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Enola Holmes and the mystery of the missing mother.

Van Raalte, C., 2024. Enola Holmes and the mystery of the missing mother. In: Madden, D., Margree,, V. and Mousoutzanis, A., eds. Neo-Victorian Provocations: Nostalgia, Empire, Transmediality. Routledge. (In Press)

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Enola Holmes is a piece of teen-neo-victoriana whose eponymous heroine uses direct addresses to heighten the effect of a ‘double register’ which Imelda Whelehan describes as typical of the genre. The film articulates a different kind of ‘double register’ in relation to its status as a feminist text – a status its star and producer, Mille Bobby Brown has been keen to emphasise at every opportunity. It has about it much of the ‘sensibility’ that for Rosland Gill defines postfeminism. The film is adapted from the first in Nancy Springer’s series of Enola Holmes mysteries, entitled “The Case of the Missing Marquess”. The Marquess, however, is soon discovered – although the questions of who is trying to kill him and why take rather longer to solve. The missing person whose absence structures the narrative, and Enola’s developing relationship with her better-known older brothers, is her mother, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who remains mysteriously missing for most of the film. The ‘matrophor’, as Nadine Muller has termed it, is striking. It transpires that Enola’s mother is involved in a form of radical feminist politics that, with its organised direct action, consciousness raising and somewhat anachronistic self-defence classes above the tea shop, offers a distinct pre-echo of the second wave. Enola, meanwhile, like a late Victorian Katie Roiphe, rejects her mother’s politics, agreeing with her brothers that she is “dangerous” and choosing for herself a rather more neo-liberal path. When the two plots coincide, somewhat surprisingly, around the 1884 Reform Bill (which extended the suffrage, but notably not to women), Enola remains remarkably unaware of the connection between the personal and the political. Yet this cheerful romp, with its blithe disregard for historical accuracy or indeed narrative logic, is marked by nostalgia for the mother of childhood. It is also marked by a nostalgia for a simpler time when resistance to patriarchy could be signified by riding a bike, dressing in boy’s clothes or earning a living. In this paper I will explore the significance of the “matrophor” of the missing mother in this articulation of proto-post-feminism, along with the elements of nostalgia which stylistically and thematically underpin it.

Item Type:Book Section
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:39257
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:29 Jan 2024 16:14
Last Modified:29 Jan 2024 16:14


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