m turning into one of those feminists, aren’t I? One of those oldie ones who rants about younger ones. And I’m only 37! I wasn’t ready to make the switch just yet! I don’t want to be one of them! They moan about young feminists excluding them and not engaging with matters that relate to them. And in the past whenever I’ve heard such complaints, I’ve thought “well, that’s hardly helpful, attacking us young ‘uns, is it?” But actually they’ve got a point. Except if I say that, that’s also patronising (I used to think that, but I was wrong, therefore if you think it now, you’ll be wrong. I hate it when people do that. Especially me).

When they’re not going on about a whole host of other made-up injustices, some men’s rights campaigners like to hone in on the very idea of the feminist as an ageing, ugly woman – a “fugly”, if you will – who’s just pissed off about losing her own status to younger prettier women who can still do stuff (i.e. have babies). A fugly is a bit like Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman, only actually ugly (not to labour the point, or anything). I think age is a central issue in feminism because a woman’s reproductive and non-reproductive life is, unjustly, perceived to define her worth. It is unfair on us at any age. But I always used to close my ears a little to the complaints of older women about becoming “invisible”. I might even have thought “you should be so lucky”. I didn’t want to think about it because I knew it will happen to me, too. It will happen to you, and even Kristen sodding Stewart if we don’t do anything to challenge it (Not Kristen! Nooooooo!).

There’s a bit towards the end of Snow White when the heroine says to Ravenna “I’m not like you”. But in many ways she is. She will get old. She will lose her value. I don’t want feminism to be some in-fight between older and younger women (especially given that we slightly older ones get portrayed as the murderous bitches, while the younger ones merely kick ass). I want there to be an unquestioned understanding that a woman’s life is of value at all stages. But how many slut walkers did you see with tits down to their ankles? (There was me. But that’s how I usually dress.)

The thing is, though, I don’t want to start posturing as the wise woman, giving (no doubt unwanted) counsel to the younger feminists. First, I’m not very wise. Second, there are loads of younger feminists so wise it makes me want to curl up and die of embarrassment. I was such a tosser at 25! You wouldn’t believe how much of a tosser I was! (bwt, that’s not a patronising comment on your presumed lack of credulity. It’s just to stress I was a total tosser.) And there are lots of feminists in their mid-twenties and they make sense! How do they do that? (Honestly, girls, when I was your age I was, I was … not in fact doing anything remotely exciting, come to think of it. So, um, yeah. Keep up the good work.)

Well, this is the start of my descent into rambly old lady pieces. Which is of course patronising to old ladies, rambly or otherwise. I wonder how many people it’s possible to patronise in one post?

I’ll get my (mutton dressed as lamb) coat.

PS I’m aware there may be older feminists who like Snow White and the Huntsman. Well, the others have an excuse. But honestly, I’d expected better of you *disappointed, and hence patronising, face*.

Snow White and the Huntsman: Shitting Crikey

‘Shitting crikey’ is not a term I use liberally. First coined, I believe, in 2003, by a friend during the particularly tense Rugby World Cup Finals, it is used to express extreme stress, shock or horror. Such a term should not be used willy-nilly, lest it lose its impact. Hence I’ve never used it on this blog before. However, my partner and I have just been to the cinema to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Our shared response? SHITTING CRIKEY.

Last Friday my parents offered to look after the children so that my partner and I could go out for a meal. The cinema was a last-minute add-on, something which just popped into out heads because hey, you gotta be spontaneous once the kids are out of the way. We chose Snow White and the Huntsman because nothing else was still showing by the time we’d finished eating. That is the best excuse I can offer. I did kind of know the film would be crap. Just not shitting crikey crap.

I imagine the internet is full of appalled feminist reviews of this film. I lay no claim to originality (except, perhaps, in my use of ‘shitting crikey’ in this particular context). But the fact is, I sat through this film. I really suffered. So I deserve my reviewing moment (plus, if you’re considering seeing it, don’t bother. I’ll provide all the details below so you don’t have to go).

To make sure I don’t miss anything, I’ve decided to go through the film step by step. Please enjoy (although I sure as hell didn’t).

