a dead man's Dickens

adventures, thoughts, encounters, musings.

The world is complicated, let’s try and keep some perspective

It has been an intense few weeks in the media cycle – there have been a series of violent crimes, tragic accidents, natural disasters (Nepal) and high profile international incidents (death penalty in Indonesia). For those watching/reading/tweeting or otherwise engaging with news media, it has been an emotionally demanding time; for those engaging with social media it all seems amplified.

The one unifying feature of all these events is that it has allowed society, or at least for the most part, to remember a very compassionate, supportive and community minded way of life and way of looking out for each other. In reacting to the very worst of humanity, many people have shown some of the very best.

At the same time, however, I have been left feeling somewhat bewildered by much of the public reaction (media/social media/other) to the execution of two Australians in Indonesia this week. Before I go on to explain my ideas, I do want to say right now that I am wholly and fully opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. I believe the justice system must focus on rehabilitation as a primary aim, and a just and fair punishment where necessary, or where rehabilitation has failed.

It follows then, that I am disappointed that the Indonesian government would execute anyone (Australians or otherwise), in much the same way that I am disappointed that any government, anywhere in the world would do this. And it happens. All. The. Time.

What would I want for Andrew Chan and Myran Sukamuran? Any just outcome that didn’t involve their death.

That said, I am also really disappointed in the reaction of a large portion of media and social media in Australia.

I am disappointed that main stream media outlets have used this sad event as an excuse to encourage anger and resentment towards Indonesia and Indonesians, revealing the very worst of Australian racism and xenophobia. If you want to know more about this, just look at the front page of any of the national news papers, especially tabloids, in the days following the execution.

I am disappointed in the outpouring of outrage about how disgraceful it is that Indonesia has breached human rights in so foul a manner by the same people who have no empathy for the plight of asylum seekers and apparently no shame about Australia’s inhumane and unyielding policies in this area. (I admit it, some of this is editorialising, in the sense that this is as witnessed around me. On the other hand, this paragraph applies to many members of the Federal Government, so I think the criticism stands.)

I am disappointed that in their haste to be outraged and fight the evil of “what Indonesia has done to some Australians,” a number of people seem to be glorifying the individuals involved. Can we remember for one moment that these were “ringleaders” of a drug smuggling group attempting to bring heroin into Australia. I’m not sure it’s ok to promote them as innocent victims of a cruel system. They didn’t deserve the death penalty, because no-one does. But beyond that? I think the sympathy thing is getting a little out of hand. Exhibit A: the fact that ACU has announced scholarships to honour them.  Where are the scholarships for run of the mill local drug dealers ACU? That’s what I want to know.

Oh, that’s right, they’re nowhere. Because the media hasn’t made them “A Thing.” And they never will, because eventually sanity will be restored and we will all remember the terrible scourge that is the current drug problem all over this country.

I’m all for an emotionally literate society and I’m really keen on a world where people look out for each other and care about each other. Can we please just remember that not every emotion needs to be intensified by the unstoppable beast that is ‘public opinion.’ It’s ok to feel without becoming overzealous and losing touch with common sense. The world is complicated. We can feel empathy for people who have suffered something terrible without canonising them.

I’m just going to let twitter have the last say.

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I hope Mark Latham never suffers from something for which he wants sympathy…

Thousands of people all around the world do something positive to help address the stigma of mental illness, or do something loving and kind to support someone they know who has a mental illness, or just bravely acknowledge the mental illness they have and do whatever it is that helps them manage it every day. None of those things are necessarily that easy, but all of them are noble.

Well done, those people.

Mark Latham – the past just phoned, it wants to know if it can have it’s prejudiced, ignorant and ill-informed callousness back?

It’s Movember, and I’m super proud of all my mates who are growing moustaches, raising money to support a shifting attitude towards men’s health, and being super honest about the importance of discussing the health issues that face men, one of which is mental illness. I’m super proud of them, and I’m a woman. Don’t make mental health some sort of lifestyle choice/ ‘you suffer so you’re clearly inferior in some way’/’thank god only silly women have mental health problems, including post natal depression’/’real men don’t need antidepressants’ type issue. It’s so beneath what thousands of people have worked really hard to achieve.

Just count yourself lucky that when your time of need comes, there will be someone there to support you, even though you won’t have earned it. Don’t worry though, you’ll get support, because you’re human and you deserve it, even if you think others don’t.

PS – no cure for being a dickhead. You’re on your own there.

PPS – give it up – the nation has already spoken on how not interested it is in what you have to say.

