Houston Matters

The Bigger Picture: ‘Poor Things’ and women’s liberation

In our monthly segment about the issues addressed in film, Houston Matters looks at how feminism developed through the 20th century into today.

Still of Emma Stone in Poor Things
Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in “Poor Things.”


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Within the steampunk-infused, Victorian era house of the bizarre surgeon Godwin Baxter are many oddities: A duck with the head of a dog, a dog with the head of a duck, and a woman with the (actual) brain of a child.

This is the setting of Poor Things, the newest film by director Yorgos Lanthimos. In it, Academy Award nominee Emma Stone portrays Bella Baxter, the aforementioned woman who is rapidly gaining intelligence and self-awareness as she discovers the world around her.

Through the course of Bella’s journey, we see her gradually move towards her own liberation, despite the limits the men in her life attempt to place on her.

In this, it’s not hard to spot the parallels with the experience of women in the United States, who fought for their own freedoms throughout the 20th century.

In this month's edition of The Bigger Picture, where Houston Matters explores social and cultural topics in film, we look back at the history of feminism in the U.S. and consider where we are today.

In the audio above, Joshua Zinn talks with Travis Leamons, president of the Houston Film Critics Society, and Leandra Zarnow, associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Houston.