1. Beautiful fairytale queen pricks her finger on rose bush. 

The normal pleb response to such an occurrence is to go “ow, my finger!” and give it a good suck to stop the bleeding. If you are a fairytale queen, however, you allow the blood to drip dramatically onto the winter snow before wishing, Victoria Beckham-style, for a daughter with lips as red as blood, hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow i.e. a daughter who, if she were to have a Colour Me Beautiful style consultation, would be placed in the “clear” category and advised to wear bright clothing in order to avoid appearing clownish. This being a fairy tale, the queen has such a daughter. She christens her Snow White (in the film) and buys her an aqua pashmina to complement her high-contrast colouring (not in the film, but probably true).

2. Beautiful queen dies.

From winter and coughing in a ladylike fashion, it would appear. Everyone is sad. But hey, not to worry. The king soon finds a new bride, a woman who’s posing as the prisoner of a ghostly army he defeats. He marries her within a day of meeting her, on the basis that she looks like Charlize Theron (not that he’s superficial or anything).

3. New queen kills king on their wedding night.

In what Daily Mail reviewer Christopher Tookey describes as “her own, highly individual take on women’s rights”, Queen Ravenna (Theron) tells her new husband that men use women, value them only for their beauty and then dump them for younger models. To be honest, I don’t consider this to be a “highly individual” viewpoint, and imagine you’d be hard pressed to find a feminist who didn’t believe this to be a reality for many women. Particularly for Hollywood actresses. Even more particularly for extraordinarily beautiful Hollywood actresses, who may have won an Oscar for “minging up” a few years back but who now find themselves on the wrong side of 35, faced with the genuine prospect of becoming less attractive and less in demand (not saying any names). I don’t find the idea that men exploit and then discard economically and socially less-advantaged women the minute the wrinkles start to appear an “individual take” on gender relations at all. What I do find “highly individual” is the intimation that any woman who makes such an observation is actually a murderous harpy who’s about to stab her husband in the heart. You don’t get any of this pseudo-wimmin’s lib bollocks in Disney’s Snow White. Quite frankly, I’d prefer some random “I’m evil, mwah hah hah!” outburst to this antifeminist shite.

4. Queen Ravenna imprisons Snow White until she’s old enough, but not too old, to play the female lead in a Hollywood blockbuster.

In the intervening years Ravenna keeps young and beautiful using a combination of Botox, Crème de la mer and sucking the essence from gorgeous young maidens, leaving them wizened old husks. Actually, I made that up. She doesn’t do the first two as they’re a bit far-fetched and don’t really work. She does the last one, though, and it seems pretty effective (you have to get the right maidens, though. Lily Cole, for instance, who’s in the film – she’s the Lancôme Prevage of maidens. Me at 18, well, you’d be thinking more Nivea Q10, at best).

In a bonus misogynist twist, it’s suggested that Ravenna’s belief that beauty is power is all a personal delusion. The director has added in special camera views so that, while Ravenna’s talking to the ridiculous CGI mirror, you see it from a different angle and it looks like she’s talking to herself, meaning this “being the fairest of them all” crap is all in her head. So she’s a delusional moron as well as a murderous bitch! This is very odd, though, when you consider the actual plot of the film. Ravenna can only be killed “by fairest blood”, i.e. Snow White. Snow White’s authority clearly doesn’t come from being beautiful on the inside, whatever that might mean. It comes from appearing before people, or dwarves, or trolls, and possibly saying fuck all, but happening to look like Kristen Stewart. How to make sense of it all?

These, I think, are the essential conclusions to draw:

  1. For women, beauty is power
  2. For women, acknowledging that beauty is power means you’re mad
  3. For women, attempting to do something to preserve your own power within this paradigm means you’re evil
  4. For women, life is a total fucker

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart’s locked in the tower, getting prettier and prettier, despite the mud and squalour. She probably has BO, though, given the lack of facilities. That’s what crossed my bitchy wrong-side-of-35 mind when seeing her in her cell.

5. Snow White escapes from the castle and into a perfume advert.

Ravenna decides that permanent youth and beauty can be hers if she consumes Snow White’s heart. Which is a bit extreme. After all, the scientists at Proctor & Gamble are working day and night to “smooth the way to younger-looking skin”. Hold off with the heart-eating, queenie! What’s that? You’ve got a kingdom to subjugate and just don’t have the time to wait for the clinical trials? I suppose that’s a fair excuse.

