Thursday, October 14, 2010

Watching The Duchess: A Cultural Experience

Since I was sick all weekend I didn't do much but lay around, internet and match movies. A came over to my room one evening and we decided to watch a movie. We watched The Duchess starring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes. Overall we both very much enjoyed the movie, but in addition to the actual story line I also enjoyed watching the movie with A because of the cultural ride and insight it gave me. 

**Warning, if you've not seen the movie and don't want to read and spoilers, stop now**

The basic story line is that Keira Knightly is a girl from an aristocratic family who is married off to The Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) who turns out to be a major jerk in the husband and father category. He rampantly cheats on her, blames her when she only has daughters, etc. She befriends a woman who is struggling with her own marital issues (Bess) and moves her into their estate. Bess and The Duke end of starting an affair. The Duchess demands he kick Bess out and he says no. At this point I am trying to remain within the norms of the time period and realize divorce really isn't an option but I'm so irritated by The Duke I'm thinking of all sorts of ways for her to get back at him. In the midst of all this happening The Duchess rekindles her friendship with her teenage crush and so I say "Ok, she should totally sleep with him. Fair is fair." A on the other hand, being both Nigerian and a very conservative Christian, says "Oh Lindsay, that wouldn't help the situation. She would have to bear that sin and that would just make her life worse. She'll just have to manage the situation and find wisdom to deal with her husband." Hmm, interesting perspective. Eventually Bess ends up being like a second wife to the Duke, which as you can imagine is torture to The Duchess, and so the Duchess proposes a deal with the Duke that she can have an affair with her lover and he can have Bess live with him but they'll hold up the appearances that they are happily married. The Duke basically says "do as I say, not as I do" and then beats and rapes her. The Duchess sneaks off on vacation and starts her affair anyway, but her husband finds out and threatens to kick her out and never let her see her kids again. He tells her she has to move back in with him and Bess and just deal with it. At this point I am ready to forget social customs and all and am like "Heck no! She should seriously divorce him!!!" A steadfastly argues against that saying that divorce is just not possible and that a woman cannot leave her husband no matter how miserable he makes her. At this point I'm like "SERIOUSLY?" So even though her husband is forcing her to live in some weird polygamous marriage against her will, it would still be better to stay married and "manage" and use "wisdom" to figure out how to handle the situation? Wow is all I could say. 

It really put some things in perspective for me. No matter how crappy your husband might be, many Christian Nigerian women would stick it out. Very interesting indeed. I would be interested to know how she felt about watching the movie with me, as an American, but I don't know if she intensely analyzed the scenario as much as me. After all, she was there for the entertainment, and not as the constant researcher I seem to be.

Anyway, the movie was really good. I recommend it. Even if you don't have a buddy to watch it with like me.

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