The Plight of a Young Woman
How Euphoria and The Queens Gambit are Providing a Little Seen View into the Experiences of Youth.
Sam Levison captures the struggles of youth through the hit HBO series "Euphoria." The show follows Rue Bennett (played by Zendaya) as she navigates life after rehab with no plans to stay clean. Within Rue's orbit is a transgender woman named Jules, who becomes her best friend and love interest. Nate, a jock with high potential, who succumbs to anger caused by his struggle with sexual identity, and many others.
Each character serves as a real-life manifestation of humanity's issues, from depression to substance abuse and finding one's identity. Euphoria creates this analogy to reality with the backdrop of dramatic costumes, featuring bold makeup looks and styling, as well as a fantastic musical score. The plot features suspense and drama as each character battles their dilemma and finds a way to grow.
If you enjoyed Euphoria and its depiction of the plights of a young woman, you'd love the more refined "The Queen's Gambit." The Netflix series is the love child of Scott Frank and Allan Scott. The story follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) from childhood throughout her life as she fights to become the next Grandmaster of chess. The highest title a chess player can attain.
"It takes a strong woman to stay by herself in a world where people will settle for anythig just to say they have something."
-Alice Harmon, The Queen's Gambit.
Though Rue exists in the modern world and Beth Harmon lives in the Cold War era, both experience similar troubles. The viewer gets to be a fly on the wall as each character interacts with the world. An angle that hasn't been explored much in the past because sexism often paints women in one way.
Both shows acknowledge this by allowing the audience to follow the protagonist as they deal with what's expected of them; both don't quite fit the mold and have their own versions of feminity. The lead characters are quirky and unique, outcasts with few close to them, and even fewer that know the depth of their problems.
What I like most about the two characters is that neither are shown to be all good. They both are sometimes bad friends, and daughters who don't do everything right.
For example, after Beth Harmon finds success and fortune in the chess world, she revisits the orphanage where a custodian first introduced her to chess. There she finds his wall of newspaper clippings, every step of her career documented and celebrated.
Though the janitor, Mr. Shaibel, had passed away, Beth sobs while looking at the shrine because she realizes she never paid homage to the man who taught her to play. He never received the accolades of chess fame, even though he gave her, her beginning to the game.
"Dear Mr. Shaibel, there’s a chess tournament here with a first prize of a hundred dollars, and a second prize of fifty dollars. There are other prizes too. It costs five dollars to enter, and I don’t have that. If you will send me the money, I will pay you back ten dollars if I win any prize at all. "
– Beth Harmon, The Queen's Gambit.
Mental Health Realities
"Creativity and psychosis often go hand in hand. Or, for that matter, genius and madness." – Jean Blake, The Queen's Gambit.
Both Rue and Beth struggle with depression. Scenes in Euphoria show Rue watching TV for hours on end, with no energy- even to get up and use the restroom. The viewer has a front-row seat to each character's demise as depression forces them into slumps of isolation and towards various types of substance abuse in order to cope.
Beth is navigating the world of chess, which is unaccustomed to seeing genius women and doesn't believe such a thing exists. This is best modeled when Beth is asked if she thinks she is too glamourous to be a chess player. What does that even mean? Why can't chess players be glamourous?
Isn’t it intimidating? I mean, when I was a girl, I wasn’t allowed to be competitive. I played with dolls. – Jean Blake, The Queen’s Gambit.
Beth endures crippling isolation, stemming possibly from early disapproval from her mother. This rejection seeds Beth's substance abuse and outcast-like aura that follows her throughout her chess career.
It's important to show the life implications of mental health in media. Depression and its symptoms can go unrecognized, letting the afflicted believe that those feelings are normal. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, it was comforting to see my life represented on the screen. It helped me to relate to the character and understand their actions.
If you're a fan of Euphoria, you obviously have a taste for good cinematography. Colors, lighting, scenery, even the character's clothing tell a story.
Each scene seems tailored to exhibit a specific emotion or propel the story. I loved to see the advancement of Beth Harmon's fashion as she became more adult and confident. The 60's inspired attire and setting made her journey feel more real- the viewer understands the sixties social climate and the added difficulty that puts on Beth as a female chess player.
The darker tones make the story feel warm and cold at the same time. In some scenes, Beth's hair is firey red with a background of yellows and oranges, and in others, it looks more dull to complement the low light. The Queen's Gambit is a beautiful show with every detail crafted to improve viewer experience.
We all set out to watch a show that will cause us to become obsessed. The directors, actors, and writers pull you into their world, and you can't get enough. Consuming each episode as quickly as you can.
It's rare for a show to foster that feeling inside people. To create an addiction and change the culture. The Queen's Gambit says something. It says something about womanhood, individuality, and competition. To what limits will we go to win? Can a woman dominate a world previously controlled by men? Go find out, you can thank me later for the suggestion.