Navigating the Manic Pixie Dream Minefield

Hello fellas.

Look at your woman. Now look at this article, now back to your woman, now back to this article. Sadly, this article isn’t a woman, but it was written by one, and I’d to talk to you men, and ladies, about that most crafty of stock women, the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

I am speaking as one of the cynical converted. I had my phase in my mid-teens. Oh, most women do these days. It starts small, with an unrealistic obsession with The Smiths and anime, and ends with being so hyper and peppy and quirky and kitsch that, apparently, everyone in the universe can’t help but fall in love with your girlish charm.



For those not in the know, TV Tropes does a wonderful job of mythbusting this type of woman wide open, and but in a nutshell, I posit that you can define your average MPDG as thus:

“A cutesy, hyperactive and shallow woman, that doesn’t have any defining personality types apart from being “bubbly” or “quirky”, often infantile to the point of ridiculousness, who displays a general inability to handle adult situations or behave in non-childish manner.” – B. Smith, 2014.

It’s a sickening trope so overused in modern cinema, literature and TV that, chances are, she’s up there with the 19th century Fallen Woman or the film noir Femme Fatale – the Manic Pixie is the archetypal 2D woman of the 21st century. No longer are women simply muses, they’ve got to be “quirky” muses.  Think the myth of Pygmalion, except the statue has an unhealthy obsession with New Wave English bands, Spongebob Squarepants and dip dying her hair a crraaaaazzzyyy colour!

The MPDG – not only is she attractive, but she’s so quirky and cute and desirable! She loves whacky adventures! She probably can’t define irony! She LOVES exclamation marks! What’s more, her existence will stop you from your faux-depressive funk and encourage you to love life again! The only catch is that she’s a detrimental fantasy that will unequivocally ruin the wellbeing of the woman in question, the relationship you’re having with her, and generally your understanding as to how real, functional adult people work.




I’d argue that there are two branches to the stock MPDG character:

1)    Women who genuinely aspire to be manic pixie dream girls, or, in a twist of fate,

2)   Men who project the manic pixie dream girl image onto desirable women;

There’s a reason why most MPDGs are cooked up by male scriptwriters looking for a new ideal of woman: the fantasy that a single person holds the key to all personal and romantic salvation.  Your MPDG isn’t merely your love interest, she is the reason for your creative flair, your rediscovered happiness, your sense of purpose etc etc. Women might have their men in shining armour; but men have their manic pixie dream fairies, always giggling, always twirling, twirling.

But it’s that second type of MPDG – the projected MPDG – which might be the worst kind. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I present you with the archetypal case of the “projected” MPDG – Summer Finn from 500 Days of Summer.

Oh hai, Zooey DeschaDreambait

Oh hai, Zooey DeschaDreambait


For those who haven’t seen the classic romcom, go do so. Because I think it might be the most effective debunking of projected MPDGs that has so far been displayed on screen. Throughout Tom’s narrative, we’re led to believe that Summer isn’t really a person. She is a perfect MPDG fantasy, quirky and cute and nothing else.

Only the twist is – and it took me multiple views of the film to realise this – that Summer is a real person. She makes stupid choices like the rest of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has a solid education, strong views on ethics and morality and a subscription to TIME magazine. The problem is that both Tom, and the scriptwriters, never let us see that. We only see Summer as Tom wants to see her – all sepia tinted shots, super close ups, and lots and lots of innocent blue ribbon *cough* *SYMBOLISM* *cough*.



Perhaps she has a really cool hobby or interesting anecdotes about her childhood. Perhaps she studied in a really prestigious college, perhaps she has radical political opinions, and perhaps her favourite style of cooking is something other than “baking”. We’ll never know. All Tom knows is he loves her “smile”. We only ever see the film through Tom’s perspective.  “Summer”, Tom’s ideal of true love, is a fantasy without any real voice in the movie. But Summer, the reality, is only ever depicted off screen. Her real desires and dreams don’t correlate with Tom’s fantasy childlike woman, so we are never allows see them.