Snow White doesn’t want her heart to be eaten, though. So she breaks out of the palace, with a sponge and rusty spanner (oh, okay, a rusty nail, and no sponge, but a bonus Smiths reference would have raised the film slightly in my estimation). Breaking out of the palace by the sea is hard, though, and involves jumping into wild, crashing waves when there’s nowhere left to run. It’s unclear how Snow White survives this. Presumably even the waves recognise her superior beauty, especially since once she’s been made wet and non-muddy, she looks extra gorgeous and not at all in need of one of those special shampoos that gets salt water out of your hair.

Once she’s out of the ocean, she spots a pure white horse sitting on the sands. So she rides off on him, using the equestrian skills she picked up while incarcerated in a tiny cell for the past decade, while the narrator intones “Fairest blood. The new fragrance from Lacoste”. Except he doesn’t. But he should.

6. Ravenna goes completely mental and briefly turns into the baddie from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Faced with a young man from the village, Ravenna does that thing where you make your hand into a claw shape and hold it over your opponent’s heart, making it beat faster and faster until finally it stops. This worked okay in Indiana Jones but looks a bit incongruous here. Plus it adds extra confusion because the man she kills looks quite a lot like Snow White’s childhood sweetheart William. In fact, both my partner and I, quite independently, decided it was him. So then when William did appear later in the film we both thought he had risen from the dead and was hence a baddie in disguise. But he wasn’t! He was just William! (although not just William from the Just William books – don’t want to add that in as an extra layer). But as if that wasn’t bad enough, just to mess things up all over again, Ravenna disguises herself as William to give Snow White the poison apple, so then he is a baddie in disguise. Only he isn’t, because that’s not really William, it’s Ravenna, and there’s still a William who isn’t a baddie in disguise. Do you follow all this? Cause we didn’t. They should have got an actor who looked more different. Or just not bothered with the Indiana Jones scene at all.

7. Snow White ends up in the Dark Forest, where she meets the Huntsman.

In Disney’s Snow White, made in 1937, the dark forest scene is amazing. It’s just a person’s drawing of some trees, albeit with the branches made to look like fingers reaching out, and the bark distorted to look like faces. But it’s absolutely terrifying. It’s done with such verve and such passion, and with such a focus on the cartoon Snow White’s own fears and perspective. It’s not just someone sitting around thinking “hmm, are there any special effects I can borrow from the Harry Potter movies?”, which is what you get here.

So the dark forest is not that scary. It’s just a bit yuck, with insects and smoke machines and general ickiness. But it’s where Snow White meets the Huntsman, who’s been sent by the queen to find her. If you can remember the Robin of Sherwood TV series produced by Richard Carpenter in the early 80s, the Huntsman is basically Will Scarlett off that. A medieval man of action who’s got anger issues, but also a sensitive side because he’s lost his beloved wife. It’s particularly weird because Ray Winstone, who played Will Scarlett, also appears in this film, only as a dwarf. How the mighty have fallen. Or, in this case, shrunk.

The Huntsman is also a bit of an alcoholic, which is quite an achievement given that he’s in a kingdom where the crops have all failed. Furthermore, his hipflask never appears to run dry. If I were Snow White, I’d have asked for a swig, but she’s quite judgmental about the whole thing, curiously so, since what would she know about booze? (Perhaps a fellow prisoner gave her PSHE and horseriding lessons through the wall of an adjoining cell.)

One other thing to note: As soon as she meets the Huntsman, Snow White becomes crap at fighting and stuff, having originally been really plucky during her castle escape. Now she’s pants at everything other than being beautiful. He gives her a knife and tells her how to use it and she’s all “ooh, I couldn’t”. Then he rips her skirt to help her negotiate the boggy ground and when she looks freaked out by this, he says “don’t flatter yourself” (ha ha! Because worrying that a complete stranger who’s just ripped your skirt might be about to rape you is really fucking arrogant!). Snow White is better than the Huntsman at defeating a massive Harry Potter troll, though. She does this by looking deep into the troll’s eyes and awakening his sensitive, compassionate side. Although to be fair, given that’s the case, he’s not much of a sodding troll to begin with, is he?

