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by Lei Landicho
Here is a film that will end the infidelity epidemic in cinemas. Any movie, post-Etiquette, that will mention the words, ‘affair,’ ‘other woman,’ or ‘mistress’ would be considered null and void. Etiquette for Mistresses does not deny that movie productions have abrasively fed us up with stories on adultery and unfaithfulness; rather, it embraces the idea, banks on it, and flaunts the many differing perspectives of being a woman at the backyard of a matrimonial home.
Etiquette for Mistresses follows the lives of four strong and successful women. They are the typical Chanel-toting, champagne-sipping ladies of the upper class. One is a litigant, the other is a restaurateur. One owns a mansion of gold, the other lavishly spends gold in bars and parties. Together, they form an intimate circle of friendship bounded by explicit rules and built on a precarious common ground: being a mistress.
The film’s premise is scandalous at best, considering that it is set in a divorce-less, bible-mongering country. However, it is also not that surprisingly unique as infidelity stories have already swarmed the silver screen since 2008 until today. Etiquette tried to reconcile these paradoxical realities and came up with a meaningful presentation of a mistress, one that previous films have failed to show.
Infidelity, as Etiquette teaches, is not just an issue of lust and sex. In fact, this might be the first of the infidelity films that did not show skin. Though it does not glorify mistresses, the film digs deep and gives an explanation on why mistresses do what they do. It even goes deeper into surfacing the marital woes that couples face and the role that divorce could have played therein.
The film is certain that it would generate a mix reception from the audience. Feminists will have a lengthy debate on whether the movie subscribes to feminist values or not. Is being a mistress the bane of the feminist movement? Are they traitors to their own cause? Or, is being a mistress a product of her right and freedom to choose what to think and do? Isn’t that what feminism fights for?
With the reality that women are seen and represented as objects or secondary characters in movies, shows, and advertisements, Etiquette for Mistresses does not just shift the attention to women, it also gives them the avenue to think, speak, and act for themselves.
It is no surprise to read the concepts of gender and representation in the pages of academic books and scholarly manuscripts. But to see gender discourses in a mainstream film is wanting and badly needed. Etiquette for Mistresses bravely delivers the debate on gender and power relations to the fore. It shows us that feminists can come from the unlikeliest of places.