I had the good taste of seeing two grown ass woman movies during the holidays; The Favourite and Mary, Queen of Scots.
I do not often get this opportunity. As I told Suzanne Baltsar in our conversation on my Women With Books podcast , since I had kids, the only movies I see at the theater contain explosions and/or Disney characters.
But hey – I wrote a royal book this year and released one and I knew I needed to see these movies, made by talented women about three women who have been British queens; Queen Anne, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I.
Watching these two movies within a week gave me lots of thoughts and lots of feelings which I will now attempt to break down. Lucky you.
WHAT I LIKED:
1. The costumes! The accents! The beautiful sets and scenery!
2. The performances of Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie. It’s almost embarrassing how much talent there is in that list and they all did a mesmerizing job.
3. The inclusion of minority actors and, for lack of a better word, queerness in both movies. The two movies handle this to varying degrees of success but all steps forward are um, forward and welcomed.
4. Obviously, the examination of historical women’s stories, especially women exerting and exploring their power. This is one of my favorite themes to read and write about and we so rarely get to see it in cinema. However, this brings me to…
WHAT DROVE ME UP A WALL:
THE FLIPPING PATRIARCHY.
I mean, you cannot watch these movies and not see the greasy, pudgy fingerprints of the patriarchy all over these women’s lives. The church called Queen Mary a harlot when all she did was marry men that she was told to. Queen Elizabeth gave up marriage and motherhood because she feared that any man she married would eventually betray her and steal her throne. Queen Anne was batted around between the MEN of Parliament in order to further their political gains.
Of the two movies, Mary, Queen of Scots infuriated me the most on this score. The themes of fertility and motherhood were pounded into the frozen Scottish peat and it stuck a pinkie toe into gender – comparing Elizabeth’s rejection of femininity to Mary’s embrace of it – and then having Mary’s choices of husband/motherhood essentially being her downfall.
I mean, none of this is news. It all happened 500 years ago so I shouldn’t get pissed off but I AM.
Because if any of these women – Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary or Lady Marlborough and Abigail Masham – had just flipped the patriarchy the bird and decided to join causes rather than fight each other maybe history would have turned out a bit differently.
If they had just rejected the patriarchy’s definition of “power” maybe Queen Mary wouldn’t have been beheaded. (It happened 500 years ago. I’m not putting a spoiler alert on this, y’all.)
If they had just formed a consensual polyamorous commune, maybe Queen Anne could have loved both her best friend and her new friend and not been completely miserable.
Maybe that’s going too far?
WHAT I’M CONTEMPLATING:
So yes, obviously these stories have me thinking about women, power, and history. It’s something that comes up in my books as well. Most recently, I really explored these themes in THE ROYAL RUNAWAY. Princess Theodora is inspired by her royal female ancestors – how they dared to conquer navies and divorce deadbeat husbands.
And in my Sorority Sisters Mysteries, Margot Blythe is inspired by the founders of Delta Beta sorority. How they formed a sisterhood that would inspire and educate women in a world that didn’t share their values.
It’s one of my wheels, I guess. (Reader wheels is a concept I talked about in this episode of Women With Books: Chapter 36 with Becca Syme.)
And I can’t get the thought out of my head – what would have happened if Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary had met in person. What world would these two women have created, if they’d been allowed or even encouraged to FULLY own their power, without manipulative, greasy dudes trying to ruin everything.
But that would have been an alternate history. And a totally different movie.
And maybe a really good book? *evil grin*
What did you think about these movies? Were you as frustrated with the patriarchy as I was? Or did you just enjoy them as winter Oscar bait movies? Comment below or hit me up on Facebook or Instagram to discuss further!