‘The Queen’s Gambit’: A refreshing historical miniseries that manages to remain topical

‘The Queen’s Gambit’: A refreshing historical miniseries that manages to remain topical

Jocelyn Arroyo-Ariza, Staff Writer

The Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit chronicles the emotional story of the struggle and success of chess champion Beth Harmon. She is portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who received acclaim for starring in this year’s adaption of Emma. The story has been in development for several years and is based on the novel of the same name. The late Heath Ledger was also attached to this project for his directorial debut in late 2008, but since his death the screenplay has been passed around before finally being adapted into a miniseries this year. 


The Cold War period piece begins in the mid-1950s, where protagonist Beth Harmon is left orphaned. She is taken to an orphanage where the children are given pills to control their behavior and Beth becomes dependent on them. However, Beth finds solace in chess and quickly becomes skilled at the game. The series follows her quest to become the world’s greatest chess player and her trajectory towards recovery. 


Chess, like the majority of sports, is dominated by men, but Beth attempts constantly to prove herself to her male counterparts. Towards the beginning of her career, her abilities were questioned and reduced because of her gender. Women often think they must be like men to succeed, however, The Queen’s Gambit showcases that is not the case. Beth does not adhere to the personalities of her opponents, relying instead on the traits that make her unique such as her wit. 


The Queen’s Gambit hints at the second feminist wave with Beth’s character development. At the beginning of the series, Beth and the rest of the girls at her school are wearing traditional 1950s apparel. Her classmates also embody the attitudes of the time period, taunting Beth for not conforming. As she advances in her career, Beth moves away from the toxicity of her hometown, enabling her to adapt into a modern world. Throughout the show, she is shown shopping and adapting to trends from the 60s. Although Beth matures and starts to wear more professional clothing, she does not lose her femininity. The character we come to know is a stark difference from the girls back at home. 


Another aspect that makes The Queen’s Gambit thought-provoking is its realistic depiction of addiction. Beth’s addiction to drugs and alcohol stems from her childhood, where she was forced to take them. She did not choose to become addicted, but grew a dependency. Recovery is not a linear journey as it is full of setbacks. Stress from her professional and personal life aggravates her cravings, and she struggles to handle all of the facets of her life. Her addiction is treated seriously, not as a character device but rather something that is a part of Beth’s story. 


The Queen’s Gambit, like its leading actress Anya Taylor-Joy, has received critical acclaim. The time period reflects the issues of gender that we are still facing, displaying how far we have come and how we must continue to bring about progress. If you want to watch a series that is sports orientated while innovative, you should give the series a try.