Marie Antoinette

Female Gender Expectations

     Beautiful and dainty pastries and cakes aid in constructing female roles in the film. Marie feels the pressures of being just as beautiful and appetizing as the deserts perfectly presented at Versailles. Her goal is perfectly clear after moving to France from Austria, and her mother constantly is reminding her of her failures in doing just that. Her mother insistently puts all of the blame on Marie for not becoming pregnant, while the truth is that Louis XVI is not have a hunger for a beautiful and dainty pastry: Marie. Marie tries to seduce Louis XVI every night to no avail because his interest in women is nil. She fails in her efforts and becomes extremely frustrated. Her frustration is represented through the presents of food. Prior to her failure, the desserts are perfectly arranged, but after her failed attempt to lure Louis XVI sexually, the desserts are a complete wreck on the plates. Moreover, Marie's lack of eating at breakfasts and dinners is obvious. She is not seen eating at main meals while Louis XVI eats bite after bite. Marie eats during intermittent screen shots and the majority of the time it is one or two nibbles of a dessert.

      Coppola illustrates the acceptable and unacceptable female roles by contrasting the behaviors between Marie and Madame du Berry. In an early scene in the film, at a royal dinner, Madam du Berry is eating in a "un-lady" like manner. Madame du Berry is eating food out of King Louis XV's hand as he feeds her. She licks her fingers instead of using her lap napkin, which is frowned upon for a royal female to behave in such manner. After being inappropriately, touched by a random man Madam du Berry gulps down an entire glass of wine and states, "See that. I am not treated like a lady around here." Immediately after her gulp and statement, she loudly belches at the table. Everyone at the table begins to gossip about how inappropriately Madame du Berry behaves at the table. However, a close up shot on Marie's face shows that she is entertained by Madame du Berry's rebellion to conforming to the expectations of how a woman should act in the lens of royal society. Off camera, a woman is gossiping about the situation and she states, "Look at Marie. She is delightful. She looks like a little piece of cake." This is a perfect foreshadow that Marie intends to not only reject the female expectation, but she will mimic Madame du Berry's behaviors to seduce her husband. The technique Madam du Berry uses with food to seduce the king appear to arouse the him may be looked down on, but they certainly yield results. The king cannot keep his hands off from Madam du Berry. Expected societal gender roles are intertwined with sexual identity and sexual behavior. Coppola uses food as a vehicle to express sexuality and sexual seduction successfully throughout the film.


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