I call bullshit

The world is this morning waking up to some “major news”, which is expected to be confirmed in a television interview this evening: Ian Thorpe acknowledges he is gay.

It’s highly unlikely that I will watch this interview. Ever since the Meg Ryan debacle, I’ve found it difficult to watch Michael Parkinson – his arrogance gets in the way of his subject (not unlike Ian Mcnamara in this respect). Maybe it is a great interview, but I fear it will 60 minutes of extreme close-ups, awkward (thoughtful?) silences and ad breaks that are dramatically and inappropriately inserted for ratings suspense. I’ll just read about it later on the internet. Or beforehand, as it happens. We’re still about 7 hours before it goes to air, and multiple news sites are running with the headline that the great Thorpedo is about to finally reveal the truth about his sexuality. Most are just sort of alerting us to this information and are clearly a useful piece of promotion for the upcoming interview. Others are offering some sort of interpretation and commentary on the issue, including one piece  by Peter FitzSimmons, which I read this morning and felt a little bit uncomfortable about.

I’d just like to spend 5 minutes saying why.

You can’t claim that this is a non issue and private business and express sorrow for him in the same article where you dismissively stereotype gay men, act like its some amazing achievement you knew this about Thorpie before he did and then be all “its just his business but here’s my highly narrow-minded view on the fact that he lied to us all” which I suppose is just my interpretation of what this article is about, but my interpretation it is, nevertheless.

First of all, the gripping and sensitive (please note use of irony) opening to the article really seems to miss the point:

Look, it’s not that being cultured, sensitive, softly spoken, discerning, philosophical and cosmopolitan with a huge interest in fashion are the exclusive preserves of gay sportspeople in the oft macho and proudly hairy-chested sports world we live in. But as Thorpe, by his own admission, has long ticked all those boxes, of course there has been speculation for many a’moon that he is “that way inclined,” as they say in the classics.

Repeated use of a phrase such as “the gays” and then talking about how they’ve claimed another high profile person with excellent achievements seems a little bit counterproductive. In fact, it seems to fairly well betray a belief that gay people in our society are some sort of “other” and whether or not you’re being ironic, or trying to reach the not yet converted, or whatever, actually it really just reinforces the division that sadly does some times exist in terms of the way people view sexuality.

I’m uncomfortable, also, with the implication that Ian Thorpe has being lying, manipulating and otherwise dishonestly conducting himself with regard to this issue for the past 15 years. It is undeniable that Thorpe has, for a long time, not wanted to discuss this publicly, and has made statements that are contrary to the announcement that he is allegedly going to make in tonight’s interview. I think it would be generous to allow for the fact that all people need time and opportunity to discover their own identities and build their own sense of self, up to and including issues of sexuality. I might be way off base, but I imagine that being thrust unexpectedly into the media spotlight at age 15 just because you happened to be quite good at something; having your every move scrutinised; having hoards of people you can’t even conceive of the existence of speculating about who you’d like to have sex with at an age where you’ve probably not even thought that much about it yourself probably doesn’t make for the easiest climate in which to sort yourself out.

There’s going to be a lot of media around this, and I’m pretty sure that most of it is going to reveal exactly why Thorpe didn’t want to discuss this publicly for the last 15 years. Please remember, dear media, that dignity and decency should be a part of everything you do. Sarcasm, stereotypes, labels casually and thoughtlessly applied help no-one.

The article in it’s entirety:

http://www.smh.com.au/sport/swimming/ian-thorpe-acknowledges-hes-gay-lets-hope-hes-now-happy-as-well-20140713-zt5rm.html

Possibly some verse

Some of my students were writing poetry today. It had one rhyme in it and the said word ended all 8 consecutive lines of the poem. “Write a poem for us then, Miss.” Always up for a challenge, I wrote this little verse for the girls in order that they might improve their poetry writing. Apologies for the couplety nature of it, I’ve been reading a lot of Jonathan Swift and it’s just the way my mind is going these days.

 

An original scribble...

An original scribble…

If you only read one budget 2014 round-up, read this one.

West Wing enthusiasts may recall the episode where usually unflappable press secretary CJ Cregg needs super-sexy speech writer Sam Seaborn to explain how the census works. I acknowledge, here, early in the post that my credentials to speak about the budget (in terms of how successfully I manage my own) are probably not great. I’m the CJ of this outfit. But, like CJ, I care. I care a lot about whether or not the country, you know, works. So here is my take on the budget.

It all boils down to two very simple philosophical ideas.