Ultimately, the MPDG is defined by arbitrary choices, like a hello kitty backpack, a necklace, a hipster ironic kindle cover. Her view of the world isn’t a genuine wonder or excitement but a kind of hyperactive squeal, pointing out Smiths Vinyls and American chocolate and with equal measure ditz and quirk. What does she think about, besides her comic books and hair dye? Not much, apparently. You’ve got to ask yourselves – are these kind of relationships, these inevitably artificial relationships based on a legacy of male wish fulfillment, what you want for yourselves?

Now ladies and fellas, look at yourselves. Now look at this article, now back to yourselves, now back to this article. Are you, or are you dating, a MPDG? Are you and your relationships made of about as much empty sugar, hollow air and artificial pink flavourings as so much candy floss? If so, it might be time to give 500 Days of Summer a rewatch. I’m on a horse.

For more more detailed analysis of Zooey Deschanel, damaging stock characters or more successful parodies of the Old Spice Guy, you should follow VFM on Twitter or Facebook. Alternatively, you could try jumping on a trampoline and screaming very loudly while trying to inspire a man having an artistic crisis, but it’s not the recommended method of getting in touch. 


#TwitterFeminism – The Feminist Twitter Accounts You Should Be Following

I love twitter.  I love it and cherish it like the son or daughter I will probably never have. I am glued to my phone, frequently commenting on essays, books, David Cameron’s shiny shiny forehead.

However, if there’s one great use for twitter, it’s spreading the feminist joy. Twitter, if used with great responsibility, is a handy political tool – and that doesn’t mean taking selfies of yourself with fancy burgers or tweeting “Ed Balls”. With hashtags like #RapeCultureIsWhen, #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen, #MyFeminismLooksLike,  twitter is basically awesome for feminists who want to hear from all sides of the world and all sides of the argument.

Sometimes the internet can be a minefield of "What-the-actual-hell", but feminism on twitter is alive and well!

Sometimes the internet can be a minefield of “What-the-actual-hell”, but feminism on twitter is alive and well!

For those uninitiated into the world of Twitter feminism, here’s my top list of feminists who you should follow on twitter. Feel free to comment below with your own suggestions!


@VagendaMagazine, @theFwordUK – the general go-to accounts for light feminist articles in the UK (besides VFM, of course). The Vagenda in particular has a great (and responsive!) twitter account.

@EverydaySexism and @NoMorePage3 – leading campaign sites for contemporary feminist issues. Don’t forget to check out their prospective websites too!

@feminsthulk – because smashing the patriarchy is always better in capital letters.

@WhiteFeminist, @feministkanye, @feministswift – parody accounts which will make you laugh as well as think. All are both sadly truthful and hilarious.

@CaitlinMoran@lenadunham, @wmarybeard – awesome ladies who are famed for light, funny feminism. And Mary Beard says such intelligent stuff that blows your mind, that I’d follow her regardless of political orientation.

@femfreq – if you’re into gaming and feminism, this is an awesome place to start.

@VictorianPrude, @monaeltahawy – awesome activists in America. Sarah Slamen is currently fighting against the changes to abortion rights in Texas. Mona is particularly into Muslim and Arab feminism as well as Isralei/Palestine conflict.

@VFMArticles – just in case you forgot to add us 🙂

Don’t forget to also follow VFM on Facebook if Twitter isn’t your cup of social networking tea. Incidentally if you want to follow me and suggest I add to the list, my twitter handle is @BethSaysThings

A Birthday Blog: 5 Things for Feminists To Actually Do In Their Twenties*

*If they want to, I mean. This is the end of the Third Wave/start of the Fourth Wave and all. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do?

So, today, the 20th March in the year 2014, is my birthday. I am twenty years old. Woo.  


I thought I’d take some time out of my day to reflect on a little internet nugget that has been floating about on my Facebook feed for a while now. No, not that somewhat well intentioned yet misguided “No make up selfie” one, there are enough blog posts criticising that right now. I mean the now infamous “X list of things to do when/before you are Age Y” article.

