On the 24th of April, Reel Equality film club screened everyone’s favourite 90s classic Clueless (starring Alicia Silverstone) at Broadway cinema. Reel Equality are the film branch of Nottingham-based charity Equation, who work to raise awareness of domestic violence and discrimination against women in Nottingham. Except this club’s work is equally about celebrating and increasing women’s representation on the big screen. So not only was this hugely successful blockbuster screened for FREE, but there was also an awesome 90’s themed party beforehand.
Despite only being established last August, this fun (and serious) collective already have over 600 likes on their Facebook page, where they post updates about their cracking, up-coming female-centric films (this is me trying to get you to like them, by the way…). And their monthly screenings all focus on women-centred stories in order to challenge the gender-stereotyping and inequality which is omnipresent elsewhere in film and media. It is worth remembering, after all, that less than 1 in 4 Hollywood films have female leads, and only ⅓ of speaking roles in popular films are given to women. Women’s role models are also often sexualised, or portrayed as not having their own persona away from male influence.
So Reel Equality’s message is that this culture reinforces the false idea that women have a lesser value in society, and that they are less likely to be independent. Therefore, Reel Equality screen films which empower women by showing them in a variety of un-stereotyped roles. And importantly they show that such films can be good and ‘cool,’ so Clueless was the perfect film to launch their second season with. Not only is it hugely popular – meaning the screening packed out Broadway’s cafe bar to full capacity – but the film also centres around very savvy female characters (especially Cher, the lead).
If we were to try to describe this film in one sentence, we might call it ‘the ultimate 90s teen angst satire of privileged high school life’. But the film’s women are also well rounded, interesting and challenge gender stereotypes in positive and diverse ways, thus effectively combatting the gender discrimination at large elsewhere in the mainstream. And it really is a fun film, which meant Reel Equality was able to promote a worthy cause in an exciting way. Similarly, the 90s party encouraged loads of people to have fun and dress up in clothes from the era and outfits from the film. There were even prizes for best dressed, won by two people who dressed gloriously as the main character Cher and her best friend (if you’ve seen Clueless – you’ll know the yellow tartan two piece we’re talking about). There was also plenty of 90s pop bangers, and in true Reel Equality style, there was lots and lots of cake! So what’s not to like?
The event’s atmosphere reflected a new age for cinema, too. More and more, film is becoming an interactive experience intended to immerse you in what’s on screen by creating an environment which mirrors the film. It’s like 4D, let’s say… In a way. And Reel Equality always embraces this new interactive trend excellently. A few months back, for example, they screened Lemon Tree and supplied lemon cake and lemonade to extend the lemony theme. Which is blatantly an innovative approach to films!
But their events are also about achieving social change by educating people, and whilst at this screening I learned the shocking statistic that domestic violence accounts for over 40% of violent crime in Nottingham. Most of this abuse is acted against women too, and Equation are determined to put an end to this. This organisation works with individuals in Nottingham suffering from domestic abuse, in schools to educate people about healthy relationships and with the police to ensure offenders meet appropriate convictions. For many young people this education on healthy relationships is massively important, as issues of manipulation and consent between partners is a serious issue in our society. And raising awareness of this also helps lead to better prevention.
So this is the work which Reel Equality wishes to perpetuate by bringing quality films to your eyes and ears for bargain prices. But Reel Equality also wants to bring to light the role of women in some of our most loved films, ensuring a healthier outlook on equality and female empowerment. In fact, one of the messages that resonated most from this event was the importance of understanding that films disseminate attitudes which encourage the acceptance and normalisation of domestic abuse in our society. Reel Equality really did an excellent job of promoting this message this time, and will continue to host fun events and a range of film screenings which will be well worth getting involved in.
Their next film will be another at Broadway (though they also screen at many other venues), and this time they’ll be showing Appropriate Behaviour on Thursday 28th of May at 6pm. Appropriate Behaviour is the story of a twenty-something, bisexual Iranian-American woman who struggles to conquer the trials and tribulations, leaving her in constant flux. And the event will even be accompanied by an exclusive Q&A with writer, tutor and film expert Gabriella Apicella. So invite all your friends along to help grow Reel Equality’s audience, because Chloe (a volunteer for Equation who oversees Reel Equality) also told me that a different crowd attends every event. So newcomers are always welcome!
Equation also welcomes anyone who may be suffering from domestic violence, and encourages to come forward and ask for help. In order to help their cause, make donations, or get involved in any way, more can be found on their website (and as they are small-scale local charity, they would definitely welcome your support).