I love Netflix but of the time I spend on it, half is dedicated to actually picking something and I know I’m not alone. Allow me to ease this first world problem.
Belle, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is a story based on this painting:
The painting depicts Lady Elizabeth Murray in the foreground and her cousin Dido Elizabeth Belle behind her. Dido was born to a naval officer and an enslaved woman in the West Indies. Her mother died and her father brought her to her great-uncle’s home to be raised. Confusion and anger and love ensued.
I loved this movie. Here are three reasons why:
1. The discussion of race and class and how to raise an English lady that wasn’t white. Both aunt and uncle were very matter-of-fact about Dido and what to do with her. There was never a “maybe people would just accept her” or “it doesn’t matter what others think.” Dido was without a doubt loved but was made to eat dinner on her own. To sit with the servants would have been beneath her but to eat with her family would have be going against the ever important ‘tradition’.
2. The Zong Trial that happens concurrently throughout the story. Dido’s great uncle was the chief magistrate of a case where a slave ship unloaded their cargo (read: slaves) during their journey because they didn’t have enough water to provide said cargo. The ship then went on to claim insurance on the cargo that they discarded. Really though, they packed the slaves in the ship so tightly that they all were sickly and would dead before arrival and the company didn’t want to go with a complete loss. Everything about the paragraph I just typed makes me sick.
3. The discussion of how women were given really shitty life options. Dido is given a substantial amount of money from her father but who is going to want to marry a black girl? Her cousin has no dowry and who’s going to marry a poor girl? So, Dido is groomed for the old maid, lady of the house, keeper of the keys gig and her cousin is forced to parade herself around and marry the first man who will overlook her poverty. HOW ARE THOSE THE ONLY TWO OPTIONS?!
Bonus: The main male love interest is easy on the eyes. Realllllly easy.