I think that the more that women’s health is opened up into platforms of dialogues, through art, film, theatre, performance; experimented and trialled, we will see a growing awareness and then acceptance of characters and stories being less than novelty and being more wizened in their approach.
Ahead of Girls on Film special pampering session/health event that’s happening already tomorrow (!!) at Candid Arts Trust in Angel, we have spoken to the wonderful Rowan Wigley, whose film HERESY OF CHAMPNA will be screen at the event as a part of its film programme.
We are very excited to have Rowan on board, who made a film that mirrors some of the most crucial issues that we want to bring to the forefront at Love thy Body – beauty standards and woman’s unhealthy infatuation with them. In various media we are being constantly drilled with how to look and what to wear, which makes us separate from accepting and loving ourselves just the way we are. Read as Rowan opens up about her film and its moral implications:
How did the idea of making ‘Heresy of Champna’ came around? What would you say is the film’s most powerful message?
Heresy of Champna was an idea that funnily came about whilst I was in the shower. Seeing that Heresy of Champna is a surreal satirical play on a hair advert, this probably seems like a logical place to think it up. I was imagining the personalities of brands and how shampoo bottles might be if they were people (specifically in this case the Ultimate Blends Garnier types of shampoo, because they were named in this grotesquely amusing way: The Silky Smoother, The Lustrous Latherer, etc). I guess this personifying idea was probably because of the fact that branding in all fields is well known for it’s portrayal of products as people, or at least as having some relatable human attributes.
At first Heresy of Champna was an odd hypothetical idea, which seemed too abstract to fully realise in the moment; but then by the time I was applying for the funding that eventually helped it be made, the long extent of research into the history of advertising, the analysis of advertising structures, branding, the jingles, voiceovers, greek tragedies (unhappy endings), had allowed me to develop it into something stronger and more coherent. I wanted Heresy of Champna to seem ‘behind-the-scenes behind-the-scenes’, in the sense that it seems to reveal something beneath the surface inside an advert. How would people feel or act if they were actually products trapped in a never ending loop of perpetual promotion? Wouldn’t they slowly sink into despair? This may seem a little pointless a question since we are so far from being a bottle of shampoo, but the thought on this was to study the dynamic between consumers and products, a conditioned (excuse the pun) fear of dirt, cleanliness being akin to elitism. One of my feelings is that some feelings towards certain things, affect our feelings towards other things. Big or small. We are shifted into habitual thinking patterns about elements of reality and mundane every day life can affect our attitudes towards social and political realities. These aren’t strict statements, these are just quizzical musings that informed some of my decisions in the storytelling.
But really if we think about the vast amount of advertising that feeds us on a daily basis, aren’t we used unethically in some way as consumers? If we are told to use something enough for the wrong reasons, for example if we are told something makes us happy enough times, it becomes normalised, accepted in the brain. Then we don’t seek answers when we don’t feel happy, we just buy shampoo or clean the house more. This applies through all genders. And the behavioural patterns perpetuate beyond the home.
I can’t deny the practical benefits of advertising, as helping businesses grow and getting products to the right people, but hair and beauty slogans insinuate so much rubbish. It’s pure cheek. And seeing that we are animals with feelings and fears that drives a lot of our instincts, I don’t believe for a second that we are immune to this. This shapes us, even if just a little bit I wanted to draw attention to that in Heresy of Champna.
I think the film’s most powerful message is in itself a question that is both within the making and also the watching of the film. It’s asking the question, what is really going on here, in this world, in our world. In this big brother type dystopian world that this family of women find themselves living in. What is the ethical disposition, and effect on our mental health with messages that are designed to confuse and thus control for financial profit.
What does self-care mean to you and how important is this issue for women nowadays?