8. Snow White and the Huntsman reach the hippy commune of mingy women.

No, I don’t remember this from any of the books, either. Snow White and the Huntsman leave the forest, having killed Ravenna’s weirdo brother (with whom you suspect there’d have been some kind of incest subplot – cf. Gladiator – had the film-makers had sufficient time and arsedness). They are rescued by some hippy-ish women who’ve all got scarred faces, having deliberately made themselves ming in order to escape Ravenna’s wrath (Samantha Brick, are you reading this? It’s an idea, isn’t it?). The self-made mingers all live together on the shores of a lake. They’re not lesbians, though – their menfolk are all away “fighting” or something. You get the impression this is the kind of place Oprah Winfrey would like. You also get the impression that this shit community of ugly birds constitutes the film’s first half-hearted nod to feminism. See, we don’t hate women! Look how empowered the scar-faced women are! They probably do Race for Life and everything! Only the women are useless when the village is attacked and the Huntsman (who is at this point stomping off in dugeon – can’t quite remember why) has to return and single-handedly save the day, as only a lone drunkard can in the face of some serious medieval warfare. Then he and Snow White run off, as the latter’s non-minginess is a risk to the mingy women’s way of life (why Snow White doesn’t consider self-mutilation is not made clear. Perhaps then Ravenna would feel less threatened and everything would be okay. Except Kristen Stewart would ming, marginally, and that would be a bit shit. And the film would have to end there, and it’d be like saying in order not to make trouble, all women should make themselves ming, at least a bit. And anyhow, if you’re going to advise women to deliberately defy common beauty standards, self-scarring seems a painful way to do it. Me, I’d rather just get ravaged and ugly by drinking from one of those never-ending hipflasks).

9. Finally we get to meet the seven (or is it eight?) dwarfs.

Did you think Celtic fetishisation bollocks sank to a watery grave with Titanic in 1997? Well, you were wrong. The dwarfs don’t all have hammy Oirish accents, but they might as well have. They are cute little leprechauns living in a sunny glen, the same one, perhaps, that features on the B*witched video for C’est la vie. To pass the time they play on the fiddle, dance and reminisce about the old days, long before the evil English, sorry, Ravenna destroyed their mining industry.

One of the dwarfs is blind but he can “see” better than the others. He “knows” that Snow White is the one who can save them all. Which is nice. The rest of the dwarfs just fancy her cause she’s fit. One of them even dances with her. In the Disney film, the dwarfs stand one on top of another to dance, so that they end up being the same height as Snow White. In this film, this one dwarf just takes advantage of the height difference and buries his head in Snow White’s tits. It’s all a bit uncomfortable. Snow White doesn’t appear to fancy the dwarf. Would it be a form of discrimination to tell him to stop being such a perv? Or is letting a complete stranger bury his head in your tits just the kind of generous act anyone in possession of “fairest blood” should undertake, given the number of sad lonely men there are out there? Come on, girls! Get yer tits out for the lonely leprechauns of the C’est la vie glen!

Unfortunately, the dwarf who dances with Snow White is killed by one of Ravenna’s men. Snow White comforts him in his dying moments (although not, thankfully, with her tits). I’m not sure whether there were seven dwarfs before this one dies (meaning we’re left with an unsatisfactory six), or whether there were eight and dwarf slaughter has left us with the requisite seven. To be honest, I never took the time to count. I spent most of the dwarf glen scene with my head in my hands, although that’s not as bad as my partner, who was actually asleep (it is tragic. We get one night off from childcare, one night in which to be a couple again, and we spend it in front of the Oirish Dwarf Glen of Misogynist Hell, me with my head in my hands, him snoring. Just fucking great).

10. Ravenna starts bingeing.

Not on food – on beautiful young maidens, the ones from whom she sucks all the good stuff until they become as rubbish as all post-menopausal women most certainly are. You get to see her standing the centre of a room, looking gorgeous but with a pile of now-ravaged girls at her feet. My partner had half woken up at this point and leaned over to murmur “should’ve at least tried Protect and Perfect”.

In terms of how the film treats Charlize Theron, there is, one can’t help feeling, a real sadism. The director is constantly cutting to close-ups of her face for evil “ageing” scenes, then cutting away to show Kristen Stewart looking young and perfect. Theron is still very beautiful but the power shift is obvious, both in the film and on the red carpet. In an interview with In Style magazine, she says of her role “there’s something really nice about the freedom of excusing behaviour that you would never, ever do yourself. I mean, the way I yelled at people in this movie – I would never do that in real life!” Which I’m sure she wouldn’t – she’d be out of a job. But if I were her, I’d desperately want to be yelling all the same. She is very good as Ravenna, but to be honest, you have to wonder how much of it, the anger in particular, really is acting.

