I’m a big ol’ movie nerd. I love reading The Hollywood Reporter, I surf IMDB, and I have used Google Images more than once asking, “Where have I seen them before?!”
But, fun fact: I wasn’t always into movies. I actually started attending movies in theater as an assignment from my therapist.
I’m not very good at disengaging, and I’m a biiiiiiit of a workaholic. Attending movies helped me be present (no looking at my phone), and just enjoy the ride. It’s become a sort of weekly ritual, complete with popcorn, Diet Coke and Reese’s Pieces.
And I always go by myself!
Last night, I went to the Larry H. Miller Megaplex in Sandy, Utah, to watch The Favourite. I’d seen loads of commercials (ads targeting me because of my historical fashion research, I imagine) and I have a mega-crush on Rachel Weisz. Alsoooo, seeing the commercials where the Queen of England had a temper tantrum really ~resonated~ with me.
No Research Pre-Movie?
Normally, I do a ton of research before buying a ticket. I read about the costumes, the writers, etc etc. However, last night was a spur-of-the-moment decision, as I was SUPER BUMMED about a position I didn’t get.
Feeling sad? Go to the movies!!
I settled into my seat before the movie, ready to take mental screenshots of all of the costumes.
And I had no idea what was coming.
Wait, this is gay?!
A bit of background: Emma Stone plays Abigail, a former-lady who is down on her luck. She arrives to the palace hoping to secure some kind of employment from her cousin, Lady Sarah of Marlborough (played by my one true love, Rachel Weisz).
I don’t want to give a recap of the movie (go see it!), but there’s a scene where Abigal is perusing a library she shouldn’t be in, and is interrupted by the Queen (played by Olivia Coleman) and Lady Sarah making out who are on their way to lie with each other – in the Biblical sense.
Emma Stone did a masterful job of reacting, combining wide eyed shock and interest that was mirrored on my face.
I thought I was showing up for a costume design par-tay!! I didn’t realize that this WHOLE DAMN MOVIE evolved around both Lady Sarah and Abigail being lesbian lovers of Queen Anne.
“Well,” I thought, watching Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman make out, “this explains why only two out of the dozen theaters near my house are playing this!”
Why didn’t they “Queer Signal” in the Movie Trailer?!
I don’t understand why the trailer (shared above) TOTALLY FAILED TO ALERT MY GAYDAR?! Like, if a movie is ultimately about a lady love triangle – wouldn’t you include that in the trailer? I almost didn’t see this movie!!
The Gays show up and buy movie tickets, but we need to know the movie is gay, dang it!! If the trailer had noted at the multiple lesbian sex scenes, you can bet your britches I would’ve brought the whole squad!!
Also, real talk: I’m totally annoyed with my own LGBT community/social sphere, because no one posted about how gay this movie is. I thought this would be a sort of GOT movie, full of intrigue and scheming (it is). They’re grounded for the foreseeable future.
Favourite Themes & Scenes
What was most fascinating to me for this ENTIRE film was the really fucked up power dynamic between Queen Anne, Abigail and Lady Sarah. It was fascinating to watch Abigail and Lady Sarah use their wiles and court niceties to get what they wanted.
All queer relationships have power dynamics, existing outside of the default roles found in heterosexual ones. Interweaving a queer or homosexual drama within historical events as a feature film is MAJOR.
The interplay of polyamory (not that they would’ve called it that) was also fascinating. Abigail asks Queen Anne to arrange for her marriage, while making clear Queen Anne will “remain first” in her heart.
And seeing the same actress who starred in Easy A – how shall I say this – physically stimulate a Queen of England? Truly the dawn of a new queerer era.
Something I wondered about in the film was, well the husbands. The movie doesn’t make clear whether or not Lady Sarah’s husband is in-the-know. To read more about the historical accuracy of this film, start your research here.
“The Ugly Lesbian” Predator Trope
Something that I did NOT appreciate was the trope of the “Ugly Lesbian.” Weisz and Stone have beautiful clothes and complexions, while Olivia Coleman is made to look quite unattractive.
Now, I totally recognize that Queen Anne may not have been considered attractive IRL – but this movie already took liberties with history and timelines. One such liberty was removing any mention of Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George.
The bones of the storyline is a sad and dejected ugly lesbian woman, who is manipulated by her attractive lovers. Queen Anne is shown as someone who can’t do her makeup properly (there’s a scene where Lady Sarah says her makeup makes Queen Anne “look like a badger”), while Abigail and Lady Sarah glide through the movie in some truly spectacular garments.
However, I’m not sure I hold the producers/writers accountable for this trope. Not all queer relationships are between people who are deemed equally attractive by society. It could be argued that showing Queen Anne as rather ugly does more for the film than only having traditionally beautiful women.
I’d love to read your take on this, in the comments!
All of this could be colored by my experience as a plus size queer woman (I sympathized quite a bit with the queen), so I’d be interested to hear your take in the comments. Regardless, this use of this trope hasn’t dissuaded me from loving the movie.
Agism & Beauty Standards
What also fascinated me was this sort of queer “other woman,” story being told. Abigail is young and pretty, and Queen Anne could be seen as “trading in” Lady Sarah (a la stereotypes of rich and powerful men) for Abigail.
Queen Anne keeps her relationship with Lady Sarah and Abigail for a time, telling Lady Sarah that she likes how Abigail’s “tongue feels inside of me.”
Well, okay then!
Later on in the film, Queen Anne is horrified and disgusted by Lady Sarah’s scars – caused by Abigail. It adds another to the “ugly lesbian trope,” as now Lady Sarah falls under it.
Would Queen Anne (the film version) have kept Lady Sarah around sans scar? How does her views on beauty impact her relationship with Lady Sarah at this point? Overall, this film has layers of emotional manipulation and dependency, as well as sexual and social politics – all worth exploring.
Far Beyond ‘The Bechdel Test’
Overall, I left the theatre having both enjoyed the movie from both a “queer feels” and wannabe film critic perspective. A movie without men interfering too much, showcasing the love (?) and sexual congress between women? Showing the political machinations and maneuverings these women accomplish? MORE PLEASE.
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