10 Times The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix Sided with Communism
Written By: Queena Risk Published: 05/12/2020
Since the Cold War, most American movies and TV shows have portrayed the Soviet Union and other communist countries as evil and oppressive, a grim adversary to the capitalist freedom of the United States. But what was communist life really like? By accounts of many former Soviet citizens, not only did they enjoy free and/or subsidized housing, healthcare, and education, but also a sense of fellowship with their peers that have since been lost.
In Netflix’s hit original show, The Queen’s Gambit, the standard anti-communism in American media is surprisingly contradicted. Here are 10 scenes from The Queen’s Gambit that make us question who the real bad guys of the Cold War were, and consider that life behind the iron curtain might not have been quite like what we were told.
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
1) The time Beth meets a hippy dude in her Russian class and he tells her not to play the game Monopoly because it “Makes you a slave to capitalism”.
2) At the US Championships when Benny comments on the lack of resources and attention the US pays to chess and then brings up the USSR’s tournament as a stark difference.
3) When Benny explains that Soviet chess players are the best because of their Soviet culture that puts teamwork above individualist (American/capitalist) ways of life.
4) When the Christian Crusade requires Beth to make a statement against the spread of communism in exchange for funding her trip to the USSR. Beth refuses, asserting that their statement is “f*cking nonsense”.
Instead, she is funded by her friend who refers to herself as a “radical” and dresses an awful lot like a Black Panther (an American, Marxist-Leninist Communist organization).
5) When Beth arrives in the USSR and the city isn’t presented through some dystopian, dreary filter like it usually is in American media.
Instead, the buildings are vibrant, colorful and Beth’s heart is warmed when she runs into a group of citizens playing chess on the sidewalk together.
In contrast, here’s the sad blue filter they put on any scene in the USSR on the show ‘The Americans.’
6) When the Soviet chess players, the Soviet audience of the tournament, and the Soviet public treat Beth with respect and admiration.
And the CIA officer looks so confused as if to say, “Weird, I thought these people were monsters!”
7) When Beth has a flashback from her traumatic childhood while in the USSR.
Previously in the show, Beth had been taking drugs and alcohol in isolation after her flashbacks, but here in the USSR she flushes the drugs down the toilet. The next scene is an even larger Soviet crowd welcoming her to the tournament.
8) When the CIA agent accompanying Beth to the USSR tournament asks her to tell the press that she “Feels lucky to be an American after being in the USSR”.
but she does not and instead tells them about her mentor, a janitor, (and the epitome of the working class!) who taught her to play chess.
9) When Beth and her American chess player friends adopt Soviet chess strategy.
Beth gets a phone call early in the morning, surprised to find out her American friends have each stayed up all night studying every possible move for the final half of the championship game.
10) WHEN SHE DEFECTS TO THE USSR AT THE END OF THE SHOW!
Just kidding, but maybe! In the last scene, Beth and the CIA agent are driving to the airport to catch their plane back to the states. As the CIA agent explains to her what a big deal it is that the US has beat the Soviets at their own game, she abruptly gets out of the taxi and walks through the city with a warm smile on her face. She comes across a group playing chess again and everyone excitedly greets her. She sits down with a soviet citizen over a chessboard and in Russian says, “Let’s play.”
Communism is awesome. Checkmate, capitalists! Workers of the world unite!
Queena Risk is a former professional ballet dancer with credits such as Kanye West, The LA Opera, and Cirque Du Soleil. Now, as a rank-and-file labor and tenant organizer, DSA member, and radical theater director, she’s always looking for ways to use popular culture to further the goal of a socialist future. She lives on the east coast with her Anatolian Shepherd, Tollie. You can connect with her at @fuckitweballet on Twitter.