In her own time, Jane Austen may not have appeared to go her own way. In her time, a woman’s job was to marry, bear children, and maintain the home. The only way to maintain her legal rights was to remain single. Upon saying “I do”, she and her husband were in the eyes of the law, one person. If she was lucky, she had a basic education, some sort of inheritance coming her way, and a male head out household who at least respected her wishes.
But she did, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same.
Her books may end in “happily ever after”, but they are so much more than that. She talks about how women are disenfranchised in her world. Marriage was not just about finding the right person. It was a business arrangement. But Austen does not just get on a soapbox. She uses her narratives to speak directly to her readers. Whether it was about family relationships, one’s potential or current spouse, or even silly gossip, her stories are timeless. It is those qualities that keep us coming back to her novels, even when we have read them more times than we can count.
It takes vision to imagine a future that is different from your present. It also requires a backbone, as the inevitable forces against change will do everything in their power to prevent such changes.
The 2015 movie, The Girl King, is the story of Kristina, Queen of Sweden. Queen Kristina (Malin Buska) ascended to the Swedish throne when she was all of six years old. Raised as if she was a boy, Kristina is young, opinionated, and stubborn. She also has ideas that her ministers, who are all male and older than her, disagree with. They also are not happy that not only has she chosen to remain unmarried and childless, but she is also infatuated with Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon), a young noblewoman.
Those who resist both Kristina as a person and what she represents quickly realize that the only way to get to Kristina is via Ebba. But they underestimate her will, her drive, and her independence streak.
I liked this movie. The problem with history is that women who have dared to step out of what is considered “acceptable” are often forgotten or only barely mentioned in our chronicles. The narrative is compelling, the actors are perfectly cast, and the LGBTQ element is a nice twist on what could be a traditional and predictable tale.