Review of ‘The Queen’s Gambit:’ An unusual feminist tale

Netflix Original,

Photo credit: Promotional Poster by Netflix

Netflix Original, “The Queen’s Gambit,” is a story of a female chess prodigy living int he 1960s. The series highlights the endless capabilities of a woman who is confident in herself, and never sees gender as a barrier.

By Thea Leimone, Culture Editor

If you weren’t one of the 62 million households that streamed “The Queen’s Gambit” in its first 28 days on Netflix, make sure to join in and prepare to be entranced by a world of…chess? Yes, chess. The television series is the the most popular  limited series on Netflix, ever. The seven-episode series will hook you in one scene and will keep you there for seven more hours.

Based on “The Queen’s Gambit” novel written by Walter Tevis, the Netflix series follows protagonist Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, as she grows from a young orphan into a world-class chess player in the 1960s.

Young, orphaned Beth, played by Isla Johnston, is an exceptionally bright child who becomes entranced with chess when she finds the orphanage’s janitor, Mr. Shaibel, played by Bill Camp, playing the game alone in the basement. Beth forces Shaibel to teach her the game and, within months, she surpasses the skill of the high school chess club teacher and 12 of his high school chess players. Taylor-Joy seems to shape-shift as the audience watches her grow from a young teen prodigy playing in state chess competitions, into a woman well into her 20s playing the world champions throughout the show. 

The show is entrancing, bringing viewers to the edge of their seat over a game of chess. Aside from the story’s uniqueness in its topic, what makes this show so special is Beth.

Yes, a typical protagonist is interesting, but usually it’s the story and action that drives a show, but Beth is what makes “The Queen’s Gambit” so special. Beth is a genius, unquestionably confident and self-assured young woman who knows exactly what she wants. Yet, this story isn’t one of female-empowerment, showing all that a woman can overcome in the world of men in the 60s, it’s simply a story of a chess prodigy who happens to be female.

Beth lives a rare life, the life of a girl in the 1960s whose gender never inhibits her; she never lets someone question her intentions or second-guess her decisions. In one scene, Beth is being interviewed for Life Magazine and the interviewer asks her what it’s like to be “a girl among all those men,” to which she responds without hesitation, “I don’t mind it.” Beth Harmon is a no-nonsense type of girl, and it’s unbelievably refreshing to see this type of female character on screen. 

“The Queen’s Gambit” portrays Beth as if she were a male protagonist the story is centered on her and her alone, with strong supporting characters, but they never take away from her story. Beth is on a mission to become the best chess player in the world, but that’s not to say she doesn’t have her fair share of love interests. While the romantic storylines are very engaging, they never overpower the true story; Beth can live life without her judgment being clouded by an infatuation with some man she just met.

This isn’t to say that Beth is not feminine or is uninterested in that aspect of her identity, she always dresses nicely and goes through some experimental makeup looks, it’s that she is unapologetically talented, confident…and female. 

“The Queen’s Gambit” manages to be a feminist tale without ever making it an obvious message of the series. Netflix’s limited series creates a fantastical world around a genius chess player whose worth is determined through her skill and wit rather than her gender.

So if you have some time to spare, and let’s be honest, we all do, make sure to hit play on “The Queen’s Gambit” for a refreshing and unique journey in chess. 

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact
4.5

Summary

“The Queen’s Gambit” follow the life of a young, and highly talented, chess player named Beth Harmon. The series begins as she becomes an orphan after a tragic car crash, and follows her as she finds her calling the in the game of chess. Beth quickly climbs up the rankings in the chess world and along the way, is confronted with international champions, intense rivalries and unresolved problems from her past.