“Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars (left) and Caroline Barry as Nellie Bly 10 Days in a Madhouse (right). Without Bly’s important work, Princess Leia may never have come to exist.”
In the movie world, typically women serve as sex symbols. However, Princess Leia from Star Wars was courageous, confident and rebellious. Princess Leia pushed forward many of the films plot lines, serving as a positive role model for women everywhere. The iconic figure followed in the footsteps of original feminist and trailblazer Nellie Bly, whose incredible story is now the subject of a film titled 10 Days In A Madhouse.
Princess Leia is remembered for her gold bikini and her modelesque figure, but let’s not forget that she was a key player in fighting Darth Vadar, destroying the Death Star, and rescuing Han Solo. She was an action hero who fought in battle and courageously sacrificed her life over and over for the safety of others. She was a badass feminist hero; someone girls and women could look up to.
The actress who portrayed Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, told Rolling Stone in 1983 that many people thought her character was a “space bitch” and that many fans didn’t like her character. So naturally, the filmmakers had her take off her clothes. Figurines of Princess Leia seem to be exclusively featuring the iconic gold bikini, symbolizing that as a society, we value her sexuality more than her ability. The upcoming Star Wars seems to be moving in the right direction, as Daisy Ridley, the new face and star of the movie, is always covered up in the trailers. Fisher told Ridley to not “be a slave like I was”, referring to being viewed as a sex symbol. However, no matter how many steps forward we take, we seem to still be stuck, as Fisher was heavily pressured to lose weight for her reprised role in Star Wars: Episode VII. The iconic actress lost 35 pounds for the role. “They don’t want to hire all of me – only about three-quarters! I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance,” she said in an interview with Good Housekeeping UK.
Gold bikini or not, sexist galaxy or not, Princess Leia made strides for females. She was a well-written, fierce character who served as a role model not only for women, but for future action heroines to come. She was revolutionary.
Another rebellious and courageous woman who lived long before Princess Leia, is Nellie Bly, a journalist who would have had statues made in her honor had she been born a male. Bly is known for her feminist writings and her 1887 infiltration into the then notoriously corrupt Blackwell’s women’s insane asylum where she single-handedly took down an oppressive system.
Bly was also the first female reporter on the front lines of World War I. From Europe, Nellie Bly sent back on-the-spot news stories containing chilling scenarios like, “I staggered out into the muddy road. I would rather look on guns and hear the cutting of the air by a shot that brought kinder death.” Bly once again put her life at risk in order to get the story to the people.
Without Bly’s important work, Princess Leia may never have come to exist. Because of Nellie Bly people started talking about gender equality, and those conversations eventually lead to the suffragette movement. Bly was there at the start of it all. Many call her the original feminist who paved the way for future generations. Because of her work and the work she inspired, women are now viewed as equally capable as men.
In Timothy Hines’ film adaptation 10 Days In A Madhouse, based accurately on Bly’s book of the same title, the audience gets to see her first big case as an investigative journalist and the origin story of her fascinating life. She pretended to be insane in order to get committed into a mental hospital. Once inside, she witnessed terrible abuse and violence towards innocent women. She goes on to expose the truth to the world, immediately gaining international fame.
10 Days In A Madhouse premiered on November 11th at the historic AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, New York City to glowing reviews. Ms. Magazine, the original feminist magazine created by Gloria Steinem, said, “I can honestly say this movie is a must-see… Films like 10 Days in a Madhouse that feature incredible and aspirational female role models deserve to be made, but are largely ignored.” Bust Magazine says the film “demands to be watched”. The New York Times calls the film “stunning” and “dramatic”.
10 Days In A Madhouse stars newcomer Caroline Barry, who has been continuously gaining praise by Hollywood insiders for her amazing performance as Nellie Bly, with seasoned movie veterans Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Mortal Kombat), Kelly Le Brock (Weird Science, Woman In Red) and Julia Chantrey (Mean Girls, Mama) in supporting roles.
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