Every woman who sees this film will secretly cheer its antiheroine

Barbara Ellen
·5 min read
<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

Emerald Fennell’s Bafta-winning, Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman is being viewed as a female revenge fantasy. But in every way that counts, it’s grimly recognisable. Cassie, played by Carey Mulligan, fakes inebriation in nightclubs to entrap predators.

Self-styled “nice guys” are shocked when she turns out to be sober and intent on avenging her friend, the incapacitated victim of a campus rape cheered by braying frat boys. Cassie’s revenge trip may be a fantasy, but the premise is realistic enough for a documentary. This is the grainy footage that plays on a loop inside the female subconscious. This is the bargaining inner dialogue of many a “party girl”: “How much fun can I have before I’m vulnerable, and before everything – even rape – becomes my fault?”

Related: Promising Young Woman review – a deathly dark satire of gender politics

While a jerky cinematic ride, the triumph of Promising Young Woman is the lightning bolt of female recognition. Not just regarding famous cases (such as Brock Turner’s grotesque assault on Chanel Miller, for which he served a paltry three months), but for everybody. Women aren’t so much relating to the broken, sardonic, dead-eyed Cassie as they are thanking her for sticking up for them, for exposing the creeps who think an incapacitated woman unable to say “no” gives consent. This isn’t some weird side issue of sexual life. It’s only extraordinary because it’s so ordinary. Intoxicated women have long been taken advantage of.

You have to wonder at the toxic perfect storm of entitlement, opportunism and sexual inadequacy that convinces this breed of men that “practically unconscious” is a come-on. The moral squalor of enablers who applaud them for “scoring”. And what about women? Those who sneer and judge, whose misogyny is so strong they put other women’s distress into the “asked for it”/“learning experience” brackets, as if rationalising sexual assault is a skills course every modern woman needs to take.

Then there are the women it happens to, who blame themselves. Women know – they always know – what they consented to. They know the difference between a mutual, inconsequential drunken tumble and something they were helplessly coerced into. Still, too many have felt compelled to play sexual peacekeeper. While women have lied about being raped, I’d wager they’re far outnumbered by those who’ve lied that they weren’t raped. Women who’ve told themselves to do better, to learn the lesson and their reward for all this self-monitoring will be lessening their chances of assault.

Maybe this is another achievement of the film. It’s a wake-up call about consent that resonates across generations. While younger women may cheer on the antiheroine, older women may wonder: why did we put up with that? Why weren’t we angrier? What took us so long?

Mick Jagger has checked out of Memory Motel, it would appear

Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger: can’t get no recollection. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Mick Jagger’s memoirs are the Bermuda Triangle of rock publishing – wreathed in myth and legend but no human eyes have gazed upon them and survived… or something.

The famously “unfinished” memoirs are to remain unfinished. Jagger (who, with his Eazy Sleazy collaborator, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, just donated digital artwork in aid of artists suffering in the pandemic) told the BBC that he stopped writing an autobiography because it took too much out of him. “It takes a lot of reliving emotions, reliving friendships, reliving ups and down… it was all simply dull and upsetting and there really weren’t that many highs out of it.”

Hmm. Either Jagger is a big fibber or I’ve imagined past news that he couldn’t write his memoir because he couldn’t remember anything. He famously asked Bill Wyman for a loan of his fastidiously kept Stones-era diaries but Wyman refused.

So, never mind plaintive waffle about the agony of remembrance, Jagger can’t remember at all. In a meta twist, at one point, he also forgot writing 75,000 words of a memoir that he then stopped from being published.

How deliciously on-brand for the spirit of the 60s. If you can remember it, then you weren’t there, right, Mick?

A Chris Whitty foxtrot? Have we not suffered enough?

Chris Whitty
Chris Whitty: a natural for Strictly? Mm... Photograph: PA Video/PA

Is Strictly Come Dancing really going after Chris Whitty? It seems the show is interested in featuring a “star of the pandemic” and “discreet inquiries” have been made about England’s chief medical officer. Failing that, his deputy, Jonathan Van-Tam, or vaccines chief, Kate Bingham. Strictly was even considering the health minister, Matt Hancock, but apparently he has a “hectic schedule”. Yes. It must get very hectic answering all those questions about Covid-cronyism. Card, dance card, whatever, Hancock’s seems well and truly marked for the foreseeable.

Back to Twinkletoes Whitty. In light of all the suffering and loss, is this “star of the pandemic” thing appropriate? Is the public in the mood for him skidding across a dancefloor in full pancake makeup and sparkly jumpsuit? Is Whitty capable of smiling in a way that doesn’t channel the Tooth Fairy from the film Manhunter? Strictly rehearsal footage often features some snug athleisurewear. Are we mentally strong enough for that? Can Whitty even dance? From the looks of him, a foxtrot could end up resembling a scene from George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

Figures from the serious end of public life have featured on Strictly. Former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls reinvented himself as a pelvis-swivelling groove-machine – it’s rumoured his jive can still only be shown from the waist up in several countries. Former Tory shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe was dragged around the dancefloor by Anton Du Beke, as though he was performing an exorcism. Last year, former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith went out first and, I’m sure she’d agree, even that was too late.

However, these contestants all had one thing in common: retirement. Sorry Strictly, you can’t have Mr Whitty. We’re still using him.

• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist