Women take the reins of power – The Hollywood Reporter
Historically, poison was considered a woman’s weapon. The poison is hidden – it can easily be slipped into food and drink or just mistaken for herbs and other medicinal tinctures. While men of diverse cultures generally had more freedom to fight their conflicts publicly, women often had to wage a silent war in the shadows. The poison, however, does not always come in small glass vials.
In three of 2021’s most talked about movie awards nominees, forward-thinking wives wield sour words to accumulate and wield power on behalf of their weaker husbands. It’s a literary trope debated in just about every high school English class in America: Are Eve-like Biblical women inherently malicious and megalomaniac, or are they victims of a hegemonic power structure. who forces them to channel their existential desires through their companion? Determined women at the top of the A24s Macbeth’s tragedy, MGM / United Artists’ Gucci House and that of Amazon Being the Ricardos their husbands’ worm tongues to the top, only to see their growing strongholds collapse under the weight of marital pressure. Yet instead of wondering if these women are mean or power mad, I would first ask: were these men worth it to begin with?
In these three films – one a medieval adaptation of a Shakespearean classic, the other two period dramas about real-life women who used their talents to promote their husbands – the female protagonists sublimate their craftiness and charisma. natural through their partners because their wife roles ultimately keep them locked in a stagnant second-class position.
In the Gothic and Expressionist style of Joel Coen Macbeth’s Tragedy, Frances McDormand resumes her origins as a femme fatale in Simple Blood play the ultimate marriage puppeteer in literature. The actress has never looked so beautiful, has never growled more fiercely. Lady Macbeth is a minor noblewoman from a desolate northern kingdom. Even the mere possibility of becoming queen, of gaining even more authority in her social sphere, is enough for her to cajole her husband (Denzel Washington) into committing regicide so that he can ascend the throne himself. Lady Macbeth rejects the femininity that imprisons her, despising her husband for being “too full of the milk of human kindness” to properly carry out the murder. She plots the details herself and, although it is not her who plunges the dagger directly into the king, she is floored by her festering guilt and suicidal spiral.
Over 500 years later, Lady Macbeth remains a benchmark in the household due to her desperate desire to be “non-sexed” – to become masculine, and therefore violent – in order to claim the power for which she fights. She subverts the traits associated with her gender, imagining infanticide and intentionally emasculating her husband to challenge him to act. She doesn’t selflessly do this to raise Macbeth’s profile, but to promote hers. He is a pawn, and his mental weakness leads him to tyranny and tragedy.
The Women of Ridley Scott’s Savage Crime Drama Gucci House and Aaron Sorkin’s biopic by-the-book Being the Ricardos, on the other hand, seem to be genuinely fascinated by love. Yes, they want their own talents recognized, but they also want to walk into a play hand in hand with their husbands. They may even be ready to take a step back to save their fragile marriages. Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) are both talented performers: Patrizia a sexual kitten who wears her femininity and desirability like armor, Lucy a literal comedienne who gives up her Hollywood starlet ambitions when her talents comics turn out to be more marketable. . Their respective sexuality attracts two men who lack their own natural drive and / or their cultural capital. Patrizia seduces Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), a gangly drip who would rather become a simple lawyer and stay away from his elite family than compete to become the head of a billionaire fashion company. Lucy seduces Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), a promising Cuban musician who has the business acumen to be successful in show business but not the social (or racial) clout.
Patrizia assumes the role of the ideal Italian matriarch, directing her natural warmth and sociability to her husband’s family so that they end up welcoming the prodigal son into the fold and have thought it was their idea from the start. Lucy, a leading actress who controls every detail of her hit sitcom, ultimately can’t control Desi’s continued infidelities. She ends up playing a humiliating tussle with I love lucy‘showrunner, screenwriters, sponsors and studio directors to score an executive producer title for her co-star husband. Both women want their partners to be the best men they can be, and their loving machinations work, but only for a while. Their interference ends up causing insecurity in their husbands, pushing them each into the arms of other less “demanding” women. Patrizia resorts to murderous revenge. Lucy, as interpreted by Sorkin, lives in fear that one day their kingdom will collapse on their heads because of the cracks in her marriage.
Personally, I don’t read Lady Macbeth or the fictional versions of Patrizia Reggiani and Lucille Ball as villainous. Rather, I see them as products of their time – women who had little recourse for education and self-determined upward mobility or little room to thrive alongside their partners without inciting the jealousy of men. Macbeth of Washington falls into despotism and is dethroned; Driver’s Maurizio bankrupt his family business and is assassinated in a hit orchestrated by Patrizia; Bardem’s Desi almost wipes out his career by putting his wife on the gas. Were they worth all the sacrifices? I do not think so.
This story first appeared in the December 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.