Carol is based on the book, The Price of Salt (1952) by Patricia Highsmith. The film is set in 1950s New York City and tells the forbidden love story between Carol Aird, an older mid-divorced woman, and Therese Belivet, a younger, aspiring photographer. They first meet at the mall where Therese works, and Carol leaves her gloves at the counter. Entranced and intrigued by the woman she just met, Therese mails them to her using a slip Carol filled out with her name and address in order to have the product she bought shipped to her. Therese is invited to her home and Carol’s husband is skeptical of Therese because he knows about Carol’s homosexuality from a past affair. Since they are in the middle of a divorce, Carol’s husband wants to have a judge consider a “morality clause” as a means to keep their daughter, and Carol flees the city, taking Therese with her. The two meet a traveling salesman who ends up being a private investigator following the two. The PI ends up recording Carol and Therese kissing and having sex as evidence, and Carol leaves Therese abandoned to try and make things right with her husband. The two meet again later after Carol decides to allow her husband to have custody of their daughter so she can be her authentic self. The end of the movie implies that Therese goes back to Carol after being hurt and rejecting Carol’s advances.
Carol through a Radical Feminist Perspective Lens
I chose the Radical Feminist Perspective for this artifact because it “assumes that inequities and oppression stem from how the system creates men and women differently (subject and object gender identities) and the value (or lack of value) associated with them,” (Sellnow 168). In Carol, the two main women in the movie, Carol and Therese, are seen as inferior to their male companions and oftentimes, criticized and verbally attacked for standing up for themselves. Carol has a very dominating personality over her husband, which is why he tries to “shut Carol up” by threatening to take their daughter, Rindy, away. The goal of radical feminist critique is to “reveal how objectifying hegemonic beliefs and behaviors based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation are reinforced or challenged in some way,” (168). This is appropriate for Carol because the movie is about how hegemony is trying to be reinforced into two people who reject it. Since the movie is set in the 1950s, women are typically seen as objects in the film. They are expected to cooperate with the “man of the house” and the men in their lives. Therese, for example, has a boyfriend who she does not enjoy being intimate with (because of her closeted sexuality). While he does not force her to be intimate with him, he makes many remarks about how it isn’t right. Later in the film when she comes out to him, he tells her that “it isn’t right”. He then goes on to try and manipulate Therese by telling her that a woman could never give her what a man is meant to. These statements are meant to reinforce hegemony. However, both Carol and Therese reject these ideals and fight back against a patriarchal structure in order to be with each other. The only exception to this is when Carol leaves Therese to go back with her husband in order to not lose her daughter. Carol and her husband still divorce, and Carol agrees to go to psychoanalytic treatment (reinforcing hegemony), then stops attending because she knows she cannot be fixed (rejecting hegemony).
By making a rejected attempt at reinforcing hegemony in the film, there could be implications of acceptance in the film. The film itself shows that homosexuality should not be punished, despite the obstacles in it. It also shows that society is not always morally correct, even when it thinks it is.