Image: Cornwall, where 'Poldark' is set.
Christmas, New Year’s and the summer holidays are here, and for many of us that means overloading on TV shows. As a fellow binge-watching connoisseur my recommendation would be the recent BBC installment of Poldark, now in its third season.
Yes it is a bodice ripping soap opera disguised as a British heritage film full of dashing heroes like Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner, the hot dwarf from The Hobbit) horse riding and vengeful rich aristocrats, but surprisingly, it is also full of feminist heroines.
Based on Winston Graham’s novels of the same name, Poldark is set in the women-as-property era of the late 18th century, so it is fitting that Debbie Horsfield, the creator and writer of the TV series, decided to update the characters for a less misogynist (generally speaking) modern audience.
The majority of the executive producing team is made up of women and – surprise, surprise – the show has been a hit, again proving the importance of DIVERSITY in television. Over five million UK viewers tuned in during September this year alone, just beating BBC’s other ‘badass women in history’ show, Victoria. So perhaps, just maybe it’s time to realise that strong women characters can bring in audiences.
If you need more reassurance let me list for you the women who make Poldark deliciously good viewing. #SquadGoals indeed.
Demelza: the most obvious strong heroine was saved from poverty to become Poldark’s servant maid. She was plucky and brave, and before long Poldark fell for her sassy nature and married her. Not content with the classist bullshit that plagues English society Demelza constantly fights the system and even her husband – literally. After (spoiler alert) finding out about Ross’s straying to the neighbour’s house, she punches him hard