Deadwood…sigh. Just…damnit…Deadwood.

I’ve been watching my way through Deadwood and I’m having such a hard time not throwing cups of coffee on the floor or slamming my fists into the wall. Not because of anger or annoyance, no, but because the show is so fucking good I wouldn’t know how else to deal with my appreciation. (Also leaves me with strange cravings of bacon and porridge, but lets not speak of that.)

Deadwood is one of those shows I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time. Both my dad and uncle have been raving about how good it is and my own tastes usually run alongside theirs. Yet there’s been this part of me that’s put it off, because even if I usually agree with them I felt a certain prejudice about watching a show about the emerging town of Deadwood featuring mostly male leads. My prejudice a concern about whether or not this would be another white sausagefest with women as sexual objects and historical accuracy as a means to justify trampling on and disrespecting people of colour. I’m sad to say that’s what I’ve come to expect of something like this show from a shallow glance. I was sorely mistaken. And kinda glad I got my assumptions handed to me with a proper slap around the ears.

This show is in fact all kinds of amazing. The writing is top-notch. As is the direction. Not to mention acting. There is an insane attention to details without ever losing the understanding of long-term plots. The characters all defy most (American) television by being consistently human, and this “almost town” of Deadwood lacks good guys and bad guys, and instead has a repertoire of individuals who are villains and heroes at the same time. Perspective and intention creates a human kaleidoscope where nothing is straightforward or cemented.  What’s even more amazing is that everyone on-screen have a personal agenda. There are no objects, there are no characters that are used as only tools to further the plot. The characters themselves use and abuse each other intensely, but none of them ever becomes an inanimate object. Even in death their reputations and the lingering memories in the living make the deceased into active agents influencing the plot.

That’s all more than enough to make me sit up and take notice, but the fact that the writers offer this respect to all their characters regardless of skin colour, gender, age or ethnicity is the reason I want to exuberantly fling coffee and punch walls. Don’t get me wrong, this is a show about mostly white men and it is a show about white men in power. But these men do not exist in a vacuum devoid of variations. On the contrary, their lives take place alongside and is very much affected and influenced by those around them. It’s a story where power is a prominent theme, but the narrative is communal and all-inclusive. Even the Chinese Mr Wu whose English seems to be limited to “cock-sucker” and “San Francisco” is given a strong voice within the storytelling. And women aren’t whores or Madonnas. Even the many whores aren’t whores. They are all people. Not equal, far from it, but people nevertheless. People with feelings, emotions, agendas, intelligence and various degrees of free-will. All of which are afforded the same respect and affection by the writers, the directors and the actors involved. The show is almost ten years old and takes place in a world where the white patriarchy ruled ruthlessly (and in most places, supremely), yet the show manages to be a lot more progressive than most contemporary shit on TV. Not to mention the sheer quality of the fiction puts every current show to shame.

I’ll miss the shit out of this show once I’ve finished, which I will do way too soon. But still I’m delighted over having made its acquaintance. It also reassures me. It reassures me that every six or seven years there will appear television that is so respectful of all, so well-crafted, and with so much passion for the medium, that you will happily be allowed to sigh contently and confirm your belief that TV can too be one of the highest art forms.


~ by Ape on February 13, 2013.

3 Responses to “Deadwood…sigh. Just…damnit…Deadwood.”

  1. I did love that show, also because of the particular cadence of speech. Some people hated it, others thought it added to show’s gravitas without being overblown. I loved it.

    Much of it is factually correct, and if I weren’t so lazy I’d see if that might be true of their characterization of Calamity Jane. She was whitewashed horribly by the Doris Day movie and such, and I strongly suspect her character in Deadwood as a total misfit, loyal but quite uncivilized and therefore only tolerable in a town like Deadwood, itself on the edge, is more accurate. I think she and Joanie were my two favorite characters, only coincidentally because they’re women.

    Have you watched Tremé? David Simon’s, of The Wire fame. It’s pretty compelling: heavily male, but not heavily white. Little to no queer elements, which is a drag, but the women who are in it are interesting and strong. It’s a plus that it seems to threaten Ryan Murphy’s ego enough that he has to include it in misdirected hate dialog in Glee… And the music is something else.

    • I can’t decide which is my favourite, because I love them all to pieces. They’re so perfectly crafted they leave me a little speechless. And the only thing I love more than the individual characters are their various relationships which are surprising, funny and strangely emotional. All of them.

      But yeah, I do have a soft spot of Jane. Her gender display being the immediate attraction, but also the way she’s portrayed as a foolish drunk filled with sadness and vulnerability, but also strength and loyalty. And Joanie is just…ugh, my heart aches in the best of ways.

      EB Farnum is another one that stands, because the actor’s characterisation of him is so spot on. He literally is so squirmy he makes me want to shower whenever I watch his scenes. It’s amazing.

      And Jewel. At that first mention of “Have the gimp clean it up.” I raised an eyebrow and afraid they’d do the same old disrespecting bullshit. To my surprise they gave her a voice and reason. Not to mention some of the best one-liners.

      All of it is just so damn good.

      I have not seen Treme. I’ve eyed it, but it’s another one of those I’ve put off because it looks so male heavy. But if there will be more Joanie Stubbs and if you recommend it I might actually have to put my prejudice aside. I mean it did me helluva good when it comes to Deadwood.

  2. Well, Kim plays straight this time around, but she’s great. I think the characterization of Calamity Jane is also somewhat dependent on her reputation in the US. Not that everyone knows exactly, the but the name is well known, and Doris Day just turned her into a likeable tomboy. But she’s always been a strong woman, and I think this might be somewhat more realistic. Though Wikipedia paints a pretty different picture, so I’m not sure which characterization is closest.

    Yes, Tremé could use more women and more queers (it’s New Orleans, ffs), but it also presents masculinities that are quite foreign to most Americans. And they actually feature a really large number of real New Orleans musicians, which is fantastic.

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