“The Favourite” – Is Morality a Joke?
I don’t know many people who race geese for fun. Nor did I realize that throwing tomatoes at a naked man while he laughs and mocks you was a past time for the more affluent. One comes across many such hobbies in the The Favourite.
The film takes place in the early 18th century in the time of Queen Anne who is struggling not only with ill health, but also a costly war with French across the Channel. Yet there are many powers at play including those who wish to manipulate the queen to their own ends. In comes Abigail Masham played by Emma Stone, who has fallen from her aristocratic roots and seeks to find a way to return to being a Lady.
Now there is much ugliness in the film, much betrayal, lying and hurt thrown all around. Yet, in the film we also see a deeper reflection on where those behaviors in fact lead.
Abigail Masham, for example, thinks of herself as a lady and attempts to always act with honour to those around her. Yet, when “push comes to shove” and her livelihood is at stake then she argues that soon she will be on the streets selling herself as a prostitute. All her morality will be a joke to her from then on. So Abigail, pushes beyond the limits of conventional morality and does something abhorrent.
Our culture to some extent believes morality to be a bad joke. Something that is made up, and is thrown out when it becomes inconvenient.
Yet, all decisions have consequences. All moral decisions put in action a chain of events which in the end can be for our good or for our destruction. Abigail may win back her ladyship, but at what cost to the community, what cost to her marriage, and what cost to her own soul?
Indeed, as much as our culture would like to think there are no rules; yet, the rules are there even if we ignore them. In The Favourite each character receives the just reward for their fidelity to their own morality. We as the audience have the opportunity to observe, and decide, the path we too wish to take.