I think self-care is different for everyone. But for me, it’s taking time for myself. For myself and being more thoughtful and caring towards myself, in the same way that I want to be caring towards other people. I also think it’s learning to say no to things that don’t make me happy, which I find really hard sometimes. This brings me more focus, and more calmness and balance. I seek balance, but sometimes just having fun and letting go feels like an extreme but also the thing that makes me most happy to have a total release of energy and let loose. Also seeking to have a healthy relationship with the world and developing coping mechanisms for difficulties, help me feel better about things. I personally love watching films in the bath and find this beyond relaxing. Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation too, but I find it difficult to fit it all into a routine so I don’t do this as often as I would like. I do have a friend that is very energetic, so yoga makes her anxious because it’s too slow, so I do truly believe there is something for everyone and not everything works. I personally have had a long time dealing with low mood and anxiety, and have talked to professionals, friends, family, and although it’s very much my own everyday, I don’t think I could have coped at my hardest moments without the support of people in my life. My mum is also a councillor and my dad once trained to work in Neuro Linguistic Programming so that has probably helped my understanding of my own brain massively. Mental health undeniably just as important as physical health, if not more! Our brains take care of our bodies, so we need to take care of our brains in return.
It’s a positive thing that mental health stigma is being slowly eradicated in this modern age, but we can very easily go backwards, we still have a long way to go and it’s still very much an issue that is swept under the carpet in lots of places and for lots of people who find it hard to speak about it. We live in a world with bouts and bouts of distractions, and being creative too, it can all be a bit frazzling. And yes I do think it’s important for women, but also everyone, and each individual will have a different experience and therefore need a different approach or advice.
How does filmmaking aid in raising awareness about health and self-care?
Films are a form of storytelling. They are also just shapes and colours. I think they can be informative to an extent. They can raise awareness which is utterly important. But we have to move beyond awareness once awareness is achieved, and look to this awareness affecting the way that our society approaches mental health and self-care by improving the institutions, charities, health services, and bodies that provide support for individuals in a state of vulnerability or in need of help or advice.
In your opinion, should there be more films raising issues about women’s health?
Yes, definitely. But I think that we need to be careful not to compartmentalise women’s health as a specifically gendered issue. Women and men both have mental health needs and it’s a big umbrella we can all fit underneath. I feel strongly about mental health having myself and some of my family experienced problems with it. Health, in this case of the mind, is something that should be mainstream in educational curriculums, and opened up more freely into public dialogues. I think that the more that women’s health is opened up into platforms of dialogues, through art, film, theatre, performance; experimented and trialled, we will see a growing awareness and then acceptance of characters and stories being less than novelty and being more wizened in their approach. There have been way to many stories told with disillusionment towards people suffering from mental illness, or characterising women unfairly for having different emotions to men. I also find it problematic that beautiful women being sad in films is glamorised so much. I have this archetypal female heroine in my head right now who is purely constructed of cigarettes, lipstick and sadness, but I can’t remember what films this has come from. I also think the film industry needs to make the above developments more readily especially since it’s at first taking a risk, but if it breaks into the mainstream then it could really make big change in how people see each other.
What do you think is the biggest misconceptions that women have about their bodies and what’s the best way to combat them?
Be kind to yourself… I don’t know… I find this a really hard question. I can’t speak for women, so I’ll speak for myself. I personally find that the physical feeling of my body, this soft spongey mass and curves and spotted dotted skin, can change depending on how I feel. I see myself as body confident some days and some days I feel repulsed and hide. Sometimes I love embellishing my outfits with my moods and somedays I like wearing black or blending in. The way I see my body is defined by how I feel about myself. I think that, physicality and emotional states of mind for me are intrinsically combined. I have tried over time to accept my flaws or my perceived flaws and love them all the same, but it’s still something I’m working on.
Combatting misconceptions. Jeeeez tough stuff… Basically I think it’s a day in day out working progress. Try to enjoy it and see the element of satisfaction from the feeling of peace that comes over after a little fight with your own niggling doubts. Listen to yourself and also have conversations. Tell yourself you are brave for facing your fears, because you are. Encourage others to talk about their feelings. Delve deeper into feelings about things, ask yourself why you have these feelings. Don’t listen to what adverts tell you to feel. Listen to people or nature or yourself because these are all denominators that have your best interests at heart.
Catch HERESY OF CHAMPNA and more at Love Thy Body tomorrow, at Candid Arts Trust, 1pm – 5pm. Talks, films, workshops.
Buy your tickets here