Georgia Oakley's 'Blue Jean' explores homophobia in Margaret Thatcher's Britain

Blue Jean is set in 1988 after Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government has introduced Section 28, a clause of the Local Government Act which seeks to prohibit “the promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities across the United Kingdom. The clause is directed towards the 'pretend' relationships of lesbians and gay men. Jean is a a high school gym teacher who must keep her life as a lesbian secret at work and cannot risk being open about her relationship with Viv (Kerrie Hayes) even to her family. The film style by director/writer Georgia Oakley has the look and feel of a film from the 80's. Shot in 16mm the cinematography spotlights run down housing and establishments and an atmosphere that reeks of the butchery of human rights. 

Oakley creates an authentic environment at the high school where Jean works. The script written by Oakley is directed towards internalised homophobia of the characters. The enrolment of a new student Lois (Lucy Halliday) who begins to frequent a lesbian bar where Jean and her friends are regulars brings Jean's internalised homophobia into play. Lois is a good player and gets into a fight with a teammate who is jealous of her skills. Jean supports the school's decision to expel Lois. Prior to this Jean socialized with her circle of friends but Viv does not like having to be closeted along with Jean. While Jean's internalised homophobia is well illustrated, it is clear that it is not only Section 28 that is behind her fears as the most visible part of open discrimination against lesbians in Thatcher's Britain.

Rosy McEwen gives an extraordinary performance as Jean in a brilliant debut film from 2022 at the Venice Film Festival in the Giornate degli Autori - Venice Days section. The theatrical release on June 16 couldn't come at a more fitting time than in memory of the newly departed Glenda Jackson, June 15.  Her outspoken words against Margaret Thatcher's Thatcherism in the House of Commons,  April 10, 2013 were delivered two days after the death of the former PM when a proposal was made to honor her. Her speech attests to the heinous legacy Thatcher  left to Britain economically as well as spiritually during her days as PM  Section 28 is one of many government acts that attacked human rights and was a catalyst to the rise of the gay rights movement such as Stonewall and the Gay Teachers Association.

© 2023 - Moira Jean Sullivan - Date: 06/16
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