Debate rages over 'fictional lesbian romance' in Kate Winslet movie about fossil pioneer Mary Anning

Kate Winslet (Credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kate Winslet (Credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

A new movie about pioneering British palaeontologist Mary Anning has come under fire for inserting a fictional lesbian plotline.

Ammonite, which stars Kate Winslet as Anning, is currently being filmed on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, and finds the fossil hunter in a same-sex romance with a younger woman, played by Irish star Saoirse Ronan.

But some of Anning’s relatives have said that any suggestion that she was gay is fictional.

In an online discussion, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, Barbara Anning said: “I believe if Mary Anning was gay she should be portrayed as gay and this should also be by a gay actress.

“But I do not believe there is any evidence to back up portraying her as a gay woman… I believe Mary Anning was abused because she was poor, uneducated and a woman. Is that not enough?

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“Do the film-makers have to resort to using unconfirmed aspects to somebody’s sexuality to make an already remarkable story sensational? Imagine the shame and embarrassment this woman would be feeling right now to actually have her private sex life discussed and played out on screen.

“This adds nothing to her story.”

Mary Anning (Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Mary Anning (Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Another relative, Julie Anning Fletcher, added that the makers of the film, a co-production between See-Saw Films, the BBC and the BFI, are ‘producing a film for market trends’.

Meanwhile Bretton Carter, a geologist at Harvard added: “I have mixed feelings about this movie. Being gay, I’m all about the inclusion of LGBTQ characters, but I feel like Mary Anning is an interesting enough person as she is, they didn’t have to throw in same-sex affair with her (as it has no known historical basis).”

Not all of the living Anning family are in objection, however.

Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet (Credit: Getty)
Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet (Credit: Getty)

Lorraine Anning told the Telegraph: “I think it might be to make her more attractive. The fact she was a loner, an independent woman, in today’s times that could mean something different.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter; as long as it’s well presented and tastefully done and in the spirit of Mary Anning, then I think it’s brilliant.”

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Yahoo Movies UK has reached out to See-Saw Films for further comment, but it has said that the film is inspired by Anning’s life, and is ‘not intended to be a biopic’.

It’s been written and directed by Francis Lee, who helmed God’s Own Country, about a same-sex relationship between a young farmer and a migrant worker in Yorkshire.

Anning, who never married and has no direct descendants, was just 12 when she began discovering fossils up the coast from Lyme Regis, finding the fossilised remains of a ichthyosaurus in 1811.

Though she is now hailed as a pioneer, at the time, her findings were disregarded by the Geological Society of London, who did not admit women.

Despite her achievements, she received little acknowledgement during her lifetime, with a campaign currently underway to have a statue of her erected in Lyme Regis.