The XX Factor

Young Helen Mirren, Sexism Crusader of Our 1970s Dreams

Helen Mirren attends a press conference of the film Woman in Gold at the Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale on Feb. 9, 2015.

Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve probably always wondered: How does award-winning actress Helen Mirren manage to perform and have boobs at the same time?

British broadcaster Michael Parkinson thought this was a fair question to ask in a 1975 televised interview with Mirren, then 30, in a clip that is making the rounds on the internet this week. Maybe you’ve already seen it: This Helen Mirren interview has gone viral before; it will go viral again. Until all the world has seen and internalized the messages of enlightened 1970s Helen Mirren, this clip will continue to circulate and recirculate around the web unceasingly, as it rightly should.

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After introducing Mirren as the “sex queen of the Royal Shakespeare Company” (insert Lady Macbeth side-eye), Parkinson pursued what to him must have seemed like a logical line of questioning: Men, the default gender of people with brains and talent, do not have breasts, so it would follow that Ms. Mirren’s “equipment” hinders her abilities as a dramatic actor, no?

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“I’d like you to explain what you mean by my equipment. In great detail,” Mirren responded casually. “You mean my fingers?” she asked, raising her hands and letting her bracelets bang together. “Come on, spit it out.”

Parkinson eventually demurred that he was talking about her figure, making plain that he did not really see her as a person but as some kind of sex robot with made-to-order parts, which is remarkable considering sex robot technology was much more primitive in the ’70s than it is today. Mirren responded with the ultimate underminer power move by saying, “Sorry, what was the beginning of the question? I’ve forgotten.” Forcing Parkinson once again to acknowledge how ridiculous he sounded, she asked, “Serious actresses can’t have big bosoms, is that what you mean?” She declared this a boring question, and eventually Parkinson moved on to asking her about the feather she was carrying and her tattoo. Nice save, buddy.

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Mirren negs him a few other times, you’ll see if you watch the whole interview, proving that 1975 Helen Mirren is just as heroic as 2016, or really any year, Helen Mirren. Last time this went viral was there such a thing as #goals? Good thing we are now able to properly assign it and she the label #goals.

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A fun postscript: You can also watch a 2007 interview between Mirren and Parkinson online, which would seem to indicate that our dame did not hold his ’70s sexism against dear Parky. That Helen Mirren: generous, but lethal when she wants to be.

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