Cursed, Netflix’s girl-power-infused retelling of King Arthur legend, is more proof that wokeness ruins everything it touches
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo
The legend of King Arthur is one of my favorite stories because it is one of the most psychologically and mythologically profound tales in the human canon.
Sadly, I have been consistently underwhelmed by Hollywood’s attempts to bring the story of King Arthur to the screen, but like the Knights of the Round Table searching for the Holy Grail, I remain undaunted in my quest for a quality telling of the Arthurian tale.
It is in this context that I recently binge-watched Cursed, Netflix’s attempt to make a feminist prequel to the story of King Arthur from the perspective of Nimue, the famed Lady of the Lake from the original story.
Cursed doesn’t so much deconstruct the Legend of King Arthur as defecate upon it.
All the familiar heroes are presented in Cursed…Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gawain, Percival and Guinevere, but this “re-imagining” of the Arthurian story lacks all the profundity of the original myth and is little more than a delivery system to spread the gospel of girl power and the wonders of wokeness.
In keeping with woke doctrine, the men in Cursed are universally awful. Arthur is a lying, treacherous thief, King Uther Pendragon is a sniveling, villainous buffoon, and Merlin is a drunken fraud suffering with a case of sorcery impotence.
In contrast, the women, like Nimue, are righteous heroes, and even the bad ones, like Lady Lunete, are the brains behind the vapid men on the throne.
Religion too is held up as a paragon of evil. The Red Paladins, who are vile Catholic crusaders that brutally hunt the magical Faeries of the forest and burn them on crosses, are akin to Arthurian era Klansmen – dressed in red robes instead of white.
It’s worth noting the exception to the woke ‘all religious people are evil’ rule though, as there are two nuns in Cursed who are good…but that’s only because they’re lesbians.
In a painfully heavy-handed bit of social justice preening, some good humans, who not surprisingly are people of color, start an underground railroad in resistance to the marauding Paladins, and funnel Faeries to safety.
Another not-so-subtle declaration of wokeness is the colorblind casting, most notably in the role of Arthur. Any real-life historical King Arthur prototype would have been white, and the character is even portrayed as such in the Frank Miller graphic novel that Cursed is based upon, but on the TV show he is played by black actor Devon Terrell.
Colorblind casting is certainly a bold choice, and it is somewhat amusing in a woke-ish sense that Terrell plays Arthur, as his only other role of note was playing the modern-day, neo-liberal, establishment media version of King Arthur, Barack Obama, in the movie Barry.
I assume when it comes to colorblind casting that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander though, so hopefully very soon we’ll get to see Macaulay Culkin star as Shaka Zulu.
The problem with Terrell in the role of Arthur is certainly not his skin color, it is his egregious charisma deficit. Terrell is so devoid of any magnetism the show would have been better served casting a cigar store wooden Indian as the future king.
The rest of the cast, with the notable exception of the pleasant Katherine Langford as Nimue and the always interesting Peter Mullan as Father Carden, are nearly as inept as Terrell, and they sure as hell aren’t aided by the egregiously hackneyed and exposition-laden writing.
Cursed wants to be Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones meets A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, all wrapped in an Arthurian woke cloak, but looks so unconscionably cheap and is so dramatically unsophisticated it is more akin to a backyard play put on by a bunch of neighborhood kids hopped up on too much Dungeons and Dragons.
Examples of Cursed being derivative abound, such as the Sword of Powerbeing a nearly identical storytelling device as the One Ring from Lord of the Rings, with Nimue as an exceedingly more attractive version of Frodo.
The Sparrow cult of Game of Thrones is mimicked in Cursed by the religious zealotry of the Red Paladin. As is the plethora of palace intrigue and political maneuvering, but in Cursed that ends up being incoherently baffling rather than beguiling.
In leaving no unoriginal stone unturned, Cursed even has a mysterious Assassin’s Creed looking guy running around wreaking havoc with laughably absurd dancing fight moves.
It is amazing to me that something as mythologically potent and dramatically powerful as the Legend of King Arthur can be reduced to something as inconsequential and puny as Cursed, but I guess that is the destructive wizardry of wokeness at work.
If King Arthur were alive today and watched the derivative, dull, listless and lifeless piece of woke trash that is Cursed, he would pull Excalibur out of the stone just to gouge his own eyes out.
The bottom line is this…my quest for the ever-elusive Holy Grail of a good King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table show continues, but Cursed has left me feeling my noble quest is just that…cursed.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.