A Very British Scandal: Claire Foy’s historic take on revenge porn

Image source, BBC / Blueprint Productions

In Claire Foy's latest drama she plays someone who is slut-shamed and a victim of rso-called evenge porn.

The thing is, this true-life story is not set in the present day.

It happened in the 1960s.

The Golden Globe-winning actress plays Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, who went through a high-profile, damaging and distressing public divorce.

"She was incredibly famous," Claire tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"She even had a song written about her called You're The Top."

Image source, BBC / Blueprint ProductionsImage caption, Paul Bettany plays the Duke of Argyll and accused his wife, the Duchess of Argyll, of adultery

Her divorce threw her into the spotlight even more and she was accused of theft, drug-taking and bribery by her husband, and an explicit Polaroid photo of her was shown in court.

It could be seen as an early form of "revenge porn", where explicit or sexual images or videos are shared without consent.

"The easiest shortcut in any society of how to bring a woman down is to expose her as being unwomanly," says Claire.

"Saying that someone is promiscuous or having an opinion or a sex life is the oldest trick in the book and it's basically been used since they used to burn us as witches."

Image source, BBC / Blueprint ProductionsImage caption, Claire Foy says the treatment of her character can be compared to the treatment of women today

At first, Margaret Campbell found her husband – played by WandaVision actor Paul Bettany – "heavenly" and they married soon after meeting.

They'd both been divorced already, which was seen as far a more scandalous and controversial issue than it is now.

She moved into his huge castle in Scotland and helped him to renovate it, but his own addiction issues contributed to the marriage falling apart.

He also accused his wife of cheating on him and claimed she'd had 88 lovers.

Claire says the tactics that the Duchess' husband used to "shame her" in the divorce played "into the hands of public opinion about women at that time".

"The way she was treated is how some women are treated today," says Claire.

"It was so apparent that who she was, her sexuality, her as a woman, the way she behaved, her choices in life were used against her and to judge her character."

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, The Duke and Duchess of Argyll were married in 1951

The Duke's also believed to have stolen the explicit photos from his wife to use in the divorce proceedings, which showed her naked and pictured with an unidentified man.

There has been speculation over the years about who the man was, but the Duchess always kept it a secret.

One of the complex things about the character, according to Claire, is that in real life the Duchess was – at times – "a horrible person".

"She lied a lot. She famously made up lies as quick as most people want to have a cup of tea. She was also incredibly privileged and no one said no to her.

"But she was still a human being, and what she was subjected to, nobody should be subjected to. It's just not acceptable."

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, The Duchess was a socialite who loved attending events, like this film premiere in 1970

Claire thought filming the drama would be "some sort of redemption" for the Duchess as a person and for women treated like her.

"Actually, I found it more depressing because I realised the focus is still very much on her and how she was the 'dirty duchess'.

"The fact that sort of language still exists is indicative of how far we've come."

A Very British Scandal is showing on BBC1 on 26 December at 9pm

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *