Deborah Ross

Astonishing to think Miss World ever existed: Misbehaviour reviewed

A movie about the notorious 1970s contest that was invaded by women’s libbers is fun but not especially deep

Misbehaviour is a film about the 1970 Miss World contest that was disrupted by ‘bloody women’s libbers’ — that’s what my dad always called them, anyhow — throwing flour bombs and shouting ‘we’re not cattle!’ as Bob Hope fled the stage in a panic and our televisions temporarily blacked out.Marvellous, I think now, although at the time I was probably as annoyed as my dad. I loved this show when I was growing up and wouldn’t have known there was anything amiss, as it was all so normalised, watched by a global audience of 100 million. Great family entertainment, I’d have said, now get out my way so I can see the contestants parade with actual numbered discs on their wrists as Michael Aspel pervs all over them. Astonishing to think it was ever like this. Framed as a comedy drama, it makes for an entertainingly fun film if not an especially deep one. It was also the year that Miss Grenada won, the first ever black woman, which was monumental, and the film doesn’t quite know what to do about that.

The director, Philippa Lowthorpe (The Crown, Three Girls), tells the story through two of the activists involved: Sally Alexander (played by Keira Knightley) and Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley). (I think they’re both around 34-26-34, but could be wrong as you have to do it by eye these days.) Sally, when we meet her, is applying as a mature student to study history at University College London and the sexism is insane. ‘What does your husband think about you returning to university?’ asks the male panel.

You sense the film-makers wished a white woman had won so it would all go away

Alexander thinks change comes from the inside while Robinson, who runs a chapter of the Women’s Liberation Movement, is all for anger and direct action.

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