In particular, now that I am an official member of the twenties club, I’m focusing on a particular article on Thought Catalog that’s done the rounds of late, “Five Things women need to do in their twenties or else the suffragists died for nothing” which is a sort of lovechild subgroup of the horrific “things to do in your twenties” brand of buzzfeed/studentbeans articles. Because if there’s two things that generation Y loves on the t’internet, it’s a) pointless lists and b) THINGS WHICH MAKE YOU FUCKING PARANOID ABOUT WASTING YOUR PRIME ADULT YEARS.

100% Accurate Venn Diagram Lovingly Crafted By Yours Truly

100% Accurate Venn Diagram Lovingly Crafted By Yours Truly

Anyhow, days after people flagged out the obscenity of this article, it turns out it was written by a guy for a joke.  If that information doesn’t point out how shitty and poorly researched the world of ThoughtCatalog is, I give up with you people.

Anywho, in light of my new age group and the busting of the article, here’s I think feminist women should actually do in their twenties. If you want.

1) Vote, and Be All Political and Stuff

Hey! Voting is fun. Women threw themselves under horses and starved themselves so you could have the right to do this, so why not actually fucking do it rather than complaining. Turns out the suffragists were not so much about travelling and getting a tan so much as using your political autonomy to have a say in how your local and national councils represent you both nationally and internationally. Whodathunkit.

She knows where it's at.

She knows where it’s at.

And if you hate politics, why not do something about it? Don’t “forget” to vote or be too apathetic to bother. Campaign for a better system. Make signs and stand in public places and shout for a bit. Petition councils and governments. Get mad. Do stuff. Don’t sit there on your arse.

2) Know Stuff About The World Around You

That means actually knowing stuff that’s happening which can have an impact on a global scale, e.g. that situation in Ukraine’s that’s a been a bit whacked up recently. Do you know what’s going on like a well-informed and person, or are you too busy to care?

Likewise, there are issues that are not traditionally associated with western Europe but still occur here and worldwide such as FGM, forced marriages, lack of access to education, lack of access to knowledge sources, lack of political representation etc etc etc. Go read a few books, watch the news, know stuff. Then think and act on’t.

3) Actually Like Your Body For Once

If you treat your body gently and with respect then you can look however the hell you want to. Fat? IDGAF. Skinny? Likewise. It’s high time for the fat tummy and chubby arms appreciation society. Knowing yourself and respecting yourself is an important step on the way to adulthood. Go do that.

When I Google "Happy Women" a Lot of Stock Images of This Kind Show Up. Don't Be  a Moron and Jump About in Cornfields Like a Pleb (Unless You Want To). Just Be Happy In Your Own Skin.

When I Google “Happy Women” a Lot of Stock Images of This Kind Show Up. Don’t Be a Moron and Jump About in Cornfields Like a Pleb (Unless You Want To). Just Be Happy In Your Own Skin.

4) Know That Intersectionality Exists, Work Towards Understanding It

Being an intersectional feminist does not mean “I am privileging race over gender”. As a white woman I occupy a certain area of inherited privilege. If I understand when I fuck up and use that privilege unknowingly, apologise, learn from it, and do my best to not do it again and help understand and help improve experience of women who occupy a more discriminated sphere than myself (trans women, black women, Asian women, disabled women), then I’ll have at least done something. Privilege is a real shitty thing in this society which we need to change. One of the first things you can do is understand that notion of “privilege”, how you are “privileged”, and how that relates in real time in society.

5) Understand that You Have Rights and Responsibilities, and That Action Must Be Taken When Necessary to Protect Them.

If you don’t pay the slightest attention to anything else in this article, then read this point.

As human beings, we all have rights and responsibilities. I have the right to be safe, healthy, well represented with an autonomous voice – and the responsibility to use them to the best of my ability, and not infringe the rights of others or be an arse to anyone else. If my rights or responsibilities are threatened, or if the rights and responsibilities of any other group I know are being threatened, it’s my obligation to give a crap. Again, whether that’s signing a petition or standing on a picket line, THE TRICK IS TO AT LEAST DO SOMETHING rather than writing a Facebook post about it.

Here’s to doing something decent with the next ten years of my life.