  1. If you take care of society’s educational, health and wellbeing needs you can probably rely on almost everyone to take care of the rest of their own needs. “How?” I hear you ask. Well, they’ll be literate and creative and healthy enough to do so. Dear Joe Hockey – these are not the areas to cut. They are the only two sectors that can empower the people of Australia to be self-reliant in the long run.
  2. According to The Internet (more specifically, the Economist’s Global Debt Clock) the world is currently $53 327 580 334 339 in debt. That number is so huge I actually don’t know how to translate it into written words. It also rises at an alarming rate, so much so I had to change it about 5 times before writing it down accurately. By which time it was already out of date. My point, however, is that EVERYONE is in debt, most nations far more than Australia. So, actually, I’m not sure that there is any real imperative to send our national economy into austerity drive at this time. Certainly not for the sake of funding your government’s agenda in priority of actually addressing the debt crisis we are allegedly having.

In conclusion, it is once again the time of year to look at the fiscal policies of the nations around us, choose which of them has the nicest national anthem and move.

Here is a picture of West Wing fantasy President Jed Bartlet, who is both beautiful AND would never have allowed this to happen.

When bad things happen….to Martin Clunes

Being from a family with grown children, all of whom live away from home and in different locations to our parents, its pretty unusual that we spend an evening (mostly – sorry middle sister) all together watching a TV drama. United by family gatherings for school/uni holidays/Good Friday, however, an opportunity presented itself last night. After some channel flicking and a brief flirtation with old episodes of Jimmy Fallon, we settled on the ABC’s broadcast of recent crime/family/psychological drama A Mother’s Son, starring Hermione Norris (who we collectively love, thank you Spooks and Kingdom) and Martin Clunes (who we collectively adore, thank you Doc Marten, William and Mary and just being generally lovely).

At first we were drawn in, after all, the premise of the show was quite gripping: if you suspected your son of a violent and horrific crime, how would you react to that? It’s an entirely valid question for art to grapple with; where should a parent draw the line when protecting and loving a child, while struggling with the total despair that the discovery that your child is a violent criminal. These are real dilemmas, and they deserve real exploration.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before our enthralled gasps, turned to mirthful giggles and despair at the execution of the show.

Now, I know not coming from a family with any murderers in it, that this is all hypothetical, but for pretty much the whole episode all four of us were shouting at the tv screen “JUST TAKE THE TRAINERS TO THE POLICE AND ABSOLVE YOURSELF FROM THESE FEELINGS OF GUILT AND UNCERTAINTY”. After all, if your child is a murderer and you’re fundamentally going to insist they turn themselves in, then why not, just get the whole thing over with, hand it to the professionals and love and support your child through the whole ordeal. Yes, I can hear parents responding “It’s not that simple, the instinct is to protect the child.”

Maybe. My instinct is not to make a TV show that everything is so transparent that the detectives fail to achieve anything in their investigation, that the outcome is known in the first minutes of viewing the show and where Martin Clunes is forced to stop being married to you because you obsessively deny that the human blood on your son’s sneakers “really belongs to a fox” and that there is no need for you to tell anyone about it at all. Attempted gritty camera work and stark emotional realism doth not an episode of Broadchurch make.

This show had a pretty solid cast, and although Nicola Walker played the most impotent detective in television history, it was still nice to see her. Ditto, Martin Clunes as typically loving and supportive but morally uncompromising husband. Admittedly, he and Hermione Norris did a really good job of struggling through the dilemmas of a second marriage with teenage kids, and the difficulties in navigating the minefield wherein. But really, it just wasn’t enough. Obviously, given the title and the plot, the shows’ intention was to explore the maternal role and relationship, but really too many heady closeups on Norris ended up eliminating whatever “internal struggle” we were supposed to recognise, and rendering the whole thing ludicriously short sighted and foolish. Not helped by the cringeworthy dialogue in the final confrontation scene: “Jamie you’re not a bad person but you’ve done a bad thing, and you need to be punished.” Cue awkward shifting in seats.

Somewhat confused for a moment about whether or not we were watching A Mother’s Son, or Mother and Son, my Dad remarked “well this is about as funny as Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald.” Actually, Dad, I think we laughed more during last night’s broadcast than we would in Mother and Son, so there you have it, but that may not be a good thing.

