Misbehaviour Parent Guide
Not only is the story compelling, but it's filmed with a realism and dry humor that will hit home for women.
Parent Movie Review
Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) has finally had enough. She has endured a humiliating interview before being accepted to university as a mature student, she is sick of having male students talk over and interrupt her, and she’s been told that studying women’s history is a “minority perspective”. When she meets a group of feminist activists, Sally joins forces to protest at the 1970 Miss World competition, which they see as “one big fat celebration of oppression”.
The women are soon printing handbills and get enough attention that Sally appears on television. “The only other forum in which participants are weighed, measured and publicly examined before being assigned their value is a cattle market,” she points out. The comparison is apt. Twenty-first century viewers will cringe as the film unsparingly reveals the casual sexism of a pre-feminist world. Pageant contestants are measured (and have their breasts patted to make sure they aren’t padded) and their measurements are read out during the show. They parade across the stage in their swimwear and then they are told to turn around and the camera slowly pans across their backsides as they are exposed to the audience. This is definitely a movie that can lead to conversations about the objectification of women’s bodies.
Although it does a fine job of telling its story, what makes Misbehaviour stand out is its respect for the breadth of women’s experience. Issue-based films tend to be single-minded, often casting their chosen topic in black and white terms. Misbehaviour avoids this trap. While it clearly supports the actions of Sally, Jo, and the other feminists, it also validates the aspirations of Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Miss Africa South, Pearl Jansen (Loreece Harrison). Controversial though the pageant might be, it is still a potential road map out of poverty and racial segregation for Pearl. And for Jennifer, it’s a way of reaching her career goals and broadening the dreams of young girls of color. Their character arcs provide a striking illustration of intersectional feminist theory and can be used as a catalyst for discussion with teens about recognizing different types of oppression.
The movie also deserves credit for honestly showing cultural divisions between women: Sally is determined to be free of feminine roles that she sees as restrictive while her mother feels defined by them. As Sally struggles against cultural norms, her mother feels devalued and unappreciated. There’s what can almost be described as humility in the movie’s outlook as it makes an effort to understand and accept the validity of diverse perspectives. Holding to one’s principles while still acknowledging the value of other people’s beliefs is a critical feature of civil society and it’s refreshing to see it on screen. Now, if only we could see it in real life….
Not only is the story compelling, it’s filmed with a realism and dry humor that will hit home for most female viewers. After another futile exchange in her university class, Sally stares into the camera with a look of weary, incredulous anger that women will feel in their bones. This is what makes Misbehaviour such a good historical film – it feels incredibly relevant. Despite the enormous progress women have made in the past 50 years, some things have still not changed.
The movie’s themes of dignity, equality, courage, self-respect, civil engagement, and sacrificing for your beliefs, do come with some negative content. The biggest issue is profanity with 18 swear words, including three sexual expletives. There are also frequent scenes involving sexist dialogue and comments about women’s bodies. None of these take away from the film’s overarching theme – that women are more than objects of sexual desire and deserve to be respected and valued for their minds and contributions. That’s a message that should win the prize.Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe. Starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jessie Buckley. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release September 25, 2020. Updated December 18, 2020
Watch the trailer for Misbehaviour
Rating & Content Info
Why is Misbehaviour rated Not Rated? Misbehaviour is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A van is blown up. Protesters shoot water pistols at unsuspecting people. Protesters throw bags filled with flour on stage. Police tackle women to the ground.
Sexual Content: A woman is briefly seen breastfeeding; the upper portion of her breast is briefly visible. There is reference to a man’s multiple affairs. A woman demands access to contraception and abortion on demand. A woman mentions being pregnant and unmarried. A man jokes about “feeling women”. Women’s busts are measured and recorded; their breasts are patted to check for padding. Women parade around in swimwear. Men talk about women’s figures. Women are told to have “nice tight bottoms”. Someone jokes about “shaking off” a man. Graffiti mentions male genitalia. A man alludes to a sexual relationship when he asks his employee if she wants “scotch and sofa or gin and platonic?” There is reference to topless models in a newspaper.
Profanity: There are approximately 18 swear words in the movie, including six terms of deity, seven scatological curses, two sexual expletives, and a few minor swear words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There are frequent scenes of people smoking. Alcohol is seen in social situations. A person holds a drink of alcohol.
Page last updated December 18, 2020
Misbehaviour Parents' Guide
You can learn more about Sally Alexander here:
YouTube: BBC News: Why did this woman storm Miss World pageant?
History Workshop: Beyond “Misbehaviour”: Sally Alexander in Conversation
Contestants discuss their experiences here:
Jennifer Hosten.com: Jennifer Hosten
Clips from the pageant are available here:
YouTube: Miss World 1970 Clips
Beauty pageants have changed since 1970, increasing emphasis on interview and talent segments. What do you think about beauty pageants? Do you think they are exploitative or do you think they give women greater opportunities and build confidence?
ConnectUs: 24 Beauty Pageants Pros and Cons
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Jennifer Hosten tells her story in Miss World 1970.
Sarah Banet-Weiser takes an academic look at pageants in The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity. Hilary Levy Freidman argues that pageants can co-exist positively with feminism in Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America. Elisabeth B Thompson-Hardy examines pageants through a sociological lens in Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power: Trailer Park Royalty.
The most recent home video release of Misbehaviour movie is November 3, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Early English feminists fight for the right to vote in Suffragette.
On the Basis of Sex follows the early career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her efforts to overturn laws that discriminate “on the basis of sex”.
Miss Juneteenth tells the bittersweet story of a past pageant queen who wants her daughter to reap the benefits of wearing the crown. Her daughter is far more ambivalent.
Chaos comes to a beauty pageant in Miss Congeniality when an FBI agent goes undercover as a contestant to trap a terrorist.