Marie Antoinette: It’s Hard Being a Woman in Any Era

Intro by Maria

Hmm. What is there to say about Marie Antoinette? I’m talking about the 2006 film Marie Antoinette, not the actual historical woman who was the Queen of France. Is that what she really was? I just suck so much at French and British or European history in general, and you’re going to hear me explain this throughout the episode. But aren’t these people named kings, queens, and princesses? So then what the fuck is all this stuff about the dauphin and why is it referenced throughout the entire movie? You know what? Let me look that up. I’ll be right back.

So, I looked it up. It’s this thing called the internet. And Dauphin seems to be just another word for prince. So anyway, I just really suck at this. I think I need to apologize for that up front. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these episodes, and now we’re talking about a movie that I’m not 100% sure about the historical background. So how about let’s just start over.

Marie Antoinette is a 2006 film directed by Sofia Coppola. It is based off the real-life Queen of France, and Kirsten Dunst plays her. The movie also has Rip Torn, Molly Shannon, and Jason Schwartzman in it, and if you’re thinking that’s a strange combination for a historical drama, I’m right there with you.

The movie differs from typical historical dramas because it seeks to tell the story of a girl coming of age—a girl who marries the heir to the throne of France, but a girl nonetheless. Coppola’s depiction of Marie Antoinette as a “typical” teenager who loves shopping, partying, and puppies goes well with the tone of the film, which is one of those historical films that has “modern” music it. So you’re sitting there and you’re watching this movie. It’s set in the late 1700s and out pops songs like New Order, the Cure, and Aphex Twin. It can be quite surreal and jarring, but overall this style does work.

What you notice right from the beginning is that Coppola’s characterization of Marie Antoinette makes Marie a people pleaser. She wants to produce an heir for France, she wants to be royalty, she wants to be the queen. But she is also a young adult, and this is where the movie focuses its time—Marie Antoinette transforms before our eyes, becoming a young, naive girl and turning into a woman. The queen of France.

For me, this isn’t the greatest movie, but it’s not the worst either. And even though this film doesn’t overtly deal with mental health, Brandon and I have a lot to discuss regarding it, including why it’s important to talk about things like women’s issues when examining mental illness. All that plus a re-hashing of my really bad week on the next episode of Peculiar Picture Show

Show Summary

Brandon on Podcast

Check out That B Word podcast, as Brandon will be guest hosting on an upcoming episode!

General

M: Drama based off the real-life figure set to modern music; I suck at European history

B: First time watching it, I expected a political drama, so I didn’t like it the first time I watched it; film made to appeal to women, which is a good thing; some historical inaccuracies, but she wanted to make a story about growing up as a young woman, not really tell a story about history

Like

M: Kept my attention and was very interesting; visually satisfying; great characterization of all the key players; nice coming-of-age film

B: Got a lot more out of it on the second viewing; overall theme is the harsh expectations that society places on women, which is why it’s so relatable to modern women; long conversation on the size of Prince Phillip’s penis

Dislike

M: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, and Molly Shannon in serious roles was weird; not really interested in old European royalty

B: The film lost some of its impact by not focusing on the real reasons why France hated Marie Antoinette, which involved her being too powerful for a woman; modern music further distances the characters from the historical context, which aggravates the issue

Mental Health

M: Mental health issues can be caused by the harsh expectations of women in society; when women don’t measure up to society’s expectations, it can be crushing; inbreeding can cause some weird issues; it’s important to support women in the workplace because they face a lot of criticism

B: There’s so much pressure on women for everything from sexual assault to being marriage material; it’s exhausting being a woman

Quotes

M: If you think the movie is about women and what they have to go through, wouldn’t it be more impactful if we’re show a woman who got a bad rap because she has power and because she’s smart? Because that’s what happens to us. 

M: I think a lot of mental health issues can come from being a woman. The reason we talk about women’s issues, racial issues, minority issues, is because a lot of mental health issues can come from that. When society is telling you things should be one way and that’s not the way you are—a lot of times, people tell women what we should be like in society, what we should look like, what we should weigh, what we should be doing, should we be having babies—it’s a lot of dictation on us, and when you stray from that, I think that’s when issues arise.

B: That’s the weird thing about mental illness—you can make it through these crushing times that would just absolutely destroy other people, but then at the same time, you can have a meltdown over losing a pen or something like that. 

B: The real Marie Antoinette—in this film, there’s that cute little “I don’t know how all this etiquette stuff works”—Marie Antoinette was very sharp on all that. She had everything together. She was making all the political decisions. And because she had real power is the real reason why people hated her. Because she was a woman who was in power, which was just unheard of at that time. It wasn’t because she was clueless, it was because she was so competent that people hated her.

B: How many people will blame women for sexual assault? There’s so much pressure on women to prevent this issue, there’s so much pressure on women to not only marry but to be marriage material—it’s crazy that there’s this concept of marriage material, as if just being in love isn’t enough, you have to be a certain type of person to find marriage. This takes a big toll on mental health.

B: Long-time listeners of this show know that we deal with issues like sexism and racism because they lead to mental health issues, and I think [Marie Antoinette] is a film that illuminates that.

Next Episode

The next movie we will be covering is the 2015 film Carol.

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