Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway - Boardwalk Empire and critical attibution pitfalls [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Boardwalk Empire and critical attibution pitfalls [Nov. 6th, 2012|06:47 pm]
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timprov and I are almost done watching S2 of Boardwalk Empire, and one of the ways I viewed S1 has...not exactly shifted, but I have been reminded to be careful in how I talk about this sort of thing, especially with a multi-author work.

In S1 of BE, I feel like I notice an interesting triad of post-WWI New Women: Margaret the Suffragist, Angela the Bohemian/Artist, and Lucy the Flapper. I didn't love all these characters--okay, mostly I didn't love Lucy. But the things I didn't love about her, I still kind of loved, because they were totally period-appropriate. She's a pouty jazz baby--the way she addresses men fairly indiscriminately as "daddy" and whines for what she wants and doesn't care who she stomps on her way to a good time--or whether that good time will last more than five seconds--that's all very period-appropriate. And that's all stuff that's not liking the character rather than thinking the character is done badly. In a cast this size, I can totally live with one Lucy in exchange for an Angela and a Richard and a Chalky.

But the structural thing about the three aspects--that may or may not have been deliberate on the writers' part. It may have been deliberate on the part of one of the writers and not others. The writers all may have loved it and been shoved around by the higher-ups towards other choices in running the show. Because in S2...Margaret's aspect as Suffragist and political conscience is almost completely subsumed, and not in a way that's a focus, "watch this slipping away" sort of thing. And Lucy is pregnant and then gone from the show for the end of S2 (and, from the IMDB, S3), and Angela is gunned down. Dead. So talking about this as a thing that the writers were doing is starting to look...at least a little shakier. It's certainly not something they wanted to do much with in S2, or were able, however it works. If it was a thing they wanted, they didn't get to do it. But I won't be able to tell from out here.

Does that mean that the triad I was seeing isn't there in the show? No. It's there in S1. You can poke it with a stick. But talking about it as the thing that I see is very different from talking about it as the thing that they were doing, and the experience of watching S2 reminds me to be careful in making that distinction. I can appreciate it as something cool in S1 of the show without insisting that it's all a cunning plan--and especially without getting angry with the writers when the cunning plan that was not necessarily theirs in the first place falls apart.
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