Despite snagging an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Miniseries, The White Queen phased through Emmy awards season like a passing breeze. Hell, even the poorly received, crazy-looking Bonnie and Clyde got more attention. A joint venture between Starz and BBC, The White Queen is a summer 2013 limited drama series based on Philippa Gregory’s book series of the same name. Never heard of it? Not surprising as the series flew way under the radar after the bare minimum of marketing efforts and middling reviews.
I. Don’t. Get. It.
The series, especially the first batch of episodes, is the televisual representation of “You can be the King, but watch the Queen conquer.” I didn’t think my appreciation for the incestuous British acting pool and naughty, naughty period dramas could get any stronger. I was wrong.
A loose adaptation of the Wars of the Roses, the 15th century struggle for English rule, not the 1989 black comedy, the story of the era’s changes in power and never-ending succession of kings is told from the perspective of the women closest to the throne. Chief amongst those women is Elizabeth Woodville, played by Rebecca Ferguson, who (15th century spoiler alert!) goes on to become Queen consort to King Edward IV. Armed with a fierce loyalty to her family, a kick-ass understated crown ring, and maybe a couple spells up her sleeve, she battles foes near and far in order to ensure her survival and position.
The White Queen offers riches for the eyes and heart: costumes and production design to drool over for days; back-stabbing political intrigue that (of course) involves the underrated James Frain, known for his devilish takes on The Tudors and True Blood; and complex female characters featured center stage.
Plus magical undertones that could play off as cheesy cliche but totally work thanks to Janet McTeer’s subtle performance as Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth’s mother.
Why did the show receive so little recognition by audiences and critics? I have a working theory that usually debonair Max Irons looks so awful as the equally awful Edward IV in the promotional materials that it turned off a lot of would-be viewers. But just that can’t be it.
If the show had more naked women, more battle scenes, more dragons, would it have received more attention? If the show wasn’t from a pointedly female perspective, would it be more popular? If the show wasn’t based on a popular YA series targeted towards a younger, hipper generation of historical romance readers, would it have been taken more seriously?
I don’t know how this devolved into a feminist rant, but don’t let the Patriarchy win. The White Queen is a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated series for a reason. Check it out.