 

 

 

An excerpt from my reading life

Whether it is sexual, religious or racial, discrimination will occur in one way or another in most societies, and eradicating efforts are futile because the prejudice is born of ignorance.  Bernard Shaw wrote that the only thing to do about ignorance is to enlighten it, and a lot of idealists think that education can achieve that enlightenment. Legislators think that laws can do it, and trendsetters think that fashion can do it. They are wrong because they start from a false premise. They’re like the doctor who once told me that smoking cigarettes would shorten my life; he made the erroneous assumption that I craved longevity.

— Just Williams (Kenneth Williams, 1985), p 51

I find this excerpt from Kenneth Williams autobiography so fascinating. At the same time that he despairs of discrimination as it faces various people in his world, he acknowledges the complexity of how it comes to be perpetuated. At the same time as he promotes various means of how it might be overcome, he simultaneously fears that it never will be owing to the inherent callousness of people. Sometimes when I talk to some teenagers in my daily life (/read the rubbish people post on facebook), I fear this statement to be absolutely true. Fortunately, I talk to many people of all ages that inspire me to think meaningful change in the way people view and treat each other is possible.

I have a lot of time for Kenneth Williams. As an actor, he is easy to dismiss as having appeared in ridiculous, smutty comedies, and for being the person (along with Billy Connolly) to appear on the most episodes of Parkinson. As an individual he is endlessly intriguing to me.

It would appear that Arthur Miller was right.

The other day, I was talking with some of my students about the idea of tragic drama and the traditional notion that a tragedy (in the dramatic sense) had to happen to someone of standing; someone of importance, possibly a nobleman or public figure, who compromised by the meeting between circumstance and the flaw in their character, begins a downward spiral that is essentially of their own making.

There was some outrage with this, the general thought being that really anybody could have a tragic flaw and why must it be the privilege of the noble to experience a downfall? A fairly valid question, and cue discussion of Arthur Miller, my hastily paraphrased summary of  Insert Plot From Arthur Miller Play of Your Choosing, and the scary, scary notion that tragedy can happen to you!

When I remember back to this discussion I delude myself that the class was keenly interested to hear about Arthur Miller and his theory that Tragedy really is within the experience of the Common Man. In reality, I think they were mildly pleased to have hit on an idea that was generally recognized as being Literary and then moved onto other things in their head, like lunch. Nevertheless, it was an above average moment in my recent life as an English teacher.

It’s a powerful idea though, isn’t it? This notion that “the tragic feeling is evoked … when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity” [Miller, Tragedy and the Common Man].

Far be it from any of us to determine what it is that constitutes a “sense of personal dignity” for someone, but I’m sure it will be of moderate comfort to the man I overheard in a bar the other day, pouring out his heart to a friend about his despair at work, that his struggles are valued by a rich literary tradition. The tragic complaint and loss of self at the basis of his grief?

I just feel I belong to the world of men’s suits in a way that just isn’t true of children’s wear.

Will someone, anybody, please dramatise this? Maybe it isn’t quite Death of a Salesman, but still, “attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.”

In defence of…well, really quite a few things.

Yesterday (January 6) I read the letters section of the Sydney Morning Herald. One of the subheadings that was used to group letters together was “Gen Y’s selfishness, narcissim, main reason for viciousness.” In this little group were letters that people had written in regarding the latest of many nightclub violence events in Sydney’s recent past. A couple of correspondents wrote in discussing the fact that the value a society attaches to education, and how it goes about encouraging cultural engagement of its citizens will have a huge impact on whether or not its citizens can achieve non violent forms of self realisation, self awareness and self expression. I certainly felt that this was a valid point, and it made me wonder how much as a society we emphasise this. Another wrote in raising a concern about the seeming hypocrisy of a society that bemoans what it calls ‘alcohol fuelled violence’, but sees no concern with having alcohol advertising widely available on all forms of media and at the center of the nations sporting events. Again, a reasonable comment. There was, however, a comment that left me feeling a bit frustrated, from a gentleman in Queensland who indicated that Gen Y’s general behaviour, “the trend towards selfishness, narcissism, breathtaking ignorance and an absence of what we used to call ‘good manners'” were clearly to blame for this kind of violence and that these things, left unchecked, would only make things worse.

Well, I agree with him that those are some pretty negative things that will contribute negatively to any group of people, but I am disappointed in the blanket characterisation of a whole generation of people as being all these evil things. I also must fight the temptation to fight back with the wisecrack that if Gen Y are so awful it must be because of the appalling example set by everyone who came before.

