Born to be Queen(s): “Mary Queen of Scots” deserved better

by The Collected Mutineer

Awards season has come and gone, and I’m still salty about Mary Queen of Scots.

The 2018 film focuses on the turbulent and fascinating relationship between charismatic Mary (the queen of Scotland played by Saoirse Ronan) and steadfast Elizabeth (the queen of England played by Margot Robbie) in the visually appealing but tense setting of 16th century Britain. The end of their story is well-known—Mary was beheaded on Elizabeth’s orders for her involvement in a plot against the English crown. But there is so much more to Mary’s life than how it was terminated: a story which is beautifully and tragically explored in Josie Rourke‘s retelling.

via The Guardian

Another film focusing on women in the monarchy was also released in 2018. The Favourite, a bawdy comedy about Queen Anne and her 18th century court, earned Olivia Coleman her first Oscar this past Sunday evening. It won an additional 138 awards this season, while Mary Queen of Scots earned a grand total of three. Both films were well-made with compelling and interesting female characters, stunning costuming, and interesting cinematography. Yet one was snubbed while the other was praised.

via IMDB

This isn’t to say that The Favourite doesn’t deserve its accolades, because it most certainly does. The problem arises with how Hollywood continues to treat female-centric films. “One of those feminist movies is enough, isn’t it? What more do you want?” (probably said some douchebag somewhere sometime). There seems to be an unspoken rule that there can only be a certain number of films out at a time that involve female main characters or female directors—more than one or two is too much for the patriarchy, and eventually the “extras” don’t receive the same attention as the others. Or worse, they receive mostly negative attention from trolls or tired critics. (Please see: Captain Marvel, Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, Atomic Blonde, etc.)

via IMDB

Why male-centric fortune chose to favor The Favourite over Mary Queen of Scots is beyond me. But what I do know is I don’t need awards season to tell me which films are worth watching. Both films are valid expressions of the female life. Both films delve deeper into what it meant to be a woman on the throne in a world where men pulled each and every string. Both films remind us that men have never wanted women to be in power—not a queen, nor a president, nor a film director.

Watch Mary Queen of Scots if:

  • You enjoy historical films (this one isn’t 100% accurate, but they got it mostly right)
  • You’re curious about whether or not Mary is as bad as they say she was
  • You like female-led films
  • You have a soft-spot for beautiful film scores
  • Just watch it. This film deserves your attention.