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the fork of truth

It is the end of the holidays, and what I have been doing with my holidays (besides writing) is, basically, watching large amounts of television, including the first seasons of Copper and Orange Is The New Black plus all of Ripper Street,

I'm not sure what to say about Ripper Street apart from that apparently Victorian police dramas are a Thing I Love.

Random stuff I  ended up researching after watching it: the Anglo-Egyptian War and Pinkertons.

Also, the fact that every episode is unofficially themed on a Nineteeth Century Invention.

So there's “the electricity episode” ; “the underground train episode” ; “the cholera prevention episode” and so on. And then halfway through season 2 there's “the gay episode”.

I was ridiculously amused by this.

Copper is set in Five Points, NY, in 1864. It's basically similar in premise to Ripper Street - 19th century policeman protagonist with Dead Daughter Angst, etc and I'd say that, overall, Ripper Street is probably superior in almost every respect.

However, there were two things I really liked about

One was that one of the main foci (or maybe focuses?) of the show was the large Irish emigrant communities that emerged after the Great Famine and the prejudice surrounding them. This is something that, in the actual source material of the times, was a Big Thing but tends to get only lightly touched on in Victorian period drama. Mayhew writes about the Irish as a whole separate (and, by implication, lesser) class of people. Newspapers portrayed the Irish as literally sub-human. In England, the Potato Famine and the specific ways it was mishandled, along with the sheer amount of cash spent on doing so, seems to have resulted in a mixture of guilt and resentment, mingled with the fear and racial hatred that accompanies a large influx of poor immigrants and complicated by several hundred years of strife. So I was happy to see an American drama that recognised and examined that prejudice for more than just one or two episodes, including the tension between the Irish and Black communities as rival disenfranchised minorities.

Even if they still  could have done it better.

The other awesome thing about Copper is Annie Riley, the eleven-year-old prostitute, who I expected to appear as a minor character in one episode, and ended up being the reason I watched the whole season in pretty much one sitting, despite not really caring about any of the other people in it.


OTHER CHARACTERS: So now after all the crazy abuse and murder you'll live happily ever after as the adorable ward of a society hostess!

ANNIE RILEY: Don't make me choke a bitch.

She displays disturbed and promiscuous behaviour consistent with her previous trauma! There's a constant dissonance between how the adults around her expect her to behave and her own attempts to make sense of her life based on her previous experience!

It's a little bit scary that apparently what I want from my TV watching is more accurate depictions of traumatised children,

And now I kind of want to watch Season 2, just to find out what happens to her.

I'm not sure that I can articulate all the things I liked about Orange Is The New Black. Transgender issues! Race! Social inequality! Gender and sexuality! All the ladies! About the only downside is that it was not fluffy enough for me to watch all of it in one go.

I think my favourite thing was that (white, blonde, middle-class) Piper comes into prison with both her and us knowing that she's different from the other women in there. They're criminals after all, whereas she just made one mistake ten years ago. But by the end of the season, they have become people to her; people who made difficult choices in bad situations, not stereotypes but individual and complicated. She -and we- realise that she is, in effect, no different from them, and this realisation separates her inescapably from the people she knows and her life outside of prison.

Possibly reading Les Mis at a young and impressionable age has left me with an irrational love for Convict Dramas About Social Justice.


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