Hollywood, Her Way: “As SHE Likes It” Takes Back the Narrative

I spent last Saturday with my gorgeous friend and some new, incredible women doing an empowerment workshop, followed by a bite to eat and a fierce feminist play.

Disclaimer: Press review

As SHE likes it is inspired by the story of Patricia Douglas, a young Hollywood star with a tragic story, and aims to expose the cultural legacy of sexism and exploitation that still haunts the film industry to this day. The show was wrapping up its tour at the Belgrade Theatre this weekend with an accompanying empowerment workshop – so I made sure to go to both!

In the workshop, Stacey and I met the actresses from the play we were about to watch (what a treat!) and they were excellent, impressive and fascinating ladies with lots to say. We all sat putting the world to rights for 2 hours, then we did some fun thought exercises where we assessed a scene in the play and thought about how we could handle it better. I learned so many things about women’s empowerment – I might write a second blog post about it as there was just too much to include! It was a super fun way to spend an afternoon – we arrived feeling good and left feeling great! <3

We then went off for some desserts at a nearby cafe and came back to watch the play unfold. During my interview a few weeks ago with the writer and leading lady, Chloe Wade, we talked a bit about the aims of the play. It delivered on ALL aspects! The play, set behind the scenes of old Hollywood films, showcased all the archetypes of traditional women’s roles within cinema. The leading lady, the sex symbol, the damsel in distress, the screwball comedy queen and the girl next-door.

Further reading: Unveiling Hollywood Secrets with Chloe Wade and ‘As She Likes It’

This play looked at the ‘true’ lives of women – those who act just as much off-screen as they do on the screen to appease men. It highlighted the system of inequality that is prevalent in Hollywood, which was rarely talked about (pre-Weinstein) and seldom produced any positive outcomes for those who suffered abuse at the hands of individuals protected by picture studios. Chloe wanted to present the idea that these ‘Patricia Douglas’-type casting calls, assaults and fake auditions have barely changed – and the play absolutely hit the nail on the head. It was thought-provoking to be reminded on stage of just how rife with sexism Hollywood is. Despite changing a little since the 1930’s, we haven’t moved forward enough.

A woman looks up into the light, red lipstick smears across her lips. An advertisement for the play As SHE Likes it, in black and white.

In the 2000’s we were still plastering magazines with celebrity weight loss images. It took until 2017 for a movement like #MeToo to pick up. Celebrities are still coming forward to discuss their treatments as young Hollywood stars – the sexualisation of 14 year-old Emma Watson, the assuming that Jennifer Lawrence was making a ‘political statement’ just for wearing comfortable shoes instead of heels on the red carpet. Realistically, much of this play could be referring to a few years ago, rather than 90.

If I had to be critical, I’d say we need to make it clearer for the men attending what it is that was wrong about the way those men treated women around them. I’m, of course, joking here but the one bad part of this experience were the few men around me who laughed at all of the wrong moments. But then how could they understand the fear that some of the lines instilled in us when they’ve never had to think about the unseen danger, the man that lurks in the dark waiting for women walking home? We’ve been unsettled since we were old enough to be taught about the dangerous men that might take us away if we stray too far from our mothers.

This play perfectly encompassed that uneasy feeling, showcasing it in gloriously disturbing detail for all to see, and was so well written and performed to boot! All of the actresses were fantastic – dressing in drag to play the sleazy and infuriating men and really embracing their roles as the iconic ladies of early film. I would highly recommend seeing it on its next run. I got super emotional at the end – having met the ladies in the play I had a surge of pride for their incredible performances too! Is this what empowerment feels like?

Wondering what the t-shirt means? Here’s some context.

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