You could always follow VFM on Twitter or Facebook if you don’t like lists OR posts about Things To Do In Your Twenties. Because most articles on here aren’t that. Promise.

All The Single Feminists (Eat Some Ice Cream and Be Proud)

Hello. It’s Valentine’s Day. I’m a feminist, and I’m single.

I like cuddles. I also like Helene Cixous, Caitlin Moran (when she isn’t being horrifyingly blasé about intersectionality and race, or male feminism), Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou and Angela Carter. I campaign for gender equality whenever I can. I am also looking for a boyfriend.

Bombshell: these things are not mutually exclusive.


That’s not to say that being a feminist on the dating game isn’t crap; navigating the world of internet dating and sounds roughly as appealing as eating a packet of fingernail clippings. Navigating Tinder seems roughly as appealing as eating an entire, fungal-infected crusty toe. In a world where my attractiveness seems to be based on a profile picture with at least thirty filters, I am utterly lost. And yet, as a singleton seeking another singleton for some meaningful interaction, the dating world is the most evil and necessary of necessary evils.

I don’t quite know what caused this irrational want. Perhaps, growing up, it was old uncle Disney and his motley crew of princesses (these were the days before Frozen after all, and I didn’t get access to Princess Mononoke until I had long passed puberty).

San wouldn't be dealing with this crap.

San sure as hell wouldn’t be dealing with this crap.

I personally blame Jane Eyre. At the impressionable age of 12 I picked up a book and gained an unrealistic expectation of love that was dramatic and based on intense mutual respect. Though I now think that Rochester is indeed a bit of a douchebag (Mr Thornton from North and South is totes a better dude, obv.), what with the racism and wife locked up in the attic and all that shiz, the lingering desire to find another person, much like a tick stuck on my leg or a particularly nasty case of gangrene, still won’t leave me no matter how much I shake myself.

So, how to deal with this predicament? Feminism on the one hand, a desire to desire and be desired on the other. The fact that I have to consider these things separately is part of the problem. Gender equality and not being treated in a wanker-ish fashion because I don’t have a Y-chromosome has always been a pressing issue to me since I learnt what was “fair” as a kid. Equally, I’ve always found having a significant other (not in the “let’s snog at a club, have casual and disappointing shag on the sofa, shake hands and call it a day” kind of way) important.

Contrary to the advice of such women’s bibles such as Cosmo and Glamour magazine, politics, specifically feminist politics, is often a topic of conversation that’ll come up in my initial courtship rituals. It is the deciding factor that sorts the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Observe:

A Typical Encounter

B: “I study English Literature!”

RANDOM MAN WHO I THINK LOOKS VAGUELY INTELLIGENT AND ATTRACTIVE: “No way! You’re never going to get a job are you? Has anyone ever told you you look like David Mitchell?”

B: “Yeah way! Of course I’m not! And Unfortunately, yes. Many times.”


B: “Also, I’m a feminist!”

Awkward Pause.


B: “What do you think about gender equality then, mister?”

RMWITLVIAA: “… Are you a lesbian? Aren’t all feminists butch lesbians?”

B: “Why, NO! Some are, some aren’t, in fact that’s a woman’s choice… In fact it’s really interesting-”

RMWITLVIAA: “- sorry to interrupt, but can you hold my drink?”

B: “What?”

RMWITLVIAA: “There’s a woman over there with no obvious political opinions whatsoever. I am going to proceed to make out with her happily, and avoid this awkward situation.”

B: “Oh.”

Cue sad violins, tumbleweed, and Celine Dion’s “All by myself” playing softly in the background.

The reactions I get when I announce that I am a lonely feminist provoke even more outrage among my supposedly “intellectual” friends, who mistake “want” for “need”, and “desire” for “dependency”. Or, less problematically, from my supportive girlfriends, I get well-meant criticism in the form of “Giiirrrrllll, you don’t need a man to be content!” while playing awesome Beyonce songs. Yes, I do not need a man. I ended my last relationship, with (shock!) a man, because he was pretty hopeless and put about as much effort into the relationship as he did into washing his socks i.e. none at all. Rather than mutating into a shrewish she-harpy with talons at the thought of my being forever alone, I am still a competent and capable autonomous lady.

