They say that history is written by the victors. That's incomplete. History is written by the victors — and those victors are usually men.
Not so in The White Princess, the new Starz drama which premiered on Sunday. This show is all about the women history forgot. And for once, men are the footnotes.
Adapted from Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name, The White Princess ostensibly tells the story of the marriage between Princess Elizabeth "Lizzie" of York (Jodie Comer) and King Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy), the English royals whose union ended the War of the Roses. So far, this sounds a lot like your high school textbook. (White royal man? Check! Beautiful princess? Check! Dubious hygiene? Double check!) The difference here is that this story is really told from Lizzie's perspective. We see everything through her eyes.
In fact, if you pay attention, you'll notice that there are almost no scenes involving just men talking. Women rule this kingdom, even if, technically, the penis-bearing human wears the crown. On the York side, we have Lizzie, her mother Elizabeth (Essie Davis), and her cousin Maggie (Rebecca Benson). On the Tudor side, Henry's mother Margaret (Michelle Fairley, whom you may remember as Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones) runs the show with the some icy backbone one expects from the woman who once gave birth to the King in the North.
"The whole show is driven by the female point of view, there are almost no scenes with just men," writer Emma Frost explained. "There’s only men when it’s absolutely essential for storytelling. But count them, you’ll find probably less than 10 amongst the show."
Let's face it: It's a little sad that this is even an achievement. But it really is. Historical fiction is rarely about women — they appear as supporting characters, but are rarely given scenes of their own. What's going on under those bejeweled wimples? (Medieval ladies love a good headdress.) Is there more to their day than picking the right petticoat? (Seriously, how do they get around, those skirts are huge.) Thanks to The Tudors, I know more than I care to about Henry VIII's inability to procreate — so where's my women-led equivalent?
And for those who argue (wrongly) that men don't care about women-driven dramas, let me just stop you there. "[This] is a part of history I was fascinated by, but I enjoy it so much more being told through the female perspective," director Jamie Payne said. "I think the events and the kind of arc that affects these characters, being born out of the female perspective is just dramatically more interesting than the history I’ve been told before, and I think even though it’s told through the female point of view, it universally makes it more interesting and entertaining. It doesn’t belittle history in any way, it doesn’t betray history in any way, it makes you question history."
Can I get a "Yaaass kween"?