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Written by Margaret C
(7/25/2013 10:07 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, BORGEN Mild Spoilers, penned by Nancy G
In Australia the first season was on TV earlier this year. I'm a fan but not fanatical. Good enough to keep watching, but not enough to be bothered finding time to watch later, when I had work on Thursday nights.
The Danish are not apparently any more progressive than the Anglosphere, when it comes to how women in power are expected to behave on TV. I was amazed to see that the PM was living in an ordinary house, still responsible for its untidiness and meal preparation, and for shooing away the politicos that wander into her backyard, all the while lusting after her husband like a bored housewife, and cherishing her children like she doesn't have to live with them every single day. By the second episode I was fully expecting to see her commute to work on a ten-trip pass. The idea that she enjoyed a happy home life in opposition but that changes with premiership, that implication that a female trying to do the prime-minister/spouse/parent trifecta is somehow less entitled to Marionborg, a security detail, or even a cleaner, really grates on me.
Australia politicians typically reside in some charmless apartment while attending parliament, their families usually living independently somewhere nicer, until they become PM and move into the Lodge (official residence of the PM) whereupon their family move to Canberra, or better still, Kirribilli House (official residence of the PM in Sydney), where they are well supplied with staff and cars and security, to compensate for the parent they see more often on TV than in life. Denmark might not have the long commute between the electorate and Christiansborg, but surely the 24 hour news cycle, and obsessional intriguing that go with the job, make a normal family life impossible for their politicians.(And political life tedious for their families).
Also Birgitte seems to have avoided most of the political issues with being a mother. (Although, thinking about it, she might have outlived the difficult time. In Australia it has been the need to mother very young children that copped trouble: being censured for breastfeeding in the house, being unable to get a pair so they could leave the chamber to attend a sick child, or being expelled during divisions for entering the chamber with a small child in tow, that sort of thing.) She gets a little grief, as a woman, about her clothing, but even that seems mostly self-generated.
Hubby gets boring very quickly. Apparently lecturing is a kind of alternative to having a real job, a sacrifice of his personal ambition for the sake of his family (who are not applying to him for home-cooked meals, or expecting him to find a babysitter or cure bedwetting), so his wife had time to run the country during daylight hours (he resents his nights being impinged upon by the state). How this 'one year my profession, one year yours' charade withstood her time in opposition is a mystery to me: I am guessing from the age of her children and the qualifications needed for his position that she might have, at some time in the previous decade, been obliged to devote more than one year to the family side of things while he got his PhD and investment banking experience. The idea that the PM's spouse would say something like 'Your year is almost up, so stop running the nation and be there for your kids' seems a little ludicrous. But the whole family seem to think he is remarkably supportive.
When the plot revolves around the machinations of parliament and the press(the sort of generic leadership challenges and administrative crises that The Thick of It and House of Cards do so well) it does really, but real issues of governance are handwaved away. So there was I hoping the Greenland episode would be something complex and clever touching on indigenous land rights, rendition, puffins, LPG, wind turbines, Pirate Bay, possibly with a witty reference to the Greenland problem (along the lines that the map is not the territory) or even just a deep and compelling story on colonization in a post-colonial world. But no, it was just a bit of a photo-montage, bit of a panegyric, and an inadequate reason to skip date night.
It is a missed opportunity, I think. It would not be unreasonable for Birgitte's forward thinking government to have some kind of forward thinking policy on some of the issues governments around the world are dealing with forever (eg. immigration, gangs, weapons deals, trade deals, aged care, school curricula, natural disasters) and seeing these issues through a Danish lens would not necessarily need to descend into pedantic realism or alienate viewers from a different nation (one of the reasons I love Breaking Bad is the way these issues are incorporated into its storyline). There is almost no sign of the "only in Denmark" type things (like Viking heritage, existentialism, amazing architecture,or the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix) Even the designer furniture is subtly unobtrusive (but then, that is very Danish).
At the soap-opera level of Katrine and Kasper getting together, Birgitte and Philip splitting apart, I think it is well written and well done, but I expected much more. I thought they had anticipated Denmark's first female prime minister, but it seems they were just lucky with their timing.
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