Since Mary Queen of Scots’ execution in 1587, she has become a symbol of Scottish identity, failed female leadership, and Catholic martyrdom. Throughout the twentieth century, Mary was regularly depicted on screen (Ford, 1936; Froelich, 1940; Jarrott, 1971) as a thrice-wed Catholic queen, unable to rule her country due to her feminine nature and Catholic roots. However, with the rise of third wave feminism and postfeminism in media, coupled with the increased influence of female directors and writers, Mary’s characterization has shifted from portraying female/emotional weakness and religious sacrifice to female/collaborative strength in hardship and a struggle against patriarchal prejudice. Josie Rourke’s film Mary Queen of Scots (2018) and CW’s Reign (2013-2017) present a queen who is no longer limited to her religious identity as a Catholic martyr, and consequently a weak ruler. Instead religious division is mostly sidelined, and gendered politics is the central struggle, highlighting similarities between Mary and Queen Elizabeth I of England, where previous films presented opposites. Together, these two productions transform Mary’s narrative from fragility and religion, into a struggle against misogynistic control of powerful women.

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