Andrew Eaton-Lewis: You want to talk about feminist role models? Look no further than Nora Ephron

MY DAUGHTER will be ten years old this week, and is growing up fast. She likes Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Florence + the Machine, so is probably the obvious target market for Viva Forever, the Spice Girls’ attempt to introduce “girl power” (and their back catalogue) to a new generation.

The question of whether or not the Spice Girls are feminist icons is explored elsewhere in this newspaper, so all I’ll add here is that I tend towards the answer “yes” – as long as you mean a simplified version of feminism for children, in much the same way as the Wiggles help teach pre-schoolers basic facts about fruit.

I would, however, much rather tell my little girl about the life of Nora Ephron, who died last week. You want to talk about feminist role models? Ephron was far more qualified for that status than Geri Halliwell and Co.

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She was best known as the woman who wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle, and if all she’d done with her life was bring those iconic movies into the world, that’d be a formidable legacy. But Ephron led a remarkable, rich and eventful life. She was, at various times, a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter, a director and a producer. In the 60s she was an intern to John F Kennedy, before starting a career in journalism, writing for the New York Times and Esquire. In the 70s, famously, she married Carl Bernstein, and worked on the script for All The President’s Men, the film based on Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s exposure of the Watergate scandal.

What first made her properly famous, though, was her Oscar-nominated script for the 1983 movie Silkwood. Karen Silkwood was something of a feminist role model too – a courageous woman who stood up to the bosses at the nuclear power plant where she worked, who had put the health of their employees at risk. Some believe she was murdered as a result.

It was When Harry Met Sally, though, that put Ephron on the map. Watching it again now, it’s striking how fresh it still feels – and how none of the endless movies that borrowed its ideas, from Serendipity to Friends With Benefits, have ever equalled it. In the end, Ephron’s own subsequent work couldn’t either, although Sleepless In Seattle came close.

And yet, how many people who love Ephron’s writing actually know what she looked like? Not many, I’m guessing. As it happens, Ephron was pretty damn sexy, but she was famous for her skill, talent, intelligence and wit, not her looks or her clothes. That’s an example worth passing on to your daughters.