Iris and cultural ageism

A while ago the film Iris (2001) provoked an animated discussion in our Older Women in Films Group. Some women thought that the account of Iris Murdoch Alzheimer’s disease was very well treated and the fact that she was a thinker and writer made the tragedy more poignant. That it was also important to represent  the difficulties of the carer, in this instance her husband John Bayley.

I differed from the majority view. I thought that the whole structure of the film stressed energetic youth as opposed to old age and dementia without portraying the intellectual life and importance of Iris Murdoch as a scholar.  I thought she was misrepresented.

I was watching an episode of  ‘Lewis’ a television detective series (repeat August 18th, ITV1) and could not believe my ears. The action takes place in Oxford. Lewis enters the room of a suspect. The room is in a terrible mess with papers all over the tables and floors etc… He looks around and says “ I see,   Murdoch’s style of interior design“. How many people would have understood the reference of this throwaway line? and does it matter?

To me it matters enormously. It took me sometime to realise that the line refers to scenes in the film ‘Iris’ where the clutter and jumble of her house were visually very striking. Is this the way we should remember a noted female intellectual, fellow of St.Anne’s College Oxford?

I wonder what was going on in the scriptwriter mind?

About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
This entry was posted in Ageism, Conferences and comments and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Iris and cultural ageism

  1. Dr Joan Padro says:

    Prejudice and throw-away remarks seem to go hand in hand, alas.

  2. zzella says:

    I imagine the writer thought himself to be hilarious and that not many people would notice.
    As an aside, personally, I’d never trust a professor with a tidy office ;-)

  3. rinaross says:

    I am told by a friend that the Murdoch/Bayley couple were known in Oxford for their untidy home even before Iris showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Had I not seen the film I would not have understood the meaning of this remark. The issue remains the same: the denigration of a woman of intellectual power by pointing out a trivial fault. I tend to agree with zzella about the writer’s attitude. Rina

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