Peggy confronts structural racism in The Guilded Age

In The Gilded Age, Peggy Scott (Denée Jacobson) has been a quiet, unobtrusive observer of the craziness and luxuries of families in Manhattan, and the character, who is writing about them all, has finally found someone who will publish her. On episode 4, her part of the story begins to be revealed, and we see a Peggy who has been hiding and we are happy to meet her. As a bonus, he put the rebel-because-he-can, Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) in her place.

Only Marian, still hasn’t really realized that her friend and savior is much more than she lets on. It was Peggy who paid for Marian’s ticket after she was mugged. It was Peggy who helped her get to her aunts’ house and it was also Peggy who immediately conquered the difficult and prejudiced Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) who so far is the only one who sees people for what they are (this worries me a lot too!) . Agnes doesn’t like emerging ones, but she loves Peggy. Obviously a well-dressed, educated woman of color is not just any woman, just Marion wrapped up in her egocentrism and structural racism didn’t realize it!

After being rejected by a Christian magazine because she is a black woman, Peggy still refuses to return home or accept her parents’ help. However, she manages to get her articles published – in a black-run print shop – and wins two potential love interests. You go, Peggy! As she can no longer run away from home, she goes to lunch with her parents and we see her in a luxury house, with very well-established servants and parents. The drama with her father, it turns out, isn’t because he wants her happily married, but wants Peggy to inherit the business – a pharmaceutical chain – while she wants to be a writer and independent. She’s even going to start writing about politics, something Agnes accepts as long as she doesn’t have to read it. Agnes is certainly an interesting character precisely because of this relationship with Peggy, who is the only one who has her unrestricted support.

Amidst the drama of a rich white girl, Marian – always her – comes to be embarrassed and embarrass everyone around her as well. Not only does he show up uninvited to Peggy’s lunch, she insults her and her family when she brings old shoes as a gift. Earlier, she had already exposed Peggy to humiliation that she doesn’t even realize, when Peggy is accompanied from afar by security guards at a department store (the future Bloomingdales), because they suspect she might be a thief. When she appears at the house, surprised that Peggy is richer than she is and that she thought an old shoe would be a nice gift, Peggy loses her temper. The gesture reveals Marian’s structural racism, provoking the strongest phrase of the episode: “don’t pretend to be something we’re not: friends”, she vents to Marian.

Marian’s difficulty fishing for things is irritating. No matter how many times you explain the rules, she breakes them just to be different. I’m afraid that her romantic trajectory with Tom Raikes (Thomas Cocquerel) could be the one that Henry James counted so well in his novel Washington Square. In the classic turned movie and play, an ugly spinster is the victim of a coup by a self-serving admirer. That’s what Agnes warned in the last episode. Tom was Marian’s father’s lawyer, came to New York supposedly looking for her, has already declared himself but doesn’t force his hand. As we have seen, within months he is already well connected and attending the opera. Even Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) commented on that… let’s keep an eye on Tom!

Among the Russells, things aren’t as smooth as o e would hope to be, but the couple seems to ignore it. Bertha fires her daughter’s lady-in-waiting after she finds out about her hidden departure, but she doesn’t even suspect that her own maid ended up naked in George Russell’s (Morgan Spector) bed. Luckyly for her, the husband is faithful. A rare man of his time.

After having provoked an enemy’s suicide, George appears to be softening, but insists and arranges for Bertha to be invited by one of the accepted families. It is the long staircase that gives the episode its name. For the first time, she hears about the 400 list, made by Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane), with the approval of Ms. Astor (Donna Murphy). She wants to be in it. This is only the beginning.

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