11. Non-evil William appears on the scene.

So we’ve established that he’s not that other bloke who dies earlier, brought back from the dead. But he’s still absolutely bloody pointless (in fact, perhaps back-from-the-dead bloke would have been more interesting). William is Snow White’s childhood sweetheart who’s come out to rescue her, but the trouble is, she’s already got the Huntsman now. Cue minor amounts of unspoken jealousy and that’s about it. It’s a love triangle in which nothing at all happens. It’s worse than the Johnny Depp/ Orlando Bloom/ Keira Knightley triangle in Pirates of the Caribbean. Although it’s obvious that William is the Orlando Bloom in all this.

In what may be the film’s second misguided nod to feminism amidst all the blatant misogyny, it’s worth noting that Snow White does not end up marrying either man. The film ends with her being crowned queen (by a clerical authority which for some reason did not disintegrate during all the years of Ravenna’s crazy rule). Personally I think it’s a waste. While a woman’s whole worth shouldn’t be based on her looks, let’s face it, Snow White is fit, William is fit, the Huntsman is fit. At least two if not all three of them should be getting a good seeing-to out of this.

12. Snow White eats the apple.

Actually, this scene’s okay. Ravenna poses as William and gives Snow White a bright red apple. The latter takes a bite but then the apple rots in her hand and she falls, poisoned, to the ground. At this point William changes into Ravenna and for a brief moment (if you’re me or my partner) you think “so hang on, was William in fact Ravenna all along??” But then real William appears and you think “damn, so that boring sod’s actually a proper character after all”.

William tries snogging Snow White but it doesn’t revive her, although this is to be expected. After all, he’s no Johnny Depp/ Huntsman.

13. Snow White comes back to life and has another perfume advert moment.

Snow White might be dead but she gets an ace white nightie. Where she gets it from I don’t know. Probably the same place that supplies the never-ending booze flasks. Anyhow, she’s brought to the nearby town and people come to pay their respects. You know she’s not properly dead, though. That wouldn’t be right, what with her being young and pretty and stuff. And they’re not going to change the story that much, even though William’s proven to be a bit of a non-starter Prince Charming-wise.

Obviously it’s the Huntsman who awakens Snow White. However, it’s suggested that the “true love” which brings her back to life is not love for her but his love for his dead wife. Which to me seems a bit of a swizz. Get over it, matey!

Upon awakening from her death-like sleep, Snow White goes to stand in the square before all the townspeople. It is dark but she is like a beacon of light and hope in her pristine nightie. At this point the narrator says “Love’s first kiss. The new fragrance from Lacoste”. Except he doesn’t. But he should. Instead we get Snow White inspiring everyone to rebel against the queen so that they can be ruled over by someone who’s not as close to the menopause (in her “older” scenes Ravenna does actually remind me of Mother Nature from the Tampax Pearl adverts, just out to spoil Snow White’s attempts not to stop when her period starts. In fact, when you think about it – older woman, younger girl, lips as red as menstrual blood, skin as white as Tampax – there is a new advertising campaign right in there, just dying to get out).

14. Snow White, William, Huntsman, dwarfs and townspeople storm Ravenna’s castle.

At this point my partner had woken up properly. He’s a medieval historian and felt aggrieved at the poor representation of medieval warfare in this scene, and in particular the failure to take into account the speed with which archers can impede the progress of anyone attempting a direct assault on a solid defence structure. He also felt aggrieved that when the Huntsman makes a pervy comment regarding Snow White looking good in armour, she doesn’t respond with anything similarly saucy. Again, a completely wasted opportunity, rudery-wise.

Snow White kills Ravenna because the latter can only be killed “by fairest blood”. This moment was kind of spoilt for me (and other cinema-goers) by my partner going “fairies’ blood? What have fairies got to do with it? Do they even have blood?” Mind you, the whole film was sort of spoiled on account of it being rubbish and misogynist and hateful, so I’m not going to hold it against my cloth-eared man.

15. Snow White is crowned queen.

Everyone lives happily ever after. Until Kristen Stewart starts minging. Still, there’s always more where that came from, eh, Hollywood?


