Hailee Steinfeld felt a huge responsibility when exploring Emily Dickinson’s queerness and affair with her sister-in-law
Dickinson star Hailee Steinfeld wants LGBT+ people to feel “seen” by the Apple TV series.
When most people think of Emily Dickinson, they probably picture a very different life to the one presented in the Apple TV series about her life.
Most people probably know the basic, oft-repeated story of Emily Dickinson’s life: that she was a recluse who never left home; she only published a small number of poems during her lifetime, with the bulk of her work finally making its way into the public domain after her death.
But this is not the full picture, and Apple TV’s Dickinson is dedicated to revitalising the dry, staid story by filling her life with love, passion and modern-day pop music. It doesn’t sound like it should work – but it does. Dickinson is moving, exciting, and walks the line between being laugh-out-loud funny and powerfully dramatic – not an easy feat for a show about a female poet growing up in a deeply conservative world.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld as the young poet, the series follows Emily as she navigates how to be both a writer and a woman in a society that discouraged her gender from having thoughts of their own.
Notably, Dickinson also explores Emily’s sexuality, depicting her passionate relationship with her sister-in-law Sue – a talking point that scholars have pored over for years. The poet has long been represented as a virginal figure, but scholars have recently begun to question this narrative of her life, with some in particular investigating her relationship with Sue.
Steinfeld is proud of the show’s exploration of Emily’s life – and its powerful depiction of her queerness. Speaking during a roundtable discussion, she told PinkNews that she feels a responsibility in depicting Emily’s queerness – and she hopes LGBT+ viewers feel represented while watching it.
I hope that the LGBTQ community can watch this and feel accurately represented, truthfully represented.
“I definitely feel a responsibility to do the relationship between Sue and Emily justice, and the representation justice,” Steinfeld said. “I love the fact that this relationship is such a huge part of our show. I love that the theme of being seen and understood is what overrides everything at the end of the day – no matter who it is that you love.
“It’s a beautiful relationship that she has with Sue, with the one person that understand her and sees her. It’s a really beautiful thing and it’s the definition of love, seeing and being seen truly for who you are. So I definitely felt the responsibility to represent it truthfully.
Hailee Steinfeld thinks Dickinson feels especially relevant in the age of COVID.
Steinfeld continued: “I hope that the LGBTQ community can watch this and feel accurately represented, truthfully represented, and I hope that they feel that there is and there should not be any shame in loving who you love, being who you really are.
“I just think this show is so special for touching on that and making it normal, because that’s what it is, that’s what it should be. It’s no different than any other person or relationship, and it’s equally as beautiful and touching as any other. I hope that they just feel less alone and represented and seen.”
As well as exploring Emily’s sexuality, Dickinson also depicts the isolation the poet experienced throughout her life – a theme that has never been as prescient as it is right now, with coronavirus cases surging in many parts of the world. Steinfeld said that 2020 was an “eye-opener”, with COVID-19 sweeping across the world, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
“It’s almost as if we’ve been living in this isolation that Emily Dickinson had her whole life,” she explained, noting that the poet chose her solitude, but didn’t exactly have many other options.
“Emily lived this life of isolation and she made the most of it, which a lot of us have been forced to do. We’ve all had to continue working somehow, artists are continuing to perform from home. Life has to go on and keep moving, and it’s been a huge challenge for everyone to figure out how exactly to do that. It’s interesting to have that parallel with season two of Dickinson.”
Dickinson season two is streaming on Apple TV now.
If you recently got a new Apple device then you can get a year free subscription to Apple TV+, you can check whether your device is eligible here.
To then stream content, including Dickinson you can do it through your iPhone or iPad, or via the app on smart TVs and sticks including the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Just download the Apple TV app onto your Fire TV Stick and confirm your account to start watching.
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