Somehow it never occurred to me that Gloria Steinem would ever have identified with Holly Golightly.
Turns out, though, that the Truman Capote character Audrey Hepburn played — who resisted being put in “a cage” for love — not only expressed Steinem’s views for many years on marriage, but was also responsible for the iconic feminist’s trademark blond streaks, which, she says in Monday's “Gloria: In Her Own Words” (9 p.m., HBO) “I can directly attribute to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’”
Beginning with her transformation from a magazine freelancer writing pieces on textured stockings or — more famously — on the then little-known travails of Playboy bunnies, into one of the country’s leading feminists, “Gloria” never shies from discussing Steinem’s looks, which over the years have probably attracted as much attention as her beliefs.
“Maybe I helped to break a false stereotype,” she says in the film. Now 77 and in a recent appearance before reporters in Pasadena, still looking strikingly vibrant, she draws the the kind of how-do-you-do-it questions from some reporters that usually go to actresses. (Her answer: “Revolution keeps you young.”).
As for her involvement in the documentary, “It’s really really scary to just give up total control and submit your life to somebody else ... I just answered questions. I kind of supplied the trees, and Sheila [Nevins, the network’s documentary chief] and HBO said, ‘OK. We think this is a forest.’”
Stick with this fast-moving, clip-heavy survey course of Steinem’s career, and you’ll eventually get past the surface stuff, as she discusses aging, her regrets about how she handled her parents’ deaths, her long struggle for self-esteem, her decision to marry for the first time at 66 and her subsequent widowhood.
A lot of the rest may feel like a rehash to women (and men) of a certain age, but for anyone not old enough to remember a time when network anchors, all male, felt free to make fun of the fledgling women’s movement on the evening news, “Gloria” might yet have something to say.