Queens Gambit | Show of the Year 2020

The Queens’ Gambit is a beautiful portrayal of all that is good with the world! It belies a present that is intelligent and cultured with a past that appeared refined and sincere. I can see why so many people fell in love with it. The meandering voluptuous tale of rags to riches, orphan to family, individual to community, nothing to someone is both spellbinding and profound. It is a masterpiece probably beyond the bounds of my cinematic literacy.

I laughed, I cried, but ultimately, I disbelieved. As beautiful and cinematographic as it was, rich in characters each worthy of an Oscar, I found myself in a world I desired beyond all else, one rich in culture, intellect and ultimately, togetherness. It was this togetherness that sought to prevail. Could this be a nod to our current globalist strife? A message bound to our individualistic ideology? Where Russia or China are seen as a collective and communistic entity, the West is viewed as too individualistic. Do we actually just seek unity and togetherness on our own terms? Freedom with togetherness, community without communism. Wanting our cake and eating it? I don't think so.

The best cinematography has to offer, is embedded in this visual smorgasbord, and as it beguiles and hypnotises us into a world of intellect and mastery, many others now grapple with more contemporary woes, making Queen’s Gambit a not too distant past we willingly enter. An era of our grandparents daring to rejoice in the hay day of humanity.

Aside from the silver screen beauty and big budget spending, beautiful actresses and skilful storylines, this is, in many ways, a tragic story of humanity. Can you see it? Or do we choose to look past the tragedy to only see the Hollywood triumph?

Do we accept that Children end up in institutions? That people with no one, have nothing and their offspring, end up nowhere? Here is a mom, out of wedlock, with no parental support, no friends or family, bless her heart, but why does this become a normalised story? We hear it too many times!

We rejoice, by the luck of the draw, that Beth ends up with a gentle yet dysfunctional and well to do family. Hollywood has to humanise it a bit by removing and villainizing the Father figure. The surrogate mom is also middle classed, confused, cultured and self-medicating. Self-medication is a theme, even for the Russians, but, would this be a story if Beth wasn’t a woman? I hope so. The polarization of genders has gone on for too long. This leaves us basking in an ideological bloodbath because it’s 2021 and here we are rejoicing in a post-feminist, pre critical-race theory narrative of David and Goliath which leaves us missing the past because the future was as yet ‘unimagined’ to be the dystopia it is today!

Self-medication and medication in general, are sadly now part of our dystopian present, which is why this utopian quest tale feels so good. She is us. Good people, coping with a corrupted, mismanaged and often evil world. Her excuse is our excuse. Her genius is a reminder that even out of the ashes, a phoenix rises, or that David can beat Goliath, that against the odds, we can prevail.

I believe this is a timely message of courage and a quest for knowledge. Beth Harmon did not wake up a chess genius, she became, through curiosity, hard work and pure stubbornness, a chess grand master. If we applaud her this triumph, it is because we too applaud our curiosity and desire for mastery.

"You’ve been the best at what you do for so long, you don’t even know what it’s like for the rest of us!”

“My momma came from money and she married into more of it! It’s complicated!"

But the last episode belies the meritocratic nature of this series. Beth forgoes Benny or any man’s advances, but prevails despite taking the perilous journey on her own? Financial independence prevails, suggesting that freedom is found by being financially independent, which is not wrong but suggests that people are to be supportive spiritually rather than financially. QG gets political!

“Choices have consequences! You are here because your parents made certain choices! You will need to learn to make different choices!”

Beth Harmon’s story is our story. One of obsession. Perseverance and hope. For me, just switch chess for food and I am she. Studying every nutrient scenario possible, trying every diet, tasting every recipe and reading every book. My knowledge is 30 years in the making. It’s a no holds barred, proof of life. Not all cultures embrace life-long learning, but for those that do, chess and Queen’s Gambit will forever be in their hearts! So that while some might feel the communist Russians seemingly have an upper hand of collectiveness, QG shows us that a nation of individuals, plays out just the same, that in our hour of need, we will pull together as a nation, as a team, to support the best of us in a fight to the top.

I can’t say I fully understand the anti-booze, anti-drug rhetoric when our culture is so medication and alcohol dependent, but maybe that’s the point, a push toward a more wholesome life, despite the nod to desires we often fight daily. We all love the coming together of characters in the finalé. That unity, that drive to fight and the togetherness, where one person’s win, is actually a win for us all!

For me, the take away message is that the ability to read our enemy into the fourth dimension aka time is always the dish de jour, but it is with hindsight that we see that we can really only ever hope to get to this precarious position by tenacity, perseverance and a commitment to life long learning. To hope otherwise is nothing but pure folly!