A United States federal district judge ruled as admissible a lawsuit filed against Netflix by Nona Gaprindashvil, a former chess champion in the 1960s who is mentioned in the series The Queen’s Gambit.
The plaintiff says Netflix made an “extremely sexist and demeaning” reference to her in the series finale, in which contender Beth Harmon defeats world and Soviet Union champion Vasily Borgov.
After her triumph, on the radio an announcer in Russian says the following sentence: “Elizabeth Harmon is not at all a major player by your standards. The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that is not unique to Russia. She is Nona Gaprindashvili, but she is the women’s world champion and she has never faced men”.
But Gaprindashvil, who competed and was champion in the 1960s (was women’s champion in 1964, 1973, 1981, 1983 and 1985), in which the series takes place The Queen’s Gambit, yes, he faced male chess players. In fact, he faced dozens of men in simultaneous matches like the ones featured in the series.
In its defense, Netflix said that the series and the novel in which it is inspired (Walter Tevis, 1983) is a fiction and that the reference to Gaprindashvil sought to give him recognition.
However, Judge Virginia A. Phillips considered that, since the main theme of The Queen’s Gambit is to break the gender gap, the reference disparages Gaprindashvil’s achievements.
“An average viewer could easily interpret the line, as Claimant contends, as ‘disparaging Claimant’s achievements’ and ‘carrying the stigma that women wear a badge of inferiority’ than the fictional American woman Harmon, but not Claimant , could overcome”, said the judge. “At a minimum, the line disdains achievements critical to the plaintiff’s reputation.”
After the resolution of Judge Phillips, the lawsuit will continue in court.