Why Rosaline Is The Shakespearean Heroine We Needed All Along

When you think of "Romeo and Juliet," the most common words you might use to describe the famed story's traditional heroine are not "outspoken," "career-driven" and "anti-convention." After all, you're talking about a woman who is so at the mercy of her family's entanglement with another, that she ends up dead. Now, meet Rosaline, a fabulous Kaitlyn Dever, the star of a new take on this Shakespearean tale. She dreams of being a cartographer, eschews the idea of arranged marriage and isn't afraid to say so.

In the Hulu movie of the same name, Rosaline's personality is first revealed when, during Romeo's famously romantic speech attempting to woo her (this is pre-Juliet), she asks him, "Why are you talking like that?" Indeed, from minute one, this fair maiden is not who you expect her to be, with Rosaline challenging the idea of a woman's place during the oppressive time she lives in at every turn.

Consider that after challenging Romeo (Kyle Allen), Rosaline pivots to pushing back against her father (Bradley Whitford) as he attempts to set her up with a husband. "You're a woman. You're not supposed to talk about what you want," is the kind of thing she hears constantly. Instead of sitting idly by, despairing, Rosaline doesn't let society define what her life path will be, and we know we won't be alone in falling in love with her as a result.

Rosaline's boldness rubs off

Rosaline fretting over potentially losing Romeo to Juliet (Isabela Merced) is only one storyline in "Rosaline." The film is also a commentary on women's roles in dating and society. The question is: How much has really changed?

For her part, Rosaline is not about letting a man define her. Not only does she have a specific idea of what kind of partner she wants — if she ultimately desires to be married at all (a disastrous date with the very charming Dario, played by Sean Teale, suggests Rosaline is not going to settle) — but as Rosaline explains, her view of her future involves so much more than staying home to change diapers.

It's when the film's protagonist stands up for other women that her storyline gets truly exhilarating. Even as Rosaline tries her best to dislike Juliet after the younger cousin steals her boyfriend, she still becomes an inspiration for the lovestruck character, as we eventually see Juliet take a firm stance against her father's attempts to set her up with someone else. 

Perhaps the funniest moment in the film comes when Rosaline questions Shakespeare's plotline that sees Juliet faking her own death in an effort to be with Romeo. And ultimately, her bravado also pays off when she inspires the older women in the Montague and Capulet families to debate their husbands over the ongoing feud that has driven the star-crossed lovers apart.

You can stream "Rosaline" on Hulu starting October 14, 2022.