My weekend ended on a depressing note last night because I went to see “The Duchess.” While the costumes and scenery were certainly amazing, the story put me in a very gloomy mood — and made me thank my lucky stars I didn’t live in the 18th century, when women were second-class citizens valued only for their ability to give birth to boys.In the trailer, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley), comes across as a woman who doesn’t love her husband and carries on a hot affair with another man. But the preview neglected what was for me the more significant part of the story, which was the reminder of how far women have come since her time. Georgiana’s husband, the Duke of Devonshire, begins having affairs immediately after their marriage and even takes Georgiana’s best friend as his mistress. Georgiana, in a move that was ahead of her time, asks her husband to make a deal with her. Georgiana will accept his taking Lady Elizabeth (Hayley Atwell) as his mistress — so long as she is allowed to take a lover, as well. The Duke, however, doesn’t make deals. After years of neglect, Georgiana begins a secret passionate affair with the future Prime Minister of England, Charles Grey (played by the smokin’ Dominic Cooper, whom I have had a crush on since “The History Boys“). When the Duke finds out, the Duchess must decide between Charles, the love of her life, and her children, as the Duke has declared she’ll never see her children again if she doesn’t end her relationship with Charles.
If this situation went down today, Georgiana could divorce her cheating, abusive husband and get, at the very least, joint-custody of her children. She wouldn’t have had to decide between her personal happiness and abandoning her offspring. Back then, women had to live by men’s rules and were required to do whatever was asked of them or forced upon them. Today, even though men still make many of the decisions that affect our lives — case in point? reproduction rights — we do have control over so, so much more than we ever did before. After the movie, I was happy to leave the theater and step back into the 21st century.