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High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

A New (and inaccurate) Look at History

Apple TV Series “The New Look” seems promising at first glance; however, it falls short in historical accuracy and plot pacing.
Photo VIA Apple TV

Maybe it was my short attention span and general distaste for sitting down and staring at a screen that made me rate Apple TV’s recently released series “The New Look” a mere two out of five stars. Or maybe it was the poor pacing and lack of emphasis on the entire point of the show: fashion and its relevance in 1940s France. Thinking about the show, it was probably the latter. 

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a huge film person, nor a fashion fanatic. While I’m not an expert on either of these, I am very opinionated. So if I could describe “The New Look” in a couple of words, I’d detail it as a missed opportunity with a few interesting plot points. 

Reeled in by the promise of a distinctive perspective on Nazi-occupied France, viewed through a fashion lens, I delved into what “The New Look” had to offer. A peek into the lives of widely known and celebrated fashion icons, Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) and Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) sounds intriguing, right? Instead of an interesting historical drama, I watched a rollercoaster ride of historical inaccuracies and outright fabrications. 

In 1947 France, rumors spread that Dior indulged in questionable wartime activities, such as working for fellow fashion icon Lucien Lelong to provide Nazi wives with gowns and dresses. Coco Chanel, on the contrary, closed her boutique out of loyalty to her country. 

Throughout the nine episodes of the series, the question detailing what side Dior was truly on is solved. It took almost 10 hours to say that no, Dior was not a Nazi nor a Nazi sympathizer. Rather, he sold clothes to their wives to make a living and support his sister, Catherine, who was part of the French resistance and later placed in a concentration camp. 

Masie Williams, who played Catherine, was a shining star amidst subpar fashion icon portrayals, played with such gut-wrenching intensity and commitment to anti-nazi views. Her journey through arrest and imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp is terrifying, and one of the few plot points that reveal the true nature of the Nazis. The dynamic between her and her brother, Dior, adds depth to an otherwise lackluster storyline. 

Despite this, both Dior’s and Chanel’s views on Nazi occupation were minimized and concealed. I get it, it’s a TV show, not a history lesson. But when you’re dealing with real-life figures like Dior and Chanel, you have a responsibility to get it right. And If there’s one thing I hate in historical TV shows, it’s inaccuracy.

It took ten full episodes for the series to answer the question they posed in the first 15 minutes: What was Dior’s role and intentions during World War II? Through the journey of answering this question, writers could have at least gone into depth regarding the intricacies of fashion, its impact, and its significance through such an arduous time. Eventually confirmed in the final episode, Dior never took an absolute side in the war, but to me, that’s almost the worst part. Being a bystander in the face of mass genocide doesn’t make you innocent. It makes you complicit in it.  Then there’s Chanel. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. The series paints her as a victim of circumstance, forced to cooperate with Nazis to save her nephew. While Binoche does do a wonderful job at portraying the competitive nature of the designer, Coco Chanel was explicitly pro-Nazi, an anti-semitist, and a homophobe. The show is the opposite of transparent about this. While briefly shining a light on her pro-Nazi beliefs, they do not cover the fact that Chanel quite literally worked for Hitler as a spy. Swept under the rug, the show opts for a sanitized version of events that does a disservice to history as a whole. 

Perhaps most disappointing of all is the disconnect between the show’s marketing and its actual content. The trailer promises a gripping tale of espionage and betrayal, but the reality falls far short of expectations. Instead of delving into the intrigue of wartime Paris, “The New Look” gets watered down in soap opera-esque subplots and thinly veiled attempts at social commentary.

Sure, “The New Look” gets a couple of things right. For the most part, the cast gave a strong performance and captured the true essence of the competitive nature of being a fashion designer in the fashion capital of the world. However, Dior’s performance feels more melodramatic than meaningful. However, Karen Muller Surreau, the costume designer, deserves a round of applause for her stunning work bringing the fashion of the era to life.

So, is “The New Look” worth a watch? Maybe if you’re desperate for some mindless entertainment and have a soft spot for period dramas. But with its sluggish pacing, shallow characterizations, and missed opportunities for meaningful storytelling, this series ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. If you’re looking for something with a little more substance and style, you’re better off raiding your grandma’s closet for some vintage couture. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

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Yasmeen Ford
Yasmeen Ford, Online News Editor

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