Equally disappointing, I feel, is the editorial published by the Sydney Morning Herald today (January 7), in which Christopher Bantick laments the celebrity culture that Gen Y obsesses over, the loss of high culture and art from our society, which has been replaced by the “moronic introspection” of various celebrities. It would appear that Bantick is also disappointed with the fact that “young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every world of their latest celeb mouthing inanities.” Uh oh. Looks like somebody didn’t read Richard Glover’s excellent piece a few days ago about the elite club formed by pronunciation snobs. Here is a summary: it’s fairly similar to the club that is formed by people who believe the only valid form of cultural expression is opera, classical music, and a book written by a Bronte (all texts/forms appealed to in this editorial as being worthy.)

In his column Bantick grieves for this rich, elite cultural history we have but which – tragically – has been all but abandoned in schools; he despairs that light and fluffy Young Adult novels have replaced the classics, that our society is bereft of depth and understanding because we somehow allowed Leonard Cohen to be popular at the expense of Mahler. He seems to suggest that it must be restored to this environment, that curriculum alone can save us from a cultural wasteland.

I’m not really interested in a debate over What is Art? That has been going on since art and culture happened. Depending on what political and sociological perspective you take you could arrive at any sort of conclusion about what ought to be valued by a society.  I think any society has an obligation to encourage thoughtful expression from all of it’s citizens, just has I think that all citizens are obliged to develop critical skills to interpret the meaning rich world around them. Part of what I believe very firmly about art and culture is expressed very well by Amanda Palmer in a brief ukulele reflection on the music industry, which I shall post just below this paragraph. On the issue of swallowing whole any old piece of narcissistic garbage from someone with a pulpit (/column in the Sydney Morning Herald??), yes, I actually agree with Bantick that it is dangerous. A much better move is to instil the value of reflection and interpretation in all and allow them to make up their own mind.

Like Bantick, I am also a teacher, but in a quite different setting (public school, rural NSW). It would not be culturally or morally appropriate to walk into my school and present Jane Eyre and Mahler as some sort of benchmark and say “attain this or else”. When I walk into my English literature classroom with my students, some of whom are very exciting academic prospects, and some of whom struggle to write anything much more complicated than two or three sentences about the weekend football, I am trying to share with them one powerful idea. That everything we encounter says something about the world we live in, or the world that it is created in. That it is our job to think about what this is, and ask questions about it. That it is our job to try and remember this for next time we look at a new text and compare it across time, across history, across cultures. And I guarantee you that I have never been more proud of a student than when one of the girls in my Year 9 class who stuck with Romeo and Juliet long enough to realise that she understood the idea of conflict between two families and forbidden love between two teenagers because she’d seen it in a Home and Away story arc. And did I have a single problem with her engagement with Shakepseare after that? No.

Personally, I don’t watch Home and Away. My itunes has pretty equal measures of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Brahms. I’d visit an art gallery any day over any other form of cultural institution and I have a framed portrait of TS Eliot in my house as a daily reminder of the value I place in his poetry. That said, neither do I believe that popular culture, mainstream contemporary culture is invalidated because of its relative newness to our canon. Bantick seems to be arguing that by replacing Looking for Alibrandi with the classics in our schools we can ensure that children get a proper dose of culture and miraculously they will be cured of this shameless obsession with celebrity.

I think not. All people, children, men, women, young, old…whatever…deserve the opportunity to experience a cultural world that represents something of how they experience life. Every person also deserves and needs the opportunity to experience a world that represents how others apart from themselves experience life. And they need to the opportunity to develop the skills to reconcile that that reality exists. They need the opportunity to develop an interest in exploring the world through cultural artifacts – be they paintings, novels or pieces of music. The key to growing cultural knowledge is not to eradicate the low in order to salvage the high, but to start with the skills that are required to appreciate anything: the gift of being curious and inquisitive. Once that exists, people will follow their own nose into the cultural world out of sheer irrepressible interest to know more about other worlds, and other people.

I’m also willing to bet that the vision of self-realization and self-expression in non violent ways that was spoken of by an astute reader of the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, would be more likely realised by an inclusive approach that values individuals engagement with any form of culture. As a society we should aspire to high aims, but that is anything we do – politics, science, art and culture, but we shouldn’t dismiss anyone starting from somewhere different to us, and we should help them along.

Here’s Amanda Palmer again, making the same point, but with a nicer singing voice.

The Way We Live Now

I have just watched the 2001 BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. I must admit, I haven’t read the book, but I found myself with some time while on holidays and when I went searching my DVD case for something to watch I could not go past something that had been directed by David Yates and screen written by Andrew Davies.

