The Queen’s Gambit: searching for Mother

Recreating a womb-feeling/ Screenshot, The Queen‘s Gambit, Netflix.

It’s a fairly new series on Netflix. Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. I think I may just take the time to go read it.
The series though is getting a lot of push by Netflix and is steadily climbing the Top Ten in Germany list. Am I being snarky if I say that I don’t overly care by what other people are watching? Well, it’s nice to know, but I’m trying to curate my Netflix algorithm, so…

Still, the series fits my loose set of wants. Historical, unusual topic, character-driven, gorgeous costumes. So, why not, I thought.
The first thing that hit me, is that Anna Taylor-Joy is even more Amélie than Amélie (remember Audrey Tatou in the 2001 hit?), even down to the
haircut.

Beth Harmon, The Queen‘s Gambit/Netflix
By the end of the second episode, I get the feeling that the fashion transformation will be fascinating to watch (Tom and Lorenzo already have an in-depth look at the chess-themed costuming). In this regard, it reminds me a lot of Lewis Carrol‘s Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is also based on a chess game, where Alice moves from pawn to Queen (check out the book, not the movie).

The reason this series resonates with so many people who know nothing about chess, and haven’t played Lewis Carroll‘s chess problem to get a pawn to checkmate in eleven moves, is that the series thoroughly mines the archetype of the Mother complex in a way we can all relate.
Beth is the gifted prodigy searching for family, friendship, love and belonging. Chess is actually incidental.
Almost every female character is a fascinating study that makes me want to dive deeper. Beth‘s mom, the math genius who lives in Beth‘s memory as giver of hard but valuable advice (imagine calling your ex „a rounding error“!), the replacement mom Alma who tries to finds new purpose in becoming a manager-mom.
It’s painful to see Beth getting picked on by the mean girls in school, but the pay-off comes firstly when Beth sitting with the Apple Pi girls, in a chic little black dress, realizes she‘s a swan and will never be a duck. A real Ugly Duckling moment.
And when she finds her tribe, it‘s all the more heartwarming how she puts herself back together with their help and moves on to her happy end.

A great series. Well done Netflix, well done German costume designer Gabriele Binder (and her team) and well done to the entire cast.

Agnes Claude’s embroidery for Beth’s linen dress/ Netflix, Brooklyn Museum

If you’re not in the mood to take up embroidery, but want close ups and a bit of background to some of the costumes, visit the Brooklyn Museum’s online Exhibition.

Stay safe.

Knitfree TV – Love is Blind (no spoilers)

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could knit a balaclava fine enough to replace the face masks dominating the news about the Corona Virus days? Which mask would help against the airborne virus? Info here.
Besides preparing for the global pandemic (buying supplies, increasing handwashing and general immune system-friendly habits), I fell into the Love is Blind hole on Netflix. And yes, it is absolutely trash TV, but it is addictive. Netflix released the first batch of episodes on Valentine‘s Day.

TV viewers have loved dating shows for years. And loved to hate them too. But they are a reflection of our society, from our ideas of what is attractive to what is okay to do and say in public and on TV.
Back in 2009, a show Dating in the Dark was created in Holland, and the franchise sold all over the world. Three men and three women were in a house and went on a date in a light-free room. The idea was to find someone to date without prejudices that would come from the person‘s appearance. Of course, the participants were chosen by a group of unseen experts to be thrown together.

Naturally, humans being humans, the participants decided to compensate for the loss of sight by using other senses: hearing, smell and in particular touch. The shows rapidly turned the viewers into voyeurs. And curiously, even though producers didn’t prohibit touching, there was an amazingly high rate of rejection in the cold light of day.

Then we had the gamification of the dating show, with Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Love Island franchises (and the like), which have as an end result an engagement (for the first two shows). So viewers have been willing to see all the contortions contestants are willing to go through to „win“. The Bachelor has a German version running here, but it’s nowhere near as popular as the US version in its home market.

Then we had Married at First Sight, which does have its fanbase, where marriage is the goal and the start of the process. Couples are paired up by unseen experts and the viewer watches them struggle until they settle in or throw in the towel. To be honest, it’s not unlike arranged marriages of yore (and some non-Western cultures today) where the bride never met her bridegroom  before the ceremony. These days, it’s more likely that arranged fiancés talk on the phone or meet in chaperoned circumstances.
This brings up the questions as to why these relationships „work“ and can such a situation work in the western societies. From a rough calculation, we can see that only 33% of the couples in this type of show stays married.

Parallel to TV presenting us unusual iterations of the couples trying to get together, the science of love burst onto the public awareness. Mandy Len Catron wrote an article about 36 Questions (people often ignore the 4 minutes of intense unbroken eye contact at the end) which could foster enough closeness that the couple would decide they had fallen in love.

Which brings us around to Love is Blind (where one of the ladies asks a fella one of the 36 questions and end up crying together). It‘s a mashup of bits we‘ve seen before. The pod phase which is more often likened to speed-dating, is actually Dating in the Dark idea but taken to its proper conclusion. If you really want to cut out outside/appearance related factors, then the dark isn’t enough. So a wall (where not even a shadow – which would betray body shape and possibly  fitness level) makes perfect sense.
Interestingly another update was that engagement was NOT the end-goal, and so participants were not able to see and then judge their choice until they had made the commitment to become engaged. There’s a bit of an IKEA effect going on here, where making a conscious choice in the middle motivated many to stick with their partner through thick and thin.
So the formula playing out on our screens was emotional connection + conscious choice + physical attraction + external factors. Each taking place in a different location, from the pods, to a Mexican beach resort and finally in an Atlanta condominium complex. The finale episode released yesterday was the culmination, where the couples would walk up the aisle and then state whether the formula solved the love equation for them or not.

I feel terrible for viewers who had to get up at 3am to watch, but not too much because it released at a very humane time for European viewers. Especially those on midterm holidays. The memes on social media were worth it though. The global community which built up this show has been quite impressive – not only people recapping and reviewing each episode, but especially the analyses from psychological, and socio-cultural perspectives.

Shoutout to Youtubers The Compassionate Behaviorist who dissects Carlton’s and Diamond‘s argument, Kiss My Cheeks TV whose bubbly personality, local knowledge and prompt postings are a joy to watch, and Supernaturally Sagittarius who looked at the couple dynamics. Special mention to Grace Report for alternate views on Jessica and breaking news on Amber.

As mentioned, all the episodes are now available on Netflix. The Reunion episode has been taped and will air on March 5, 2020 on the Netflix Youtube channel. The season was apparently filmed 15 months ago, so at the time of airing, the couples who married have now been together that long.

It boggles the mind, not only that they had to keep their social media accounts circumspect for so long, but that so many viewers became internet sleuths to sift through Instagram and Twitter to find minute clues about who married and who is still together. Do we as a society have shorter attention spans? Are we unable to sit out any type of suspense?