Who knew a movie about crap that happened hundreds of years ago could be so controversial?
BQB here with a review of “Mary Queen of Scots.”
I’m going to say it at the outset. For me, as one of a handful of fans of historical films left, this movie was a stinkburger with extra turd fries. The problem is, I think that might have been the point?
I’m loathe to cry SPOILER ALERT because you’ve had 500 years to learn the tale, and there have been a number of other shows and movies about it but the short story is Mary returns to Scotland after the death of her French husband and takes her place as Queen of Scots. This causes turmoil for Elizabeth, the infamous red haired Queen of England as two queens on one island is a recipe for disaster.
I’ll say a nice thing about this movie. I will admit it taught me a lot about this period that I never knew before. Namely, it takes the stance that the women, Mary and Elizabeth, were the calmest heads in the proverbial room, and it was their butthole male advisers refusing to take council from women that screwed everything up. More specifically, Elizabeth is Protestant and her Protestant advisers subvert her efforts to make peace with Mary. Elizabeth is like (she doesn’t say this but I’m paraphrasing), “Hey, I’m old and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else with a brain ready to take over when I croak so England might as well go to Mary’s offspring.”
But her male advisers are like, “No fuck that! We hate Catholics!” and in secret they’re like “This is bullshit we have to take orders from a broad!” Again, paraphrasing.
Meanwhile, Mary is like, “I’m a Catholic but if I take over England I won’t kill the Protestants! Everyone can worship as they choose!” but her male advisers are all like, “Fuck this! You have a vagina! My dick is superior! I must rule!”
And so, that’s the gist of the story. It claims Elizabeth and Mary wanted peace, but the hot headed males under their command wouldn’t listen to them. The injustice seems to be that if Liz and Mary had been male kings, male advisers wouldn’t have dared betray them but lost on the cutting room floor is that male kings probably would have had a few heads chopped off of people who looked at them funny just to keep conspiracies against the crown at bay.
So maybe the lesson is men have to keep their testosterone in check and obey the chain of command when a woman is in charge and women have to rough up a few muthafuckas to show everyone who’s boss.
Ultimately, that would have been a modern twist on an old tale. Men, keep your balls in check if you want to work for a female leader and women, grow a pair of hypothetical balls if you want to lead because there will be times that call for aggression.
But it doesn’t stop there. This is a very woke, very PC retelling of a classic tale, so much so that it looks like a bunch of SJWs got together and crafted it in a lab.
OK. What I’m about to say may sound racist but I’m going to make the argument why it is not racist.
Mary has an Asian lady-in-waiting an African adviser and a Puerto Rican secretary. There are also people of color throughout, as extras and in smaller roles. Thus, the diverse casting in period dramas debate is raised.
Is it the end of the world to provide to a movie about 1500s England with a diverse cast? No. Is it historically accurate? Also, no. And I guess this is where the film goes out of whack for me.
And I know, this is where you say, “Oh BQB, you are a racist douche face because you hate seeing a diverse cast in a movie.” No, that’s not it. I just think that whenever Hollywood makes any kind of history piece, they’re taking a gamble because audiences don’t flock to historical movies. On the other hand, Hollywood should be encouraged to keep making these flicks because they preserve and teach history for future generations.
Therein lies the problem. You might argue, “Oh it’s so horribly racist to look at a period piece and see no diversity in the all white cast!” but my counter would be that more and more, people turn to movies and TV as their main source of learning about history. As that trend continues, what if some nitwit, hundreds of years ago watches a movie like this and thinks, “Aww, look. Mary Queen of Scots had a black advisor, an Asian lady-in-waiting and a Puerto Rican secretary. 1500s Britain must have been a wonderful place for people of color!”
No, it wasn’t. There weren’t any there and of the few who may have been, they were no doubt treated poorly and definitely not appointed to high positions.
Director Josie Rourke explains her diverse casting choice in this article. from Refinery29.
I hope I won’t botch my take-away from the article, but it seems like she is saying that theater companies today are very diverse and when actors are honing their acting chops, it is common for them to turn to the classics. Thus, you’ll have Shakesperean and old English era plays put on with diverse casts.
Fair enough. I just…I don’t know. To me, there just seems to be something off about it. The message, I thought anyway, was, “Hey. Here were two strong women who could have made peace and kept their island from imploding if all the male underlings would have just shut their holes and done as they were told.”
In other words, the island erupted in Protestant vs. Catholic warfare because it was an unwoke time where men couldn’t drop their egos long enough to take direction from a woman.
Good message, but to me, it’s lost in the diverse casting. You can’t simultaneously claim this was an unwoke time where a lack of wokeness led to war but also, look, it was so woke that there were people of color in very high, prominent positions.
Maybe I’m a caveman. I don’t know. Any other type of movie, I’m all for diverse casting. I actually don’t even care if there’s diverse casting in a historical fantasy. For example, Netflix has a show called The Frankenstein Chronicles about 1800s London where a pair of detectives, a black and white cop buddy duo, investigate a series of murders that seem to imitate the murders in Mary Shelley’s tale. Is it accurate that a black cop would have been treated with respect and seen as an equal in 1800s London? No. But then again, they didn’t have Frankensteins either. It’s all pure fantasy and there are nerds of all different colors who love fantasy so sure, why not have a diverse cast that appeals to all the different colors of the nerd rainbow?
Further, I think sometimes Hollywood does stuff like this to excuse their failures when it comes to casting larger roles in bigger movies. For example, giving Mary Queen of Scots a black adviser in a film few will see doesn’t excuse the lack of diverse casting in big budget blockbusters. Where’s the black Batman? Where’s the Asian Ironman? Etcetera.
Back to the movie. Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie each play their parts well. Ronan is the hotter young babe, while Elizabeth is older. There’s an underlying subtext of youth and beauty vs. age and wisdom. The older you get the wiser you are but alas, you lose your looks and the uglier you get, the worse people treat you even though you’ve lived longer and know more than the younger folk don’t. We are shown scenes where Elizabeth appears in full regal clown makeup (apparently people thought it looked great at the time though I think it made her look like Bozo.) Then, behind the scenes, we see Elizabeth with her hair falling out. She’s getting older. Wrinklier. She contracts chicken pox and spends a good portion of the movie with blisters all over her face.
Indeed, this lets Margot Robbie flex her acting muscles. “Look! I’m more than a pretty face!” However, as an ugly rights advocate, I object. See, Hollywood is so committed to racial diversity that they’ll throw diverse actors into a period piece, but Hollywood is still so discriminatory against the ugly and the old that they won’t let an ugly old woman play Elizabeth. There were probably many fifty year old women losing their hair who would have loved to play Liz but Hollywood was like, “Nope! Slap some ugly makeup on the hot chick! We need the audience to know that it’s all ok. There’s still a hot young babe under all this ugly makeup!”
Black adviser? Sure! Puerto Rican secretary? Why not? 50 year old woman playing a 50 year old woman? GOD, NO! GET HER OUT OF HERE AND SLAP SOME UGLY MAKEUP ON MID 20S HOT MARGOT ROBBIE AT ONCE!!!
STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy, only because it taught me a few things about that time period I never knew before. Problem is, you have to wade through all the wokeness and turn to the Internet to look up what was fact and what was fiction. I think the film’s best messages get lost amidst a sea of wokeness and the problem is, the messages are woke if you sift through the PC-ness long enough to find them. Ironically, this could have been a great movie.