Reign: Feminist or Not?

For those who do not know Reign(2013-), is an historical fiction television show about Mary Queen of Scots before and during the time she was married to King Francis of France. Mary exhibits great strength and vulnerability during the show making her a prime example of a feminist character. Though there are issues within the structure of Reign that make me question if I should consider this a feminist show.

Some of my personal issues with Reign is that it’s a historical fiction television show with some glaring historical inaccuracies. Now I don’t mind some creative license especially since there is not enough information to recreate the complete life in the 1550’s, even of a Royal. What annoys me is the fact that the women sport fancy dresses too modern for the time period. No way would the real Mary Queen of Scots wear half of the dresses in the series. They would be considered indecent. Also, the creators re-named all of Mary Stuart’s friends: Kenna, Greer, and Lola. In the French Court, the Scottish ladies were called the “the four Marys”. Lastly, the real King Francis was sickly all his life not just the last few months of his reign.

There are many aspects of Reign that I would consider feminist including Mary Queen of Scots herself. She’s an intelligent woman who works in service of her counties Scotland and Ireland. She even challenged both King Henry and Francis to protect her people from war or starvation. Mary almost marries the Prince of Portugal who she did not love so she could protect Scotland from English troops. Mary Stuart has a great sense of mortality, her life is constantly in danger. During Season Two of Reign, Mary kills the son of Narcisse a powerful French Noble because he murdered a whole family during the Black Plague just to get rid of one man. She knew that the son would not be punished if she did not kill him since Narcisse controlled much of the grain in France and could use that power to get his son released. Mary Queen of Scotts raped by Protestant guards used all her courage and strength to pretend to be unharmed to keep Francis’ reign secure. She’s the reason why I would declare Reign feminist show.

There are a couple of issues that stop me from declaring Reign feminist including the historical accuracies. King Henry slept around French court with such ease, but the powerful Queen Catherine was unable to without casting suspicion upon her. She slept with one lower Scottish Lord in one episode when King Henry was still alive. Queen Catherine could poison anyone in the castle and bring down lives with just rumors, but she has never been featured with as much control of her sexuality as King Henry. Greer, Lola, and Kenna all depend on men for any sort of respectable life at court. Lola’s a prime example of the way the women’s lives are depicted as functioning in relation men rather as central roles. In Season One, Lola sleeps with Francis in Paris thinking he would never meet her best friend Mary. She becomes pregnant, then her whole life is tied to him. Lola’s family disinherits her–meaning she does not even have access to family money or her dowery. Her dowery belongs to her father. Lola lives in the palace and will have a hard time marrying without King Francis’ permission. If she wants any freedom from Court Life, then Lola needs to marry her lover Narcisse. These factors reveal the main reasons why I can’t call Reign a feminist television show. The majority of the women spend their time constantly pining over men or the idea of a husband. The women who don’t depend on men are painted a scandalous for operating a brothel like Greer or bratty like Princess Claude.

What do you think is Reign a feminist television show?

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