You won’t believe why Kate Winslet is terrified of mold on the set of HBO’s The Regime!

YonHBO The regime, Kate Winslet plays Elena Vernham, the charming yet authoritarian leader of a small European country. Elena, the autocratic chancellor of her nation, is by turns charismatic, oblivious, and tyrannical, but above all, she is terrified of mold. Her mycophobia is so great that the first episode of the series, which premiered on March 3, begins with a haphazard renovation of the historic palace she lives in, in an effort to banish any signs of possibly toxic spores.

Throughout the episode, it becomes clear that the only thing that can threaten Elena's enormous ambition and undermine her power as a dictator is her paranoia about mold, which she keeps secret from the public. It is what leads her to hire Herbert Zubak (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), a disgraced soldier, as an assistant whose sole purpose is to measure the humidity in a room before entering and spend several hours a week in a tank of oxygen. where he hides, Bubble Boy style, from the threat of infection.

Elena's obsession with mold and her possible demise as a result is never more evident in the premiere than when she hosts a banquet where she needs to close an important negotiation with the president of the United States. With dehumidifiers under every table, she is fairly certain of her safety, but she loses her cool after Herbert indiscreetly reports the humidity in the room, drawing her attention to her greatest fear and putting her in danger. political.

Being afraid of mold is not irrational: exposure to it can be toxic, dangerous, and sometimes even deadly. However, Elena's obsessive worry about mold speaks more to her relationship with control and her general sense of fear surrounding her life and her death. She also highlights another element that could threaten her position of power: her understanding of reality.

Why is Elena afraid of mold?

Every aspect of Elena's life, from her political meetings as chancellor to her meals, is designed to minimize exposure to what she perceives as the omnipresent threat of mold. She asks Herbert to use a hydrometer to measure the humidity of a room before she enters, and anyone who dares to approach her must consume a breath mint and hold their breath to limit possible contamination. Elena also frequently visits a doctor, who supervises her sessions in oxygen chambers.

In the episode, one of her advisors makes reference to Elena's late father, also a politician, and how his death was due to a lung problem caused by mold. In this, there may be a clue as to why Elena is so darkly obsessed: the mold represents the fragility of her mortality, something all the power in the world will never allow her to control.

Is this really a legitimate concern for Elena?

While Elena is convinced that toxic mold is omnipresent in her life, it doesn't seem like it's a legitimate problem. Elena can smell “rotten air” everywhere, but those around her don't seem to smell it or show symptoms of mold exposure. The gratuitous pampering that her staff and her family display in response to her extreme concern suggests that they are more concerned with trying to calm her anxieties than with avoiding the potential mold itself. “If he smells mold, tell him you smell it too,” Elena's assistant Agnes warns Herbert, in a scene that suggests those around Elena would rather humor her than risk invoking her wrath.

Is health paranoia dictatorial?

As TIME TV critic Judy Berman wrote about Elena in her review of The regime“Like so many dictators, past and present, she is petrified of pathogens; in her case, mold.” It is true that many of history's most notorious autocrats have had paranoid tendencies and have been obsessed with their health: Adolf Hitler was a notorious hypochondriac, Joseph Stalin suffered from florid paranoia in his later years, and Saddam Hussein was a notorious food-phobic. germs. All of which is to say, the character of Elena, with her fearsome mold obsession and megalomaniac tendencies, certainly seems inspired by a healthy list of real-life things. dictators plagued by health anxiety.

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