Sunday, May 7, 2017

What an Irony!

The Guardian's theatre critic, Mark Lawson has written about historical inaccuracies of modern television shows in his article "Not in this day and age: when will TV stop horrendously airbrushing history?" published on the Guardian website on Friday.

Lawson argues that the modern day television shows 'characters with laughably liberal values for their day'. He points out that protagonists in Sky1's eight part drama 'Jamestown' are portrayed as surprisingly liberal feminists which women from colonial Virginia in 1619 were most unlikely to be.
Screenshot from Guardian website
Screenshot from the Guardian website
 He goes on to compare it with a movie set in 1914 in which a character declares “The first world war has just broken out!” While showing someone in 1914 saying 'first' world war is clearly a mistake, I don't think it is quite the same as comparing it with fictional characters' values. The purpose of fiction is to be entertaining and stories of exceptional persons are likely to be much more entertaining that the average folks of the time. Why would any person be interested in a show about the daily drudgery of life in 1619? To be fair to him, later on in the article Lawson does consider the justifications for giving women in the series some modern values but also goes on to discard the those justifications.

However what I found the most ironic was how Lawson also trains his guns on the hit show 'Downton Abbey'. He says (emphasis added),
"Jamestown is produced by Carnival, the company that made Downton Abbey, a show that shocked many students of English class history with its presentation of an early 20th-century Earl who agonised about the working conditions and personal lives of his servants and would obviously have voted Liberal Democrat if the option had existed."
While complaining about the television writers/producers lack of understanding of the historical context, Lawson commits the same mistake himself! In the early 20th century (1900-1925) voters in Britain did have an option to vote for the Liberal Party.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, of the Liberal Party served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 while another Liberal, Herbert Henry Asquith, who was later made the 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith served as the Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. Downton Abbey is set in 1912. It is thus set in a time when the Liberal Party had managed to secure the largest number of seats in the preceding General Election in December 1910. It is this same Liberal Party that later merged with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form today's Liberal Democrats.

So Mr. Mark Lawson, an earlier version of Liberal Democrats did exist in early 20th-century and the Downton Abbey protagonist may well have voted Liberal!

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