Why Carey Mulligan wants to see more unfaithful women on screen

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Susan Devaney
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Actress Carey Mulligan has challenged the lack of authenticity on screen as female characters are rarely allowed to fail.  

From Bathsheba Everdene in Far From The Maddening Crowd and Maud Watts in Suffragette, it’s fair to say Carey Mulligan has played a real mix of female characters on screen.

But none of them had affairs or spectacularly failed, and Mulligan has had enough of the pretence.

During Variety’s Women in Motion forum at Cannes Film Festival, Mulligan said male characters “are celebrated in spite of all their flaws” but, in comparison, female characters who fail to be flawless are carved into villains.

“Men can be celebrated in spite of all of their flaws. Whereas you very rarely see women on screen being unfaithful, but of course it happens all the time in the way men are unfaithful all the time,” Mulligan explained, according to The Telegraph

“That’s something that happens all the time but we don’t want to see it.”

Which is why the Oscar-nominated actress is calling for true depictions, flaws and all, to be celebrated on the screen.

“It is so rare to see a woman allowed to fail on screen. Women are censored,” Mulligan said.

“I have worked on jobs before where my character, originally in the novel or in the original script, has behaved in a way that is morally objectionable or unpleasant and we have played those scenes on set, we have acted them, and then when it’s come to the edit they have been cut out.

“And I have asked why they’ve gone and been told, ‘the audience really doesn’t like it when she’s not very nice.’ And I think that’s such a misconception. I don’t think that’s true. Unless we show someone’s flaws, we are not showing a full person.

“When women are on screen, often if they make mistakes or they are failing, they are the villain.”

Mulligan, whose latest film, Wildlife, follows the life of a 1960s housewife who no longer pretends to be perfect, also addressed the gender pay gap in the entertainment industry.

“I probably wasn’t as mindful of it [the gender pay gap] in the past. I think I probably felt kind of lucky to be there, I felt so completely overwhelmed at the beginning of my career, I felt like I should be paying,” Mulligan said.

It’s not the first time the Drive actress has called out the industry for its lack of reality on screen. Earlier this year, Mulligan revealed she was “fed up” with playing girlfriends or wives.

Speaking to the BBC before the release of BBC Two series Collateral, Mulligan criticised the film industry, saying that TV roles give her the chance to play a “fully rounded, flawed, interesting person”.

Carey Mulligan as Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie in Collateral

She said: “I think for the most of female actresses I know it’s just about going where the better writing is. Films have tended to provide a lot for men in terms of great leading roles and not so much for women.”

“That’s certainly the case for me, I just want to play the most interesting, complicated real person and interesting complicated real people in film are really, really rare.

“I think essentially following great writing, trying to play real people and not play the girlfriend, the wife.”

We hear you, Mulligan.

Images: Getty / BBC