Marginalizing Rebecca Miller: Enough About You, Let's Talk About Your Husband

Carole Cadwalladr has a subtly annoying piece in the Guardian about what it's like to be Rebecca Miller: daughter of a Famous Playwright (Arthur Miller), wife of a Famous Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), and, oh yeah, a writer herself.

Miller, whom Cadwalladr describes as "vaguely expensive looking," wrote the recently released film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, about a woman who responds to her much older husband's affair by running away with Keanu Reeves. Of Pippa, Cadwalladr writes, "she's the ultimate artist's wife, one of the characters says in the opening scene; the last of a dying breed, somebody who has given her whole self over to others, and who suddenly decides that she has to escape." Miller draws a parallel with her own life:

I think I've always been an escape artist. But here I am, deep in family life, and totally committed to it. Escape for me is writing. That's where all the negativity and everything goes. I think it would be easy to go mad if you don't have some sort of release. When you have children and live a family life, the demands on you - to subsume what you want or what you're thinking, or who you are - are huge. There's this thing that Pippa says about how she has ceased to be the protagonist of her own life. And it's the same with me. When I had a family I stepped aside and let other people be the centre. I think that's part of being a woman: you can't remember how to be the centre any more.

But Cadwalladr seems to be forcing Miller from the center. Time and again, the interview leaves Miller herself behind to focus on her famous father or husband. Cadwalladr writes,

[...] there's so much material in Miller's life that it's no wonder she's a writer. The complications and pressures of her familial life are so richly novelistic. Such as meeting Daniel Day-Lewis at a screening of the film that her half-brother, Robert, made of her father's most famous work, The Crucible. "There's something about Arthur," Day-Lewis said at the time, "that makes you wish he was your father. I'd like to turn up on his doorstep with adoption papers."

Here Cadwalladr neatly exscripts Miller from her own life. Her family — not her own decisions — apparently made her into a writer, and in the course of the paragraph even this family seems to exclude her. If Day-Lewis just wanted to be Arthur Miller's son, where does that leave his wife?

Of course, the life that Cadwalladr constructs for Miller isn't quite her real life — Miller hastens to point out, for instance, that Daniel Day Lewis doesn't bring his method acting home to their children. However, Cadwalladr's focus on said method acting (she actually wonders if he was in character at home before they had kids), on Arthur Miller's marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his later relationship with a much younger woman, on every aspect of Rebecca Miller's life that is not Rebecca Miller, reveals why it may be hard for a woman to be the "protagonist of her own life." Other people — even other women — simply won't let her.

Though Miller is an artist in her own right — she also writes fiction and has acted in several films — Cadwalladr seems intent on making her, like Pippa, into an artist's wife. But why isn't Daniel Day-Lewis an artist's husband? Why is no one asking him how he "remembers to be the center" in the face of his wife's creative process? Perhaps because male artists — whether they act, paint, or write plays — are still seen as difficult, unusual people who need the tender ministrations of a tolerant woman, whereas female artists are just women who happen to also do art. How come a man's greatness can excuse all manner of domestic foibles, but a woman is still defined by her family? How come Carole Cadwalladr, a female journalist, is perpetuating this double standard? It's enough to make anyone want to run off with Keanu Reeves.

Interview: Rebecca Miller [Guardian]