What Can Queen’s Gambit Teach Us About Addiction?
As you may already know, I looove Queen’s Gambit. I’ve posted (mostly on my social media) about my love and devotion towards the cult mini-series. But right now I’m going to discuss it here on my blog. Are you ready? I know I am.
Well as you may know I’ve binged on Queen’s Gambit for quite some time and may I just say…. WOW. It’s soooo good. The writing, the costumers, the acting especially. And although I suck at chess, I enjoyed the chess scenes as well. But who am I kidding? I enjoyed the entire series.
Seriously, I haven’t binged on so many episodes since Unorthodox and Normal People. And much like with these two series, it did a lasting impression on me. Why? Because it also spoke to me on a personal level. Why? Because I know all too well about one theme that’s depicted in the series. No, not chess. Addiction.
Queen’s Gambit follows the rise of Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor Joy). An orphan who’ll eventually rise through the ranks of the male-dominated chess world. However that rise will not be without bumps and bruises, as she’s also nurturing a strong pill and alcohol addiction as well.
But the thing is, her addiction stems from childhood. Or should I say from the moment that she walks into the orphanage. Beth and plenty of other children in the orphanage are given tranquilizers in order to stay quiet and obedient. So, this practice will turn her into an addict from an early age. And once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict.
That habit of pill popping will cause plenty of troubles in her adulthood, although the orphanage will stop drugging the children early on in the episode. However, the damage will be done and Beth will eventually struggle to contain her addiction.
But there are two scenes that really resonated with me and my own struggle with addiction. Now, I’ve never been a drug addict, but I still struggle with alcohol. And much like in Beth case, my addiction originated early in my childhood. It escalated in my teenage years, but yeah, looking back I was an addict way sooner than that. I mean my dad owns his own vineyard and makes his own very delicious red wine from it. Indeed, our household was never short from hard liquor, and to be quite frank it’s still to this day well stocked. I was surrounded with liquor from very early age, and I vividly remember my first taste of that homemade wine. It was at my 10th birthday, and I loved it ever since.
Granted, I transferred that addiction to Vodka later in life, and nurtured it with copious amounts of Gin. But the second scene that captivated me and resonated with this alcoholic brain of mine was the scene in the bathroom. Beth sees the pills in her adopted mother’s medicine cabinet and she knows that she can’t resist. It’s that look that it’s all too familiar. The look of craving, which signals the brain consumed by addiction. It’s all too familiar with me, as I struggled with the endless array of wine bottles in our wine cellar. You know you shouldn’t, but you really want them.
And the second scene that I particularly loved from the TV series is her solo downfall. High on drugs and plastered she dances in her living room. It’s a real solo pity party that I’m sad to admit I’ve had several times as well. You see, addiction brings a certain loneliness and shame. No one should ever see you in that state (because let’s face it its pathetic) so you’re left all by yourself. You’re your own amusement and the only companions are your drugs of choice. You’re spinning in circles but you don’t know how to stop. Whether you want to it’s a totally different story.
Queen’s Gambit is a fascinating series. It’s also a study of characters, as much as it’s a study of an addiction. How it starts, how it evolves and how it can creep back in at any moment. It also deals with issues like misogyny and feminism, but the addiction storyline is one of the best developed. It’s worth the watch.