From Socialist Review, No. 170, December 1993.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
I think Sabby Sagall’s review of Mike Leigh’s Naked (Nov. SR) was far too soft. Sabby makes the point, briefly, that the women characters in the film are shown as victims of men. This is an understatement. All of the female characters are weak and submissive in the extreme, incapable of taking any control over their own lives without first being given a lead by men.
We could excuse Leigh’s portrayal of women if it stopped at this sort of sympathetic naivety but Leigh develops this to express an opinion of women that borders on misogyny. Sophie, the main victim in this totally bleak picture, is raped twice but remains a figure of fun. Her casual approach to sexual partners leaves you wondering whether Leigh is asking us to think well, maybe she deserved it.
Leigh’s views on men are equally as bad if not worse. They are either incapable of relating to women at all or able to only in the most brutal of ways. Johnny, the down and out main character, has a sort of shadow upper class yuppie character whose presence in the film is never really explained. Both of them only seem happy when they’re subjugating women, physically or mentally. At one point they clasp hands and call each other ‘brother’, suggesting Leigh’s opinion that all men are made this way.
The film lacks humanity, hope and, most crucially, any understanding of how the vast majority of people live and behave. Leigh has travelled a long way since his first brilliant TV play Bleak Moments, and on this evidence it has all been in the wrong way.
Last updated: 1 March 2017