The “Queen’s Gambit” Blatant Mistreatment of Addiction

Cooper Aitken, Staff Writer

The Queen’s Gambit is an addictive and dynamic new Netflix limited series, yet it is not without the strange and harmful romanticization of a woman at rock bottom who has fully succumbed to her alcoholism and tranquilizer addiction.

The Queen’s Gambit follows the story of chess prodigy and world champion Elizabeth Harmon, an orphan who rose through the ranks of the chess world while battling alcoholism and a drug dependency.

The show is seven episodes in length and is absolutely binge worthy — you won’t be able to stop watching once you start. It covers the difficult topics of being a woman in a male dominated field while dealing with the loss of a parent. Although, despite these heavy topics being explored in depth, the show includes moments of triumph and blissfulness, where you can’t help but smile along with Beth.

Notwithstanding all of The Queen’s Gambit good qualities, one can’t help but feel Beth’s journey with her early addition to tranquilizers and later alcoholism was greatly mishandled (spoilers coming ahead).

After the death of her adoptive mother Alma, Beth begins to spiral and addictions worsen to cope with the loss of another mother and the only family she has left. 

The elegance and joyfulness makes no sense in the story, and completely undermines her clear substance abuse. 

The most raw and accurate portrayal of this spiral happens in episode 6, “Adjournment” where Beth’s hangover after a night of heavy drinking leads to her being late to her chess match with the World Champion Borgov; and loses. These scenes genuinely portray the seriousness of her alcoholism and how it is ruining her life.

However, later in the episode depicts an entirely different story. Beth is shown in her home during a days long drug and alcohol binge, yet she looks as beautiful and put together as ever. She is shown dancing around her home in just a tight tank top, underwear, and a cardigan while wearing a full face of makeup that’s perfectly applied with curled hair. 

This point of the show is clearly Beth’s lowest point in the show and in her life, yet her appearance indicates the opposite. The elegance and joyfulness makes no sense in the story, and completely undermines her clear substance abuse. 

This is a clear demonstration of Hollywood’s obsession with women looking sexy and elegant despite them being in a full mental spiral. Her dance scene around her home shows more of her smiling then any other time in the series, depicting her rock bottom as a party rather than the mental breakdown it actually was.

The directors chose to glamourize the height of her alcoholism and drug dependency and keep her desirable to the audience rather than fully illustrate how washed up she’s become. They sacrificed the rawness of that time in Beth’s life to maintain her sex appeal.

To put it bluntly, it was clearly written by a tone deaf man. 

Frankly, it’s disappointing to see what could have been such a powerful and moving moment in the show get thrown away for the sake of preserving Anya Taylor-Joy’s attractiveness. Despite the mishandling and downplaying of Beth’s addictions The Queen’s Gambit is definitely worth the watch.