Actress and model Lily Cole has addressed her critics after her involvement in the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth caused an unexpected backlash.
Cole was selected as “creative partner” by the Bronte Parsonage Museum to celebrate the bicentenary of the Wuthering Heights author’s birth. But not everyone accepted the decision with open arms, including Bronte expert Nick Holland, who quit the Bronte Society in protest.
Holland said that Emily Bronte would not have approved of a supermodel getting the role, writing on his blog: “The central question should be, what would Emily Bronte think if she found that the role of chief ‘artist’ and organiser in her celebratory year was a supermodel?
“We all know the answer to that, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t fit to make the decision or have any role in the governance of the Bronte Society.
“It’s best that I leave the society now, before they announce James Corden as the creative partner for 2019, a year in which Patrick Bronte is being remembered, and Rita Ora as organiser for Anne Bronte’s celebrations in 2020,” he concluded.
But Cole hit back at the criticism, telling the BBC, “I would not be so presumptuous as to guess Emily’s reaction to my appointment as a creative partner at the museum, were she alive today. Yet I respect her intellect and integrity enough to believe that she would not judge any piece of work on name alone.”
The 30-year-old actress is making a short film for the museum about Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights. It will also tackle the issue of gender politics and women’s rights in the year that marks 100 years since women got the right to vote in the U.K.
The Bronte sisters — Emily, Charlotte, and Anne — famously published their work under male pseudonyms so that they would be taken seriously by the nineteenth-century literary establishment.
Drawing comparisons, Cole wondered if she should produce her film under a pseudonym too. “Now I find myself wondering, fleetingly, if I should present the short film I am working on for the Bronte Parsonage Museum under a pseudonym myself, so that it will be judged on its own merits, rather than on my name, my gender, my image or my teenage decisions.”
Despite Mr. Holland’s opinions, the Bronte Society stand by their decision, saying “Lily’s innovative projects in the fields of literacy, nature, story-telling and the environment are the perfect fit for Emily, and her originality and creativity will bring a fresh perspective to our 2018 celebrations.”