Derik Badman's Journal

2020-11-12 08:45

Over the past week we watched The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, a miniseries about a woman who becomes a world chess champion in the 60s. It was a stylish, entertaining show, though it always felt a little lacking in conflict. On her way to top, we only see her lose like 3 times. She has a drinking problem, but other than perhaps causing one of those loses it doesn't seem to do too much to effect her life, and by the end she seemingly has it under control with barely any effort. When she needs money to get to Russia, an old friend shows up at her door, conveniently moneyed enough to help her out. All the men she leaves behind, just happen to forgive her and get together in the same location, so they can help her just when she needs it.

Many of the episodes featured flashbacks to her childhood with her mom. The first one pretty clearly establishing that her mom was smart but perhaps not totally healthy, mentally, and that her father was absent. And you can infer that the mom purposefully drove her car into a truck to kill herself. As the flashbacks continue in subsequent episodes they basically just make all those points a bit more explicit, in case we didn't catch on the first time, but don't really add any depth to the story.

She also seems to meet no sexism in her climb to world chess championship, which seems unbelievable for a male dominated milieu in the 50s and 60s. I think we only see her play 1 female player (in her first competitive match) and then see one other female player at the end. But she's not playing the latter, who is the "female champion" in Russia, which implies the genders competed separately. Yet, the only kind of scorn we see for the protagonist seems more clearly directed at her early on because of her youth and naivety. For a plot so lacking in conflict, it feels like one obvious place that it was missing. The whole thing is fiction (not a biopic) so I guess it ends up a being a bit more fantasy than historical fiction.