In terms of vicious, paranoid, sadistic misogyny, this film rivals the Nicholas Cage remake of The Wicker Man. This really worries me, since I haven’t even seen that many films in recent years. What if they’re all like that? What will we do then? I mean, what if, for instance, this isn’t even the only Snow White out there? What if they’ve made another one, one with, I don’t know, Julia Roberts in the role of the evil queen? What if they’ve done that?

*goes to consult cinema listings*


Waking up old in Nantwich

Like most women I dread turning into my mum. After all, she’s 29 years older than me, has suffered ill-health and is likely to die sooner than I am. If I woke up one morning and discovered we’d magically swapped bodies, I’d feel a bit cheated, and that’s not even taking into account the fact that she lives in Nantwich.

Of course, there are other reasons why we women are meant to fear turning into our mothers. All such reasons fall back on the general assumption that older women are crap. They’re saggy and wrinkly. They’ve done nothing with their lives. Whenever they express opinions it’s just “nagging”. Worst of all, they’ve been through the menopause. Just the adjective “menopausal” can be used as an insult (hey, what do you expect? Men just love a woman with PMS).

I’m already starting to look more and more like my mum. It stands to reason – it’s the genes. Of course, like most over-privileged pre-teens from boringly standard families, I did go through a phase of hoping I’d actually been adopted. Back in the mid-eighties, every single episode of Eastenders had to have Sharon Watts casually mentioning the fact that Angie and Den weren’t her “real” mum and dad. It all seemed incredibly glamorous, what with Sharon being the blonde seductress driving Kelvin, Lofty and Ian wild. I wanted to be an adopted sex-minx, too! In the end, my mum had to show me my birth certificate to convince me that Thérèse Bazar and David van Day were not my birth parents. Anyhow, now it’s obvious that my mum is my mum. Pretty soon I’ll be mistaken for her mum, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

Of course, looking like my mum would not, in itself, be a bad thing. It would just be looking like my mum, and she manages that just fine. But the truth is, overall, I don’t want to be old, not just because of the “being closer to death” thing (although that’s my least fave bit). I don’t want to be looked at in the way that older women are looked at. I want to still be me.

One company who seems to be at least having a go at tackling ageism are Comptoir des Cotonniers. A posh, over-priced French clothing company, they’ve produced a series of adverts featuring mothers and daughters using the slogan “la mère, la fille et la mode“. That’s nice, you might think. But they’re not your usual mother and daughter pairings. Mummy and daughter are always thin and gorgeous, but that’s just what you’d expect for this sort of thing. The really striking thing is that both are also irritating, pretentious tosspots.

To show what passionate, real people mummy and daughter are, each advert requires la mère et la fille to name their loves and hates. Here’s one typical ad:

THE DAUGHTER Julia Gay: I LOVE the bohemian lifestyle I HATE being away from my folks

THE MOTHER Camille Gay: I LOVE travelling the world I HATE looking back at the past

Well, get them and their regret-free, open-road posturing, funded no doubt by precisely the type of rat-race, non-bohemian jobs that would enable one to purchase Comptoir des Cotonniers clothing. And yes, I know it’s just an advert, but this is precisely the type of fake authenticity on which we should be calling time.

Frankly, I think if Comptoir des Cotonniers want something authentic, passionate and real, they should do an add featuring me and my mum. We look properly old and when it comes to telling it like it is, we’d be ace:

THE DAUGHTER Me: I LOVE Glamour, makeup and swearing I HATE Glamour, makeup and swearing

THE MOTHER My mum: I LOVE my kids, kittens and shopping at Morrissons I HATE feminism, nurseries and everything my daughter stands for, come to think of it

Actually, I’m just joking about my mum. She’s a much more complex person than that, although not as complex as the deeply philosophical Camille Gay (we’re middle class, but we’re not THAT middle class). The stuff about me is all true, though. I’m pretty conflicted, and very deep.

To be honest if, in 29 years time, I find myself living in Nantwich it might not be so terrible. Hopefully attitudes to older women might have changed by then, and there might be a decent mid-priced clothes shop in the middle of town. One things for sure, though, I’m not going to model myself on that stupid woman in that “Warning” poem, the one who wears purple and eats pickles and annoys everyone just for the hell of it. I’d rather be Camille Gay. Most of all, I’d rather be just like my mum. Just like my mum, but with everyone still knowing that I’m me.