Freshly free from the bonds of the latest Fifty Shades movie, Dakota Johnson is ready to fight for her reproductive rights on film. Deadline reports that Johnson is set to star in Unfit, a 1920s-set courtroom drama about a woman fighting against a depressingly real Supreme Court verdict that ruled that “unfit” citizens should be sterilized to keep them from having kids.
Johnson would play Carrie Buck, a woman who could stand as the poster child for the hideously fucked up things bigots in the 1920s thought would “improve society.” Buck was surgically sterilized against her will in 1927 under a Virginia statute that held that the “feebleminded” should be rendered incapable of having children. Buck—who grew up in an unstable home, and who had previously had a daughter after being raped by her foster family’s nephew—was labeled “promiscuous” and locked away in a mental institute, where the procedure was performed.
Her case was brought to the Supreme Court largely through the efforts of the State of Virginia, seeking legal sanction for its decision. The Supreme Court agreed in an 8-to-1 decision, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noting that the Virginia law was the only way to ensure that the nation was not “swamped with incompetence,” and that “the principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes…” A similar triumph of eugenics led the state to sterilize Buck’s sister Doris as well, without her knowledge, during a bout of appendicitis. Doris Buck spent years trying to have kids, only learning what had been done to her in 1980.
Amazon has acquired distribution rights for the film—based on Adam Cohen’s book Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck—with Brett Ratner and John Cheng set to produce. Johnson, who brought the book to Ratner’s attention, gave a statement about her involvement with Buck’s story: “Like many, I was not privy to this shocking and fascinating moment in American history. I quickly became obsessed with the prospect of shedding light on the massive misstep in American justice. Carrie Buck’s story is poignant and galvanizing, and certain aspects are unnervingly congruent with the relationship between the government and women today.”