Penelope Magnani reviews the new acclaimed movie “Mary, Queen of Scots”

In 2019 women are still fighting for equality and recognizance. In Elizabethan England, however, apparently feminism was already perfectly in place, or so does Hollywood wants us to believe. “Mary, Queen of Scots” is the new movie featuring Saoirse Ronan, as Mary, and Margot Robbie, as Elizabeth the First. Despite the movie being on its own pretty good, it is not without faults. Mind you, spoilers and somewhat “graphic” descriptions ahead.

As per usual, let’s start with all the things I personally enjoyed. The acting was extremely good. I was skeptical of Margot Robbie playing the English Queen, but she was beyond good confirming her as one of the current top Hollywood actresses. Saoirse Ronan’s French accent was horrendous and her Irish roots were visible, but her acting was beyond good. Going from a coming of age movie like “Ladybird” to such a historical drama like the tale of Mary of Scotland it’s quite a jump. 

Image courtesy: STUDIO STILL 
https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/1074649/Mary-Queen-of-Scots-death-scene-execution-real-life-history-gruesome-beheaded

The historical accuracy was also almost spot on. Sure the movie was extremely dramatized, but this is Hollywood and I did not expect any less of it. The cinematography perfectly captured all of the shades and important moments of the two Queens. The score was appropriate, nothing less nothing more. Even the costuming was decent, although I have some serious questions regarding Margot Robbie’s odd Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts look.

I enjoyed the movie, I truly did. I like historical biographies, and I had read biographies of Queen Mary before. What I didn’t like about the movie is the over the top feminist tone that it had. Don’t get me wrong, I am a feminist and I believe 100% in equality and I will continue to fight for every single one of my rights until I have obtained them all. However, this is 16thCentury England, not the future. Equality was not a thing. The controversy of having two Queens at the top of two extremely powerful thrones was enough. But this is Hollywood, and it can never be content.

Let’s start from the easiness portrayed of the Scottish lords of being taken over by a woman. Only one of them rebelled, the others seemed perfectly content with having a woman with no knowledge of Scotland take over the throne. In reality, these Scottish men weren’t exactly peachy about this news and Mary struggled to obtain their trust. 

Then, there was the unnecessary scene with Lord Darnley. In brief Mary complained to her four Marys that she had never orgasmed from the sex with the French Dauphin, and how she longed to have a man again. Cue in Lord Darnley who just comes in, swoops and enchants Mary in approximately five minutes and then proceeds to give her oral sex and asking nothing in return. I don’t know if it’s mine and my friend’s taste in men, but usually men are not like this. I remember when a friend of mine freaked out because a guy went down on her without her having to ask, and this was 2018. Chances are, 16thCentury English noble men are not going to go down on a girl. 

Image courtesy: STUDIO STILL
https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/1074649/Mary-Queen-of-Scots-death-scene-execution-real-life-history-gruesome-beheaded

Mary’s pursuit for equality however does not end here. Apparently being gay or transsexual was also okay at her court. Now, I did some research on this because it could have simply been that Mary was an extremely progressive and ‘woke’ Queen and the 16thCentury was the time to be for the LGBTQ community. In Elizabethan’s England the Buggery Act of 1533 was very much in place. One of the points in this Act, instated actually by Henry the VIII, was that sexual relations between a man and another man were punishable by death. In the movie, when we firstly meet David Rizzio it is made immediately clear that he is transsexual and gay. Wanting to be referred as sister and wanting to dress up in Mary’s clothes, as well as the way he was pictured in an extremely flamboyant manner, there was really not much up left up to our imagination.

In the scene where Mary and Lord Darnley are at their wedding ceremony, we then see an extremely drunk Lord Darnley ‘make eyes’ at David. Surprise, surprise, they had sex. Mary, the Queen of ‘Woke’ was extremely chill regarding this love affair between the two. I don’t know about you, but hidden sexuality or not, if my husband were to cheat on me on my wedding night I’d be pretty angry. In historical accuracy it’s unknown if this is true, but if it was then that’s quite criminal and not even Mary, equal rights campaigner would have been okay with that. Being Christian Catholic and following the Bible, she would have seen it as a sin. 

The movie did attempt to bring back some 16thCentury reality later on. Lord Darnley did undermine Mary, and there were some quite explicit comments and scene – which I won’t get into – that gave it a more realistic tone. 

I’m happy that Hollywood is trying to be accepting and feminist and all for equal rights. In the last few years, the diversity and acceptance that Hollywood has shown has been outstanding. However, let’s face it: for the sake of Historical accuracy, 16thCentury England and Scotland were not the place to be if you wanted feminism and LGBTQ rights. This movie should have not been a response to criticism and the need for more movies in those categories. This was supposed to be a Hollywood historical biography, but it simply turned into a trend following movie. 

Valentina Gomes dos Santos
vg17498@essex.ac.uk