The Mary, Queen of Scots trailer dropped yesterday, and my lords and ladies, it looks EPIC. We’ve got duelling cousins, numerous dramatic horseback moments and a nearly unrecognizable Margot Robbie in some *wild* hair-and-makeup. Sure, she looks pretty great, very regal in the photo above, but well… that’s not how the story ends.
The film, written by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, takes on the real-life relationship between the aforementioned Mary, played by Saoirse Ronan, and Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), both female monarchs in a political system controlled by the machinations of men.
As Queen Elizabeth I, Robbie initially sports the 16th century equivalent of five-shades-of-contour-10-shades-of-concealer-and-at-least-three-brow-prods type of Instagram makeup. As the trailer goes on, and her character ages, it becomes clear that this beauty regime, uh, may not be the healthiest. And while (guessing here) Elizabeth’s physical deterioration in the film may serve a symbolic purpose in illustrating her mental/emotional/spiritual breakdown as she contemplates (*spoiler alert*) executing her rival queen, it also reflects the ravages of makeup back, back, back in the day.
Granted, Robbie’s starting point is an aesthetic that we may have *slightly* moved on from—aside from The Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland and The Joker. In Elizabethan times, the ideal beauty lewk was Colgate white skin and M.A.C. Russian Red lips and cheeks. Cast your mind to a three year old’s portrait of Raggedy Anne and you’re about there.
During Elizabeth’s reign, fair hair and a pallid complexion were all the rage, and the lengths that people went to achieve it are…concerning. Foundation made out of white lead and vinegar anyone? An exfoliating peel of straight up mercury? And yes, both of those are as bad for your skin/general life expectancy as they sound. One of the more popular blush options, mercuric sulphide, was also guaranteed to slay—but like literally, because it’s poisonous. Historians believe that Elizabeth may have actually helped to popularize particularly thick opaque makeup because a) she had scars from smallpox, a disease that left the skin pitted and b) she had to keep up appearances as the eternally youthful, iconically beautiful “Virgin Queen.” (Clearly problematic beauty standards are really nothing new.)
The haircare options were also less than ideal. Since fair hair was so prized—and Queen E was particularly vain about her famous red locks—extreme measures were undertaken to achieve it by many women. If you’re wondering about the scene in the trailer where Elizabeth pulls off a wig to reveal her balding scalp, well, the toxic brews used to dye hair could be why. Oh, and the torture didn’t end there: Since a high forehead was highly prized, people plucked their hairlines wayyyy back. It was perhaps the one time in history when a receding hairline was HOT.
Robbie addressed Elizabeth’s appearance in an interview with Entertainment Weekly , and her experience with stepping into the role of The Virgin Queen, intense makeup and all. She told the mag that wearing the prosthetics and makeup made her feel “inhuman” and that it basically caused the cast and crew to avoid looking at her. “It wasn’t intentional,” she said, “but I could see that it was uncomfortable for them, and the less they looked at me, the more isolated I felt.” And based on the trailer, it seems like some of those insecure, persecuted and just a wee bit paranoid feels helped inform her performance.
We’ll have to wait until the film’s release in December (date TBD) to see this all in action, but for now, behold the trailer—and Robbie’s shocking transformation—below:
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