Zelda Fitzgerald proves that good girls rarely make history
Christina Ricci on bringing one of the most well-misrepresented women alive onscreen
It would be dishonest of me to claim that I did not stream the first episode of Z: The Beginning of Everything thinking that it was a zombie apocalypse origin story, purely based on the title. I was also pleasantly intrigued by the art deco treatment given to the branding. To me, we were not only getting a show that dealt with zombie origins, but a fancy show that dealt with zombie origins.
So you can imagine my incredulity when during the 30-minute run time of the first episode, there was no mention of a patient zero or human beings coming back from the dead. After I managed to tamp down my feelings of utter betrayal and disappointment, I decided to give the show another chance, mainly because it featured two things that I love in a TV show (aside from cities being overrun by zombies) — period costumes and the promise of a tragic love story.
I discovered that the 10-episode long show revolves around the life of Zelda Fitzgerald and her tumultuous marriage to The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s based on Zelda’s biography by Theresa Ann Fowler (Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald) and traces her journey from a small town in Alabama to New York, Los Angeles, Paris and wherever struck her fancy.
For the longest time, the world viewed Zelda Fitzgerald through the words of Ernest Hemingway, who never hid his contempt for her. In a letter to Arthur Mirzenre, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s biographer, Hemingway wrote, “I loved Scott very much but he was extremely difficult with that situation he got himself into and Zelda constantly making him drink because she was jealous of his working well.” He painted Zelda as a flighty, unpredictable and toxic woman who would go on to ruin her husband and his friend’s lives. It’s fair to say that a show that’s based on the life of a woman that the world knew to be ‘unlikeable’ would come with its own baggage of misrepresentation.
When I bring this up in my conversation with Christina Ricci, who plays the titular Zelda and is a producer too, she agrees, “It’s one of those things that made me want to make it even more. Before I read the book (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald), even I had the same misconceptions that everyone had based on what Hemingway wrote about her. But when I read it and I actually started learning the truth about this person, I was shocked.”
After she decided that the story needed to be shared with the world, she acquired the filming rights and turned producer for the show. A show that is set in two different worlds with two of the most well-known figures in literary history would require a lot of research, a fact that Ricci confirms, “I read everything I could. I read all the biographies I could find (of Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald) and all their works. It’s an interesting time because of the culture, the war, changing class system. What America was going through at that time really set the stage for Scott and Zelda and who they became.”
Ricci admits that hers wouldn’t be much of a story if Zelda had been born in this millennium. “The fact that people are so interested in her life now and that we can finally understand her behaviour and don’t feel alienated by it proves that we’ve caught up with Zelda.”
The Amazon original show will make you long for the glitzy lifestyle of the 1920s. Not to forget the stunning costumes that stay true to the flapper style of that era. While Ricci admits that she couldn’t pick a favourite amongst the many (and there are many) beautiful ’20s style dresses she wears on the show, she would gladly bring jet beading to 2017 if she had a time machine.
While I work on my petition to add a disclaimer as a tagline to the show, stating that it has nothing to do with zombies, you can catch up on the first season of the heartbreaking story of Zelda Fitzgerald.
Z: The Beginning of Everything is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.