I don’t let my choice of phone or computer or clothes define me as a person, but  it’s rather nice to have the stuff I want from time to time. I don’t need salted caramel ice cream to live, but damn it, it’s bloody delicious and I do want it from time to time.



So, this valentine’s day, let us single feminists who kind of want a man but do not need one unite; let’s go eat salted ice cream together. Or chocolate ice cream. Or vanilla. Or mint. Or maybe you’re more of a frozen yoghurt type of person. Maybe you don’t want dessert at all.

Whatever you want or don’t want, that’s cool. Don’t let anyone judge you for wanting that ice cream, reader. As long as you’re a strong, independent and autonomous lady confident in her own skin, you go ahead and EAT THAT MOTHERF*KING ICE CREAM LIKE A CHAMP.

Metaphor over. I’m going to waddle off to the freezer now.

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A Very Cosmo Christmas Guide: How To Give Sh*t Gifts Without Really Trying

Oh, Cosmopolitan magazine. My feelings for you can be summed up in those three exquisite words:

We have a somewhat complex relationship. It is aimed at faux-professional women with non-specific job titles who believe the most important things in life are handbags. I am a poor English literature student, I think Marx and Engels were BAMFs, and I carry my stuff around in a succession of worn-down plastic carrier bags. We were never going to get on.

As I’ve been off the interwebs and VFM for a while now (Dealing with coursework and student house slug infestations takes time, okay?) I thought I’d ease my toes back into the blogoverse via the nightmare that is Cosmo.

I was going to rip apart the December edition of everyone’s favourite monthly rag, as it’s previously been pretty fun and incredibly easy. Ripping apart any Cosmopolitan magazine edition is fun and incredibly easy. Previous instant zero-effort jokes have included a massively-oversized pastel-pink £300 statement handbag with glitter and parrots on it, a breast cancer awareness campaign featuring fluffy bras containing puppies, not to mention their LOLtastic and sexist section entitled ‘Men vs Fashion’, where twenty-something men accuse Anne Hathaway of not looking cuddly enough when she’s walking down the red carpet. The jokes write themselves, people.

cosmo dec 2013

*Insert Obvious Miley Cyrus Joke here*

I’d planned to write a quickie post consisting of obvious Miley Cyrus jokes and infuriating keyboard-mash about handbag porn, and thus potentially ruin any valid chance of me ever getting an internship at any magazine ever. So I handed over the necessary petty cash at my local newsagents, and ripped open the rag, when what should sadly flump out of my magazine and onto the carpet like so much flaccid yuletide mincemeat, but a Cosmopolitan Christmas Gift Guide. 


A few scientific-feminist observations: 

1) The first thing I notice is that, in true Cosmo fashion, the gift guide has a buzzword for this collection of stuff – “Lust-haves”. I could go on a rant about the sexualisation of shopping and commodity fetishism  but it’s Cosmo and Christmas so I let them have their awkward puns. By the time they’ve used it three times within two pages, though, I start quoting Mean Girls, and demanding that the poor unpaid intern who wrote this crap be sacked immediately.

2) There is a lust-have (*GROAN*) personality list.

The first question is “I’ll always invest in”: followed by the following options: a pair of heels, a handbag, some make up a dress or underwear. Because nuclear fusion research, stocks in SONY and industrial sized packs of chocolate oranges aren’t an option to invest in, I write “NONE OF THESE THINGS” in big cartoonish letters like I can stick it to the man. Or Cosmo intern.

Also, because “the cinema” or “that all you can eat Chinese buffet place across the road” aren’t options, my ideal date is either a BLOODY CRUISE ON A PRIVATE BOAT. Or a gig in Paris. Or a candle-lit dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant. Nandos is not an option. I am disappointed.

When it comes to shoes, there’s no option for “Doc Martens” or “sensible pumps I bought from Schuh when they were in a sale”, so I can either choose  from “Louboutins” or “Jimmy Choo” and other crap I don’t have the time or money to even pronounce let alone buy, so I decide that Cosmo doesn’t want me to buy any gifts this year and I skip the exercise altogether.

