Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is True Grit True to Women?

Is True Grit True to Women?
Expert Reveals Historic Accuracy of Oscar™ Hopeful’s Representation of Women in the Old West

Nancy Williams loved the new film adaptation for True Grit, and even though the depiction of its defiantly strong teenage girl Mattie Ross wasn’t completely true to history, she felt it was true enough.

Williams, an expert on women’s issues in the Old West, said her only problem with the character of 14-year-old Ross, as played by Oscar hopeful Hailee Steinfeld, was that she did not represent the typical young woman of the Old West.

“At first glance I would say True Grit was not very true to history,” said Williams, also a veteran staffer of women’s crisis centers and author of Hawkmoon ( “Frontier women typically didn’t carry a gun, straddle a horse, or talk back with such brazenness. They either kept the house, cooked and tended the children, or they were school teachers or prostitutes. The stereotypes we see in the typical western novel or movie are not without basis in reality.”

The character of Mattie Ross did, however, match up with legends of some of the few women who stood out from the crowd as strong women who straddled their horses as they rode them against the grain.

“Despite the fact Mattie was not typical of the young girl of that era, there are enough women in the history of the Old West that broke the mold to make the story of True Grit believable,” Williams added. “Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley and a particularly feisty woman by the name of Sally Skull are a few that come to mind. These women, like Mattie Ross, were tough, capable, and sometimes deadly, rivaling any man in the ability to shoot, ride, play cards and talk trash.”

While not completely true to history, the character resonates with modern audiences because of the changing role of women in America, according to Williams.

“I think the modern woman is more able to identify with strong female characters like Mattie Ross,” she added. “No longer can we relate to the frontier wife who works at home and cooks, cleans and feeds the chickens. Showcasing women who can ride with the boys is another way that will keep westerns contemporary. Hollywood does it all the time: homosexual cowboys in Brokeback Mountain, repentant killers in Unforgiven and Mattie Ross, with her undeniable grit.”

About Nancy Williams

Nancy Williams is a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. She worked as the grant writer for Women’s Services, Inc, a domestic/sexual violence center. Nancy grew up on a farm in Meadville. She is the winner of the Paul Gillette Award in the 2009 Pikes Peak Writers’ competition for her novel Grace. Hawkmoon is her first published novel and was a finalist for the Colorado Humanities 2010 Book

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