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Gentleman Jack, a series that takes us to the 19th century in the footsteps of a woman who has been called the precursor of modern lesbianism premieres on HBO
Jack knows business, wears very elegant top hats, has traveled a lot and has done mountaineering; He also plays cards, smokes, duels and likes beautiful women. But Jack is not really called Jack, nor is he a man. Jack is a woman and her name is Anne, miss Anne Lister, although in her town they also call her Jack, Gentleman Jack.
HBO premieres April, Gentleman Jack, a series that takes us to the 19th century in the footsteps of a woman who has been called the precursor of modern lesbianism. Throughout this eight episode series, we will meet Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), landowner of Shibden Hall, who, just in 1832, began the inauguration of the previous house in West Yorkshire, England, which the Listers occupied throughout three hundred years
From then on, Anne begins to frequent the city dressed as a man, with her walking stick and strong and determined steps. And moreover, she has also taken control of the inherited business, which leads some gentlemen, who do not portray themselves as gentlemen, to meddle in her affairs. They believe that because she is a woman, she is incapable of managing the day to day operations of the mines, quarries, railway and canal industry that are all owned by her. But she will prove her worth as she searches for love as a beautiful girl of the upper echelon of society. Yet in this case, it will be a lady named Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle), with whom she will even consider marrying; as for her, there is no conflict between Christianity and her sexuality.
This is not the first time that film and television adaptations have been done on Anne Lister. In 2010, the BBC presented a feature film entitled The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, directed by James Kent and starring Maxine Peake. In this film, as the title implies, her diary was the fundamental theme behind the production.
These were hidden for years until one of Anne's descendants, John Lister, discovered them. In more than four million words; (that is correct, four million words,) Anne Lister recorded her social and economic life in detail, which is an invaluable historical record. But a great deal of those newspapers were written in a code that was later known as an ingenious combination of Greek and algebra. It is believed that John Lister devoted himself to breaking that enigmatic code, but gave up on it as he was shocked to discover that Anne recorded her erotic life and love for other women. The newspapers returned to a dark time while welcoming the twentieth century; a time when Shibden Hall was converted into a museum, and the diaries resurfaced once again. New sections were translated and finally became public. Since 2010, BBC makes this feature film through the nourishment of information contained in those pages. That same year a documentary called The Real Anne Lister also premiered, where the presenter, comedian and actress Sue Parker served as the host. The documentary interviewed regarded academic figures and visited the sites where Lister frequented; making a very concise reconstruction of the historical records and the unique profile of this woman.
Now HBO brings us this very nurtured series about the years in which Anne Lister returned to her family home and devoted herself to defending her free will and her quest to marry Ann Walker. Let us remember that Lister lived at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign and thus the Victorian era; a period considered for moral stringency, yet also a period that led to great changes for England, which went from being an agrarian country to a great industrial superpower. Anne Lister was there, not only to be an active part of such economic and political changes, but also to push for moral and cultural changes, which were undoubtedly a bigger thorn.
HBO, through Gentleman Jack, goes beyond their initial scope with the goal of highlighting a fundamental figure of the struggle for gender equality which had already been seen in film series, and therefore needed a television series.
The script, in this case, is the responsibility of Sally Wainwright, screenwriter, actress and director, known for the BBC series Last Tango in Halifax (2012-2016) and the Unforgiven miniseries, which earned her the Royal Television Society’s Writer of the Year Award in 2009.
Wainwright, originally from Yorkshire, had wanted to tell the story of Anne Lister for at least twenty years; and now she finally achieves it with help from BBC and HBO, as the premiere was simultaneously announced on both networks. The screenwriter and director shares credits behind the lens with Sarah Harding and Jennifer Perrott. Harding is a famous actress, director and British lead singer of the pop band Girls Aloud. She has directed episodes of the series Queer as Folk (1999), Poirot (2005), Agatha Christie's Marple (2013) and Vikings (2016), among many others. Jennifer Perrott, of Australian descent, has worked part of her career in England and has received awards for her short films, and has directed episodes of the popular series Doctor Who (2018); episodes that highlighted the new female phase of the show.
The role of Anne Lister is portrayed by Suranne Jones, British actress and producer who has also done an enormous amount of series, including Unforgiven, alongside her screenwriter, the aforementioned, Sally Wainwright.
In July 2018, Anne Lister's memory was honored with a rainbow-colored plaque on one of the walls at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate, York. The plaque celebrates her as a gender-nonconforming entrepreneur, an unsettled precursor of the genre.
Gentleman Jack, a magnificent series on the impressive Anne Lister, premieres on April 26, on HBO and HBO GO.
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