3) There’s a section called “Perfectly Pink”, and I love the idea of a clueless significant other purchasing presents purely based on what colour they are. This is before I turn the page and see the “Glory of gold” section, which contains so much sparkly rubbish I have to shield my eyes Raiders of the Lost Ark style.

"Don't look, Marion: there's too many sparkly things!"

“Don’t look, Marion: there’s too much sparkly crap!”

4) The only non-outfit or perfume related gifts are an expensive radio that costs TWO HUNDRED QUID, and a stocking filler section containing a digital camera that costs £100. Which, considering the earlier questions asked me about travelling on a goddamn yacht, is no surprise really.

By this point, after thorough research, I’ve deducted that Cosmo thinks the exhaustive list of gifts suitable for women are the following:

Make up
Uncomfortable and skimpy lingerie that will inevitably give any lady a massive wedgie

Essentially, this entire gift collection should be called Things Not To Get For Your Significant Other Unless You Can Afford The Cool Vintage Radio On Page 5.

Hoo-bloody-ray. Christmas is cancelled.

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A Feminist Fanmail to Steven Moffat

Dear Steven Moffat,

I’m not really sure how to start this, as I’ve never written fanmail before. I don’t even know the PO BOX – should I call you Mr Moffat? Mozzie? You seem like a nice chap, so I’m going for the informal chat-at-the-pub-with-a-pint-of-cider type of talk. I’m going to be honest and straight with you, Mr Moff – I haven’t always been your biggest fan. (Un)fortunately, I happen to be one of those feminists who have had a bit of gripe with some of the female characters you have created, or commented upon, in both of the series you are showrunning, but namely Doctor Who.

doctor who logo

When you took over the helm from Russell T Davies back in 2009 I was initially thrilled, but this excitement soon turned to upsetting disappointment. Time and time again I found that your female characters were underdeveloped or frighteningly unrealistic. It was a bit off-putting, Moff, and really tested my faith in Doctor Who. But this latest series, 7B, has really impressed me, and I’m over the moon to consider myself a fully-fledged obsessive-nut-job Whovian once more. Clara, Madame Vastra and Jenny have convinced me that female companions in Doctor Who don’t have to just be wooden objects, and in terms of storytelling, this series is back at sublime levels.

So now that you’ve got the companions and the story sorted, I have to tell you from one mate to another, Steven: I really really really really really really hope that the next Doctor you’ve chosen turns out to be a woman.

Let me explain. A lot of people are really against the doctor being a woman, for some mental reason. My family, boyfriend and friends have all chalked up arguments why the Doctor can only, nay, must only be male. By far the most common of these reasons is simply “tradition” – that there has always been a white, male doctor, so there should only be a white, male doctor.

I think that that’s a bit of a crap excuse, don’t you, Moff? “Tradition”, in many respects, doesn’t mean “heritage” or “pride” for me, so much as “laziness” or “complacency” or “fear of the new”. We are all creatures of habit, and I get that. But shouldn’t we mix things up a bit, just once in a while? Say “sod the bloody established system” and just do something new?

Now, I get that the Who Fandom is a little bit like an elderly suspicious neighbour sucking its teeth, or a vicious toddler expecting a new unwelcome baby sibling – if something new pops out of the woodwork that they disagree with, it can cause endless tutting/screaming/tantrums in the form of internet storms that can launch a thousand online forums. For some people, opinions never change; I still dislike River Song, as I find her contrived and her catchphrases irritating. clara dr who

But, as I should know, we Whovians are capable of incredible flexibility: I despised the first two incarnations of Clara/Oswin – I found them as annoying as River Song. I found them so annoying I thought I would have to stop watching the show. I’m glad I didn’t, because in the most recent version of Clara, you’ve created a wonderful female character who is funny, realistic, and can hold her own. She is now my favourite new-who companion, and I have you to thank for that.

