I hate it when my officemates say Gwen, played by Angel Coulby in BBC’s Merlin is ugly because she’s not white and because her nose is flat.
There is nothing wrong with finding someone unattractive – not everybody is taken with Benedict Cumberbatch the way that I am and that’s totally fine because, hey, he is a BAMF and anybody who thinks otherwise is a moron, to each his own.
But to dislike someone, fictional or not, simply because of her color, is hardly a justified argument. It’s plain racist.
They do not like Gwen because she is ugly. She is not. This Gwen is not the Guinevere that I usually envision when I read Arthurian stories. I always imagine Guinevere as blond, fair and delicate. But just because Merlin’s Gwen is none of these does not automatically make her ugly.
I think Gwen gives the show a sense of stability and normalcy. I sometimes find her too drab and forgettable, but she’s very relatable because, admit it, not all of us can be princes, beautiful seers or talented wizards. Some of us are just born to be ordinary.
I initially didn’t like Gwen; it takes time to get used to a character that is not like the Queen Guinevere I have always imagined. However, I have come to appreciate the show’s interpretation of Gwen. She is the polar opposite of what we think a Queen should be. She is not royalty; she’s the daughter of a blacksmith. She’s no great beauty – evident in the first season every time she is juxtaposed with the regal Morgana.
But she has spunk. There’s such a stark contrast between her ordinary look, and the inherent kindness and strength within her. Taking away the physicality which makes Guinevere ‘special’ in previous stories and incarnations serve to highlight the person, not the face or the title. For that alone, I take my hat off to the producers of the show.
I also find romantic the notion that Arthur does fall in love with her because of who she is and not for what she looks like. That and because she’s one of the few person who can put a halt to his arrogance when she wants to.
Everybody wants to be beautiful in someone else’s eyes. In Gwen’s case, it does not always have to be physical.