Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Bletchley Circle

This British miniseries isn't perfect, is a little slow, but great acting and one of the most subtly feminist movies I've seen in a while makes it so much worth your while. The series follows four women who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, which was the group, mostly women (80% of those who worked at Bletchley were women), who worked on cracking the German codes. After the war, the four women have mostly returned to their old jobs, or else gotten married and quit work all together. Due to the Official Secrets Act, the women (and men) were forbidden to divulge what they did during the war--certainly couldn't use it on resumes to find other work, weren't even supposed to tell your spouses, or have the opportunity of finding others who had done the same job and connecting that way. Seven years after the war, the main character, Susan, is now married with two children. She is trying to fit into the housewife life, but she is bored and stifled. When a serial killer starts targeting local women, she decides that with her experience, she can help track the killer through his patterns and stop him. Susan goes to some of the other women she worked with at Bletchley: Millie, Jean and Lucy, and the four team up to stop the killer.
It deals with the themes of women being forced out of jobs they loved or forced into domesticity; the patronization and dismissal of those in authority because they are women, or because they can't cite their credentials; and also the dismissal of their husbands, who don't want to hear about it, don't care what they did in the war, don't care about their wives' interests. Which isn't to say that the male characters are all horrible misogynists or anything, but they are definitely products of their time. Moreover, the series regularly smashes the Bechdel test, and follows not one but four women. When in 2012, only 27% of speaking roles in movies went to women; and when the number of women directors, producers and screenwriters is falling alarmingly, we need movies and series like this. That don't just have one token female character, but have several full-formed women; who aren't perfect, but are complex human beings just like their male counterpoints found just about everywhere onscreen. And the good news is that apparently there is going to be a second Bletchley series next year.

Further reading on the real Bletchley Park, which is pretty fascinating (unlike the movie Enigma...which was pretty boring):

4 stars out of 5


  1. YES. ITV in UK and PBS in North America will air the 2nd series of The Bletchley Circle. Fans @

    Haven't seen Enigma film yet, but it's funny how it has such mixed reviews.

  2. Shared this piece @ today.