Rachel Griffiths Talks The Wilds and a Need For Female Leadership

Rachel Griffiths is one of the more underrated actors working today. Her first film appearance, in Muriel’s Weddingearned her awards and acclaim, and she’s only followed it up with more great work in movies such as Blow, Hacksaw Ridge, Amy, Me Myself Iand Hilary and Jackiewhich earned her an Academy Award nomination.


She’s most famous, however, for her work on the television shows Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters, which have earned her several Emmy and Golden Globe Awards nominations (and a win), along with a slew of popular Australian series, from Secrets in 1993 to Total Control in 2021. Now, however, she’s playing someone very different.

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The Ideals and Collateral Damage of Gretchen Klein in The Wilds

She’s garnered a lot of acclaim recently for her role as Gretchen Klein in The Wilds, an exciting and mysterious Prime Video original show about a group of girls who have crash-landed on an island and must learn to survive. Unbeknownst to them, their airplane crash was a staged event and their survival is a social experiment called the Dawn of Eve, orchestrated by Gretchen Klein as a way to prove her theory that women can develop society better than men, and are thus more suitable leaders . This would pave the way for a gynotopia, or a utopian society run by women, a conception that’s been around for a while (such as the 1405 novel by Christine de Pazan, The Book of the City of Ladies).


What makes Gretchen a fascinating character that, like many great villains, she has noble ideas but very loose morality and ambiguous ethics when it comes to achieving them. These types of characters are generally more thought-provoking than completely selfish or evil antagonists. Thanos is a good example – with his desire to save civilization by eliminating half of it, he actually had good intentions (with the meme ‘Thanos Was Right’ becoming prevalent in recent years, especially as climate catastrophes draw near). Are these intentions noble?


Related: The Wilds Season 2 Trailer Introduces a New Group of Test Subjects

“I probably wouldn’t use the noble word,” Griffiths says, thinking about her character Gretchen. “She has this righteous ideology. She has this fervent idea that she believes will improve humanity.” The difficulty with righteous ideology tends to develop when it is put into action. Gretchen causes a lot of harm and destruction through the Dawn of Eve project because of her fundamentalist attachment to her own idea. In order to put these ideas in motion, she very much has to be ‘above the law,’ playing God in a way with her social experiment. Gretchen’s particularly interesting in a time when certain billionaires and politicians believe that the proverbial ‘greater good’ overrides any moral concerns about accountability, exploitation, and power.


The Wilds Asks if Big Ideas Are Worth Dying (or Killing) For

“I’ve always been curious about how the world throws up the Pol Pots of the world, the Hitlers and the Stalins,” Griffiths says. “They believe in this idea so much that there’s almost an acceleration of collateral in terms of trying to realize that idea. And while there have been a few great ideas that we’ve won from violence, like the French Revolution and the American Revolution, And maybe even the American Civil War, with people who passionately believed that they were righteous, there seems to be more on the other side.” In this sense, Gretchen is in a lineage of history’s many powerful leaders who value ideas and their preservation over the actual people who believe them. Griffiths continues:

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