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Feminist parable's message for Eddie McGuire and co.

  • 23 June 2016



Mustang (M). Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven. Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan. 97 minutes

If at first glance Mustang seems familiar, cast your mind back to 1999, and Sofia Coppola's adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides. The resonance between the films, each of which is about five adolescent sisters who are literally held captive by conservative guardians, is graphic and explicit; compare, for example, this image from Coppola's film, with the one below, of Mustang's oppressed young heroines lounging despondently, limbs comingled, on their bedroom floor.

The setting is different — The Virgin Suicides takes place in 1970s suburban Michigan, Mustang in a village in northern Turkey in the modern day — but the feminist lens is applied in an equally vigorous, and similarly melancholic manner. Yet Mustang builds copiously upon, rather than repeating, its forebear. The Virgin Suicides considered the plight of young women whose lives unfold under the weight of severe Catholic conservatism and the middle-class male gaze.

Mustang co-writer and director Ergüven concerns herself with a broader social conservatism and paternalism that is at once particular to its provincial setting, and universal. Consider a scene in which the sisters attend a football match from which men have been barred. The youngest sister (the film's narrator) Lale (Sensoy) is tossed repeatedly into the air on a wave of ecstatic female football fans. It is only in the absence of men that these girls are safe to experience joy.

On the face of it modern Australia is a long way from the ultra conservative society depicted in Mustang. Yet it is hard to ignore the resonance between this image of a football utopia free from incipient male violence and events in Australian football these past weeks.


"Like a good parable, Mustang illuminates the ethical deficit of such a scenario, where women can so readily be bulldozed by powerful male voices."


The conversation between several prominent football personalities — including highly influential Collingwood president Eddie McGuire — that invoked violence against a female journalist, undermined the safety of and respect for all women.

That McGuire, eventually, and presumably under pressure from the club's board and a major sponsor, offered what seemed to be a sincere apology, barely diminishes the fact that the comments were made in the first place, compensates for the lack of real repercussions, or excuses the time and effort that was required