Monday, June 29, 2015

Poldark and His Women [Episode Two]

Poor Verity! Poldark's cousin, she's one of my favorite of Poldark's female characters. I can't quite see where her brother Francis got the cojones to do what he did last night in Episode 2 of the BBC series currently running on PBS. A duel! How very swash-bucklery and dramatic. But seemingly out of character for Francis (Kyle Soller) who earlier in the episode erred so much on the side of being the nice guy that finishes last that he seemed to push Elizabeth and Poldark together at the dance. This is a guy who watches his own wife flirt and frolic with her old love and remains mum, yet when an allegedly murderous man 'makes love' (in the old-fashioned courtship sense of the word) to his sister Verity, Francis is so outraged he challenges him to a duel. 
Poor, poor Verity, my heart breaks for her. Not only does she lose a suitor but I'm betting it's not the first time her thoughts, her feelings are brushed aside. Not only because she's a woman and her father and brother need her at home to look after them, but as her father says, she's a plain woman who he feels has been taken advantage of. Poor Ruby Bentall, the actor who plays Verity. Don't you always wonder how actors who play the fat friend or the plain sister feel about being cast in that light? An actor has to be realistic about their type, but ugh, it must be tough on the ego. 

Elizabeth. Poldark still has it bad and that ain't good. And Elizabeth (Heida Reed) clearly doesn't know her own mind. Money and her meddling mother aside, one has to wonder how she came to settle for Francis in the first place. Sure, she thought Poldark was dead but Francis and Poldark are such very different types of men: how could she go from one to the other? 



But back then everyone's choices were much more limited, and a woman's especially. You went from your father's house to your husband's house. Which is why women like Ruth Teague (Harriet Ballard) threw themselves so desperately at Poldark's feet. Never mind there are literally hundreds of other men in the surrounding area, apparently Poldark is the only man in town worth having!


Barring that—the appearance of a husband—you stayed home and became the spinster aunt, like Aunt Agatha played by Caroline Blakiston. No woman wants to end up like that. 


Women of a lower social rank had a bit more freedom, they could marry or go be a governess. A position a bit lower down the ladder had you serving brews at the local pub or possibly, like the dark-haired Margaret (Crystal Laity) you can serve yourself up as the local pro at the local pub. Because a boy's gotta let off steam, eh?
Or you could always work in someone else's home. Or not work as the case seems to be with the slovenly Prudie (Beatie Edney)above.    Why did Poldark's father keep Prudie and her husband on? Heaven knows but they serve as a great contrast to our hardworking heroine Demelza. 




Meanwhile, Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) is beginning to burst out of her cocoon with beautiful butterfly wings. She's never had a cloak before, she tells the smoldering, dark-eyed, hunkalicous Poldark (star, Aidan Turner) as they set off for town; he to get backers for the copper mine he wants to re-open, Demelza to do a little household marketiing. Naturally he buys her, not just your average little dun-colored number, but a beautiful deep rose cape that she can flourish and swirl about her. It's a very Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle moment, the sophisticated man rescuing the poor ignorant girl trope we never seem to tire of. My inner feminist winces but this is Poldark, and it's 18th century England, if anything Poldark would have been seen as a very modern, female enabler. He's not the one keeping Verity and Demelza in their place, what the world would at that time would see as at home, looking after their fathers and brothers. With his kindness, his friendship, he's helping to set them free.

Catch Up with Poldark Episode One

7 comments:

  1. Ross isn't always going to be the hero. He's much more complex than that. I hope the screenwriter Debbie Horsfield doesn't follow the novels that closely, in that respect. I love his character but the 1940s books were not PC at all. *Spoiler* (sort of) Ross can be a real stinker!

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    1. I'm glad! I think the most interesting 'heroes' have flaws, don't you?

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  3. Elizabeth. Poldark still has it bad and that ain't good. And Elizabeth (Heida Reed) clearly doesn't know her own mind. Money and her meddling mother aside, one has to wonder how she came to settle for Francis in the first place. Sure, she thought Poldark was dead but Francis and Poldark are such very different types of men: how could she go from one to the other?


    Ross may look like a Greek god, but he is not that perfect. Actually, I would be less inclined to marry either him or Francis, if I must be brutally honest.

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  4. Ross isn't always going to be the hero. He's much more complex than that. I hope the screenwriter Debbie Horsfield doesn't follow the novels that closely, in that respect. I love his character but the 1940s books were not PC at all. *Spoiler* (sort of) Ross can be a real stinker!



    I hope that Debbie Horsfield closely follows the novels. I don't want Ross' character to be cleaned up so that fans can continue worshipping him blindly.

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  5. And Elizabeth (Heida Reed) clearly doesn't know her own mind. Money and her meddling mother aside, one has to wonder how she came to settle for Francis in the first place. Sure, she thought Poldark was dead but Francis and Poldark are such very different types of men: how could she go from one to the other?



    I keep coming across comments that Elizabeth didn't know her own mind. I never got that impression. It didn't take Elizabeth very long to make a choice . . . she chose Francis. And she tried to make the best of her choice? Did she lose her attraction to Ross? Obviously not in this episode. But she made her choice.

    Why do people insist that characters be clear cut about their feelings and choices in life? As if it is really that simple? Because honestly? It isn't. Ross is another example.

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    1. Fantastic comments, Juanita! It really didn’t take her long to move on, I suspect that she, like most women of her day, didn’t feel she had all that much choice. The old ‘a bird in the hand is worth one in the bush’ mentality. But your other point really rings with me, why do we expect our literary characters to be less complex than we are? The most interesting of them aren’t. Life is complicated, so are our most-loved bookish characters.

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