Netflix series “The Empress”: Cancelt Sisi!

Sie has been dead for 125 years and is still not allowed to die. One does not want to part with the myth of a woman who wears spectacular costumes when suffering and who takes on an entire court for her self-assertion. In this way, the story of the unfortunate Empress Elisabeth of Austria is snatched from oblivion again and again.

Just last year, RTL+ broadcast a series in which Sisi masturbates and Franz Joseph celebrates sex orgies. In “Corsage”, the Austrian director Marie Creuzer recalled the brutal codes of dress and manners to which even an empress was subjected. And the writer Karin Duve has just published a novel in which Sisi wants to ride away from the world.

Now Sisi is supposed to conquer an audience in the Netflix six-part series “The Empress” that is so young that it probably no longer knows either the story of the sad empress against her will or her embodiment by Romy Schneider, who has become sad about it.

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All the better. So you don’t have to put Sisi on the curb of historical factual fidelity. For showrunner and head author Katharina Eyssen, this means that a lot of what she has been up to is taken away from her – even her name, now she insists on being called Elisabeth. For this she is made into a heroine who fits into a time in which women no longer want to be victims.

The passion story of a young woman who was abused by rigid rules, an insensitive husband, a court that feared any liveliness and the impertinence to smother every emotion was long the reason for being so touched by her as only afterwards nor from the only marginally happier Lady Diana. But today nobody would accept smacks about privileged women who have to put up with everything.

That’s why the empress doesn’t bury her feelings in “The Empress” and doesn’t hold back in anything else either. She rides Amadeus and Sabrina as fast as Bibi and Tina usually do and shocks the bishop when he fulfills his sacred duty to look between her legs to make sure of her innocence. She insists on having a say in the decisions of war and peace, and flirts with men other than hers.

Sisi (Devrim Lingnau) and Rudolf (Philipp Froissant) in the series “The Empress”

Quelle: 2021 Netflix, Inc.

She is interested in the well-being of the staff and protests against the fact that as empress she should only wear each pair of shoes once (“that’s a waste”). And unlike the historically authentic empress, for whom sex was an annoyance, she enjoys snogging and making love.

Young women today could no longer be expected to be anything but a self-confident, sharp-tongued, freedom-loving woman who appreciates aesthetics and human dignity, a sex-positive young woman who does not want to be victimized. The Elisabeth that Netflix offers them is almost like her, apart from her more elaborate clothes and her hairstyle, which is rather impractical for everyday life. At any moment you’d expect her to pull out her phone to snap some fancy photos for Insta.

This has as little to do with Romy-Sissi as it does with Habsburg-Elisabeth, just as Winnetou has to do with the Native Americans. In Ernst Marischka’s trilogy, she was above all a sweet girl, her heart in the right place, but with too little resilience. And in her real life almost consistently a cross-unhappy woman.

Franz Joseph is like Prince Charles

This is not surprising: when she was rolled through the streets of Vienna in a glass wedding carriage on April 23, 1854, she was only 16, her husband about as stuffy as Prince Charles. Their duties consisted of giving birth to an heir to the throne, showing themselves to the people and complying with court etiquette. You really couldn’t expect a heroine like that from anyone – even with Diana it was difficult to empathize, and after all she had affairs.

It is therefore only too understandable that Netflix breaks free from tradition for its six-part series. In “The Empress,” Franz Joseph is a super-sensitive partner, a young man who is overwhelmed by his role and injures himself because he can’t cope emotionally with the executions of rebels that he has to witness. He absolutely wants to avoid the war that the hawks at court are urging him to go to because he would rather spend the state budget on his people.

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Like his wife, he is not comfortable with the order he is at the head of. But in love he is quite gifted for romance. Sometimes he slips away with Elisabeth, then they sit on the bank of a body of water and at her behest he takes off his pants, too, so that she can paint him.

And before they finally get very close to each other on their wedding night (“This union is not for pleasure, this union is for God, for the Holy Habsburg Empire”, is given to her by her lady-in-waiting), he encourages her like a horse whisperer to a shy one Pony.

We can do it together, says Franzi, it sounds like a start-up kick-off meeting. And then it works, trembling bodies, world-forgetting sighs, blissful togetherness. Until then the reality principle takes over again.

And then there is an anarchist

The Russians don’t want to be talked out of the war, the archbishop wants war because then the rabble would be off the streets, the bank calls in the loan that Franz took out to build a railway, an anarchist has joined the ladies-in-waiting Murder intentions crept in, and the emperor’s own brother wants to oust him so that he can finally do more and more meaningful things than fucking everyone who comes close to him.

However, this does not shake the nature of Neflix-Elisabeth. She won’t be defeated. In the end, alone and completely unprotected, she approaches the angry people who have gathered in front of the castle because they can no longer stand their hunger and tells them that she is expecting a child. Whereupon the people immediately forget the revolution. This is how the kingdom is saved. Possibly a second season of “The Empress”.

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SWITZERLAND - CIRCA 2003: The Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni kills Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria, in Geneva, September 10, 1898, illustration from Le Petit Journal. Switzerland, 19th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images) Getty ImagesGetty Images

Basically it’s all very funny. We live in an age where bands get canceled if they make the mistake of wearing dreadlocks despite not being Rastas, and where long-time men argue for weeks about whether Winnetou is okay or not going at all .

But when a reactionary emperor and his intimidated wife are made two pitiful prisoners of society which they direct, that seems perfectly fine. Where’s the cancel culture when you need it?

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