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Anya Taylor-Joy is way too good-looking to play Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit

  • Beth Harmon is written to be unattractive in Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel that inspired the Netflix limited series. That Beth is portrayed by the attractive ex-model Taylor-Joy is The Queen Gambit's fatal flaw, says Sarah Miller. "A complaint such as this one, about the beautiful performers who take the place of our ordinary book characters, is common, even tedious," says Miller. "The Web site TV Tropes has an entry devoted to Adaptational Attractiveness, wherein 'someone who was originally fat, plain, or even downright ugly is played by a much more conventionally attractive actor'...Hulu’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People confused some fans who thought that Marianne, a bullied outcast in the book, was perhaps not most effectively played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who probably spends her free time modelling. I agreed with this criticism a hundred per cent, but I also sobbed through the whole series, every second of Marianne’s pain piercing my heart like a dagger carved from the finest ebony, polished to match the shine of Edgar-Jones’s eyes and hair. I guess I’ve had enough really hot friends to believe that their relationships are just as tragic and confusing as anyone else’s. Actors Are Too Hot Hill is a silly place to die, yet the acclaim for The Queen’s Gambit series, which stars an actual former model, has stranded me there, unable to descend until I have said my piece. Allow me to shout from my lone perch at its summit that Beth Harmon is not pretty, and there is no story about her that can be told if she is. We know that Beth is unattractive because it is written down. It is one of the first things we find out about her, right after she arrives at Methuen. 'You are the ugliest white girl ever. Your nose is ugly and your face is ugly and your skin is like sandpaper. You white trash cracker bitch,' her bully and future friend Jolene declares... Her homeliness seems, for a while, like destiny: she watches pretty girls get adopted out of Methuen as she remains there to grow up. At twelve, she finally finds a home with Mrs. Wheatley, who is both an arguably bad parent and just what independent, chilly Beth needs. She takes the shame of feeling plain into her new life, however....Tevis mentions Beth’s ugliness too often for readers to imagine that it is just some routine, awkward part of childhood that slips away with puberty, like a boy’s squeaky tones settling gradually into a mannish timbre, or because some nice girlfriend—she has none, after Jolene—takes her to Sephora. Instead, Beth becomes reasonably attractive by learning to play chess and then excelling at it. The first moment that Beth is able to regard her reflection without disgust comes right after she wins her third tournament game. Some forty pages later, a chess player turned journalist named Townes tells Beth, 'You’ve even gotten good-looking.' Toward the end of the book, Jolene herself, seeing Beth in magazines, declares, 'You’ve lost your ugly.'" ALSO: Harry Melling says the fake teeth he wore helped him “shift into another gear.”

    TOPICS: The Queen's Gambit, Netflix, Anya Taylor-Joy, Harry Melling