A (mush)room of one’s own: feminism, posthumanism and race in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled

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The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2017) is one of several recent films to feature mushrooms as a prominent plot device. In this essay, I argue that the use of mushrooms here allows cinema to engage with issues surrounding the Anthropocene, or the period in which capitalist man has shaped the world more than the world has shaped capitalist man. I shall in particular propose that the association between women and fungi suggests that the Anthropocene entails an anthropocentric and patriarchal worldview. That is, The Beguiledsuggests that the Anthropocene is defined specifically by capitalist man – whose world must now be replaced by one that might be deemed feminist and posthuman, not least because of how the women at the film’s all-girls’ private school work with mushrooms to bring down the central male figure, Civil War soldier Corporal John McBurney.

However, The Beguiled also posits the limits of such a feminist and posthuman world. For despite the film’s Civil War setting, and despite its status as a remake-cum-adaptation of both Don Siegel’s 1971 film of the same name and Thomas P. Cullinan’s source novel, the film only deals with race as at best a structuring absence. Coppola’s (characteristic) refusal to deal directly with race nonetheless allows us to identify the whiteness of those wider issues with which the film deals, namely the Anthropocene, posthumanism, (much) feminism and perhaps cinema itself. In particular, we can draw out this latter suggestion by considering the film’s use of the Madewood Plantation House, which also features in music videos for artists like J. Cole and Beyoncé. For if cinema is a force for the white Anthropocene, it is perhaps in supposedly “unruly” media outside of cinema that black and other feminisms can intersect with posthumanism to emerge as a genuine alternative to the Anthropocene.

© 2020, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-95
Journalaniki: Portuguese Journal of the Moving Image
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2020


  • The Beguiled
  • Sofia Coppola
  • Anthropocene
  • mushrooms
  • posthumanism
  • feminism
  • race
  • Beyoncé
  • Madewood Plantation

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