So, maybe this new doctor might turn out to be my favourite too. I’ve heard that Peter Capaldi and Daniel Rigby are contenders, and as they are both superb actors, perhaps I’ll still be content if we have a male doctor this time around. After all, I’ve sprung this on you some mere hours before the official news release – but if by some miraculous and possibly timey-wimey intervention you read this post in time, perhaps you could put off tomorrow’s announcement and search for a female Doctor, or at least give it a stab the next time round.

Human women have been allowed to be doctors for quite a while now; how’s about we let a Galifreyan Time Lady in the TARDIS do the same, Moff?

Yours with great fan-lady-Whovian respect,

Bethan Smith

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Off With The White Queen’s Head, But Long Live BBC Drama

I have a confession to make. I have recently become addicted to sub-par, historically inaccurate and poorly scripted BBC costume dramas. Between The Returned and The Apprentice I thought I couldn’t find the time to be hopelessly devoted to any more TV shows. Yet evidently I had a ham-shaped whole in my heart, because I have taken to watching The White Queen religiously.

Rebecca Ferguson rocking a really fancy hat in BBC's The White Queen

Rebecca Ferguson rocking a really fancy hat in BBC’s The White Queen

For those sane enough to be ignorant about the show, The White Queen is an adaptation of a trio of novels by historical-fiction writer Philippa Gregory. It charts the decaying years of the medieval era through the feminine eyes of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Isabel Neville, Anne Neville, Jaquetta Rivers and Margaret Beufort. You’ll notice that, for all the prancing around they do in poofy pants atop sparklingly white ponies, the number of male focal-points in The White Queen are slim to none.

While I admit that, in terms of viewing figures, these costume dramas are aimed at female viewers, The White Queen is the latest in a long line of BBC dramas which feature pretty awesome and pretty well-written ladies. Goshdarn it if the BBC don’t consistently represent us womenfolk well. Even stereotypically “blokey” detective shows these days feature cool, criminal female geniuses such as Alice Morgan in Luther. When it comes to costume dramas, the Beeb tend to cherry-pick from classic literature that features well-developed (if not classically “strong”) heroines such as North and South, Jane Eyre and Emma. They’ve even produced dramas which focus on fictional-historical lesbian characters, as evidenced in the productions of Sarah Waters’ novels Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch.

It’s always refreshing when a television drama gives my gender-equality riddled brain some peace. Lots of Tudor/late medieval historical fiction seems to centre on the big macho guns – the likes of Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell (I’m looking at you, Hilary Mantel), or the big imposing female monarchs such as Mary or Elizabeth. The White Queen focuses on the quieter ladies, the ones behind the scenes, albeit those still with a large amount of class and power. Feminism sometimes means giving a voice to women from the past who wouldn’t necessarily have been heard in their own times – even if that was because they’d been accused of witchcraft and had their tongues cut out, or because they were biting on wooden spoons while firing out sprogs from the royal vagina.

Screw wands; we have FISHING LINES b*tches.

Screw wands; we have FISHING LINES b*tches.

This perplexing adaptation has been lauded by the Daily Fail as being simultaneously both “one and five” stars. While I abhor Paul Dacre’s Tory Madhouse and won’t link you to the article, I completely understand the reasoning behind its judgement on this. The White Queen is at times laughably rubbish. “Magic” is frequently treated as a real, dangerous power, with Jaquetta Rivers’ enchanted fishing lines – bloody fishing lines of all things – unintentionally reeling in deus ex machina comedy gold. The White Queen also features such quintessentially medieval items as zips, bricks, buttons, radiators, double glazing, drainpipes, concrete and evidently manicures, luxury shower gel and TRESemmé. Clearly more money in this production went into the costumes and the makeup department than the historical research side of things. It even has its own OFFICIAL TUMBLR, for Pete’s sake.

Every gut instinct tells me I should hate The White Queen. It’s tacky, godawful and contrived. But I can’t help it; I love every second of it. It is nothing but hammy, through and through. Yet, it is the finest Wiltshire ham. It is the sort of glorious honey-glazed ham you would expect at a regal Plantagenet feast. Most importantly, it is unashamedly women-focused ham – and that, for now, will do nicely indeed.


The White Queen is on BBC One on Sunday nights at 9pm.