Coming-of-age stories have a distinct charm that can often make the audience feel relatable and grow alongside the titular character. You feel excited when you see them doing something that you are passionate about or interested in. And when you see them making a mistake that can scar them for life, you take that personally. 2020’s Netflix adaptation of 1983’s American novel The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis is all about that.
Definitely NOT Feminism
Let’s get the elephant in the room out first. One mistake that others made so far is that they labeled this show as feminist. But it’s far from it. The feminism theme is very little apparent throughout the series run and hardly gets mentioned. Rather, the show encourages them to protect their dignity as a woman and not to make the same mistakes as the main character, Beth Harmon. It’s a story about overcoming addiction, lust, and arrogance.
Definitely NOT A Role Model
Any character from a TV show or a movie shouldn’t be taken as a role model. Their lives are tailored by an author’s imagination. Some people do take the characters as a role models. Hence the life choices the characters make influence them in real life. Which can mostly have a negative effect. That’s because if the characters don’t make a mistake, then that wouldn’t make a drama, otherwise, it wouldn’t be an interesting story. Though pretty much everyone in real life is aware of that, some do follow the characters as role models subconsciously. When they think they relate to that character, they start to think like them like never before. We see Harmon here make many mistakes to satisfy her desire, but that is not a way to live. This may be a bit silly to mention but had to make this thing clear.
Definitely NOT Woman’s Freedom
Harmon is an odd character and thinks of everything differently. She never had a normal relationship or friendship. She grew up in an orphanage where the only company she had was Mr. Shaibel (her chess teacher) and Jolene (another orphan). Jolene was a foul-mouthed brat who never got adopted due to her skin color. She knew her circumstances and how the world works, but Beth took her behavior literally and started acting like her, even took that too far. Before the orphanage, her mother tried to kill themselves in a car accident due to not being able to handle their way of living. Her foster mother, when she found out that winning chess tournaments can make money, drove Beth around the country and skip school to earn money and live a luxurious life. She also started to influence her with alcohol and smoking. When Beth’s classmates invited her to their house party and teased her about sexual relations with boys, she took that literally too and started feeling lust, instead of having a normal friendship. Before her match against Borgov in Paris, she hung out with Cleo and got hung over that affected her performance in the game. She and many audiences, when thinking this about woman’s freedom, it feels more like imprisonment. Everyone sees this as Beth doing whatever she wants, it’s actually the opposite. She slowly begins to be a prisoner of her surroundings and is heavily influenced by the people around her.
What’s Done Right
After all the criticism and misunderstanding, let’s talk about all the good things about this show. First of all, the cast. All the actors fit the characters so well that it feels real. The acting was truly great. All the main and side characters were handled well. My favorite characters would be the twins. They are modest, helpful, and funny. Then, the presentation. The cinematography, visuals, sound design, and everything is handled masterfully. For example, during the match against Borgov in Paris (the scene that got me to watch this show) felt awesome. The place was crowded with people, but it felt so silent and full of suspense. It set the atmosphere perfectly and what was going on inside Beth’s head. The visual effects were also nice with the chessboard in the ceiling. The character arc and development felt organic. The story narrative is also great and landed a satisfying ending.
My favorite characters are the Lewis twins I’ve mentioned before. I like Anya Taylor‑Joy, Beth’s actor, with red hair. I am still bickering about chess not getting more attention. It’s a story about a character around chess, not the other way around. “The Queen’s Gambit” move was never again mentioned, not even in the final match. In sports anime, they just don’t tell a character story, they also teach us about the game itself. So how else are we normies supposed to know that the opening she used was The Queen’s Gambit if not mentioned in the show? That’s all I have to say about this show.
The Queen’s Gambit is not a show for everyone. It’s for the mature audience who understands the circumstances and the way of storytelling. Some may get the wrong idea about this show too. And also, whether someone is a fan of chess or not, they still can enjoy this as the main focus is the character. But maybe this can interest one in chess just like the original novel.
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