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Mastering the Gender Gambit

The limited series on Netflix follows the story of a young girl and her journey to becoming the world’s chess champion. It creates a picture for the representation of the gender norms and stereotypes of the time and how they are deconstructed through the character of Beth Harmon. The show is set in the 1960s when the board game is predominantly played by men and the protagonist is faced with multiple challenges because of her gender. She’s made to play with a girl in her first official competitive chess match until she proves herself to be capable of playing with man. Her rise to fame in the chess world sparks controversy initially because of Beth’s gender, however, as the show progresses her gender is separated from the sport as the story starts to focus on Beth’s talent and with it her label of the “female” chess player diminishes.



The show challenges the narrative of the traditional portrayal of an intelligent female character as they are usually made lacking in some regard whether in her mental health, her attractiveness or the male counterpart. These biased perspectives create harmful stereotypes regarding women’s intellectual capabilities. With her glamorous outfits and unbreakable winning streak, Beth Harmon represents individuality, and she embraces herself regardless of what is expected of her from society. Beth’s decisions are contrasted with those of the women around her for whom homemaking and motherhood was what was perused. When Harmon meets a girl, she went to high school with, with her child, the sound of crinkling bottles of alcohol shown heard from the baby’s stroller. This creates a horrifying image of the unhappiness fostered by the lack of agency that women at the time were faced with. Contrarily, Beth had been living her life independently and was happy.



Throughout the seven episodes, Beth is portrayed as a tough, independent, and rational woman without portraying hegemonic masculinity traits as her character never compromises on her femininity in face of her intelligence. The Queen’s Gambit creates a character that breaks away from the oppressive structures in society like patriarchy that create the idea of a submissive confirmative woman and gives a look at the practice of agency in spite of the opinions of society.


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Loved to read this! This is one of my fav shows One thing I noticed was the evolution of the color of Beth Harmon's lipstick serves as a powerful symbol of her character growth and transformation. At the beginning, her lipstick is subtle and understated, reflecting her youthful innocence and vulnerability. As the story progresses and Beth gains confidence in her abilities, her lipstick becomes progressively darker and bolder. The deepening shade of her lipstick mirrors the development of her personality and the strengthening of her resolve. The choice to depict her with a more intense lip color showcases her embracing her individuality and asserting herself in a male-dominated environment

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Great read! One often tends to overlook the significance of this show being set in the 60s when patriarchal structures reigned supreme, but Beth's character was such a refereshing and empowered take showing how she refused to fall under that structure despite being involved in relationships with men. She retained her independence throughout the duration of the show through confidence and resolve, making her character and the entire show quite memorable. The reference to the unhappy marriage reminds me of another show set in the 60s, Mad Men, that has a stronger focus on male characters and reveals how this patriarchal structure is maintained mostly by stubborn masculinity and dominance. Something that Beth resisted to become her own woman, making…

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Beth is shown as an independent character whose success is not tied to a man. Her behavior in potential romantic relationships always showed that there were things that were more important to her, i.e., Chess. This creates a new image that removes women from the trope of being obsessed with a man.

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"The Queen's Gambit" truly captivated audiences with its nuanced exploration of gender dynamics and the journey of self-discovery undertaken by Beth. The series not only sheds light on the challenges faced by women in male-dominated spaces but also deconstructs the traditional portrayal of intelligent female characters that often come with limitations or deficiencies.

This portrayal resonates with similar media pieces that aim to dismantle stereotypes and redefine societal norms. One such example is the movie "Hidden Figures," which tells the true story of three brilliant African-American women working at NASA during the 1960s. Like Beth Harmon, these women challenged prevailing gender and racial biases, proving their intellectual prowess in the face of adversity. Both narratives highlight the importance of celebrating…

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Great points! To add something about intersectionality: in addition to gender, Beth's experiences are influenced by intersecting factors like her socioeconomic background and struggles with mental health; exploring the intersectionality of these aspects provides the viewers with a more nuanced understanding of her character and the broader social context in which the character operates. Beth's family background and her time spent in the orphanage really adds complexity to her journey throughout the show and a lot of depth to her character, making the audience root for her while she navigates her way through gender barriers and socioeconomic obstacles. With regards to semiotics; the chessboard is a consistent powerful visual representation of the ups and downs that mirror Beth's journey, an…

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Beth's character is not supposed to be perfect and she's not shown as such. She changes and her change is not sugar-coated. Her struggles with addiction and unhealthy relationships is shown to manifest in her life which adds more realism to her character.

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