The Letteri is two things.
First, but perhaps not foremost, it is a very plain and directly illustrative instantiation of Arthur Blair's great fear :
The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.
The manner in which Victor Sen Young's "Oriental" character guides the movements of James Stephenson's entirely English character -- for the sake of argument "not a prisoner" but nevertheless free in no meaningful sense beyond the preservation of his spurious conceits -- is exactly accurate, and exactly descriptive of both the cause and the result of the fall of the British Empire. That's what the bedwetters of early 1900s aimed to get out of, that situation of crushing impotence brought about by their manifest insufficiency. Turns out that romantic notions of Queen and duty fare very poorly for dickless bureaucrats adrift a sea of more dedicated, harder working, smaller people.
Secondly and evidently foremost, it is a very harsh and deeply illustrative clash of two matriarchates. There's no room given here, no quarter offered here, no consideration wasted here on the marionettish "British female" of ridiculous wank in the vein of Anna and the King. Instead, in the confrontation between British and Malai woman, the indigenous element stands its ground, and wins its fight, in its own terms ; the English priss has to kneel, and while the particular instantiation thereof has both the strength and the flexibility to do so, and do so well, she's still the one on her knees. The comment, intended or not, that women who kneel three to a man are for that reason, and irrespective of the quality of the men involved superior to women that divide themselves between two boys stands most eloquent. It happens to also be true, and always remember it : you will be inassailably more on your knees than as a "woman in tech". It's what it is, and your permission, approval or awareness is not sought or required for things working this way. It is of course better to kneel before a great man, even if in a company of a thousand others, than to kneel before a nobody, even if alone ; but this is a minor point, by comparison to the simple and unyielding fact that she who stands "on her own two feet" is nothing and ever will be nothing, below any and all on their knees, no matter where, or why, or when.
Other than that, Bette Davis' got great tits ; and the costumes are accurate.———
- 1940, by William Wyler, with Bette Davis. [↩]