The story focuses on two families – the Melmottes, headed by the wealthy, powerful businessman Augustus; and the Carbury’s, a family who having suffered the death of the husband/father are falling on increasingly hard times, no thanks to the gambling and drinking of the young son, Sir Felix.

Augustus Melmotte is a swarthy European businessmen who has come to England to further his fortune, leaving  behind scandal in Europe. In doing so he embarks on a quest to become an “English gentleman” and later a member of Parliament. He throws parties designed to ingratiate himself with the best of English society. In turn, Sir Felix makes love (which I use in the traditional, literary, not actually sexual, but rather romancing/courtship sense of this phrase which I feel people should know of) theatrically and excessively to the Melmotte daughter, Marie, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the family fortune. While this is going on, all of English society simultaneously resent and criticise the Melmotte’s while readily becoming a part of what ever scheme Melmotte proposes to satisfy their greed for wealth.

Throughout the whole show I felt like I was watching a version of Wall Street, in which everyone wore period costume. I didn’t feel the lack of Charlie Sheen at all, as Matthew Mcfaydens greedy, lustful wreck of Sir Felix was pretty compelling. Incidentally, I don’t love Matthew McFayden, I do think he is rather talented, but there was always something that held me back from his performance as Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. It might be unfair, but I found him far more convincing in this role (as total sham lover) than as Darcy. Actually, I love him the most in Death at a Funeral, I thought he was near perfection there, but i digress.

Using Wall Street as a frame of reference was actually quite helpful – there is much of Augustus Melmotte in Gordon Gekko (as it turns out), down to the absolutely dark and fantastic “we have a responsibility to strive for profit” / “greed is good” kind of talk he gives as he stumps for election to Parliament as the Member for Westminster.

I think there is nothing about Melmotte that we are supposed to love really, his downfall is both legally and morally deserved, but there are moments of empathy that you can have for him. The classic for me was his failure to understand Parliamentary procedure, and the embarrassment he experiences when his European customs are not in step with the English: he wears a hat in doors AND fails to refer to an MP by title, for which he is very loudly heckled. Although he is beastly, in this moment his suffering is not because of his arrogance or his greed, it is because of his culture and it is because the English accept him for his money which they want, but they do not accept him per se, and so of course no one will help him avoid this humiliation. You feel very much as though he has been set up.

There are other moments, too, where this is an issue, the banker Mr Breghert suffers this as a Jew. He himself has the fortitude to withstand most glances and comments, but the time it hurts him to be treated poorly for this reason is when he is jilted by the woman he wished to marry. He too will lose money with the downfall of the Melmotte empire and it becomes apparent to him that Georgiana (the young daughter of struggling aristocrats) would have suffered the indignity of marrying him for wealth, but not for just merely average financial security. This is most apparent to us all when she rejects his existing children and blatantly but inadvertently almost calls him a Jew in the most derogatory tone. She changes her words at the last moment, but the damage is done. I cannot speak to Trollope’s intentions here, but I certainly felt that a great deal of what is satirised by Davies and Yates is the hypocrisy of English society in accepting people, but only to the extent they can gain personally from doing so. I’m sure this criticism is legitimate of whichever elite social group at whatever point in history.

Again, almost everything Melmotte gets he deserves; it is a victory for women I think that Marie who has long suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of parents refuses to sign over the money they have hidden in her name and is thus able to separate herself from her family and forge her own, new life. She proves herself stronger than almost any other character in the story. Without her strength, it is highly likely that the family fortune can be salvaged in someway and the whole sorry saga repeated again elsewhere. Instead, Melmotte is humiliated, revealed as the fraudster that he is, has a series of theatrically excellent breakdowns and ultimately commits suicide.

I read somewhere an interview with David Suchet who played Melmotte where he stated that he came up with this idea of barking like an hysterical dog in one of his many breakdown scenes, and that it required the abandonment of all self consciousness to be able to bring it into the rehearsal/filming and see how it went. It was superb. I know how affective it was because I watched this with my puppy wingman Clancy asleep next to me. He immediately woke and ran to the television and barked back at Melmotte on the screen. It was such a moment of inhumanity and chaos, which was completely unexpected, but seemed inevitable by the time it was happening. Of course, in another universe David Suchet is the most perfect Hercule Poirot the world has ever seen, and the thought does occur that in that universe Melmotte would be murdered within the first half of the show and then Poirot would investigate it. He is exactly the sort of character that Agatha Christie would have made a deserving victim of, and exactly the sort of character that was made a deserving victim in Midsomer Murders as played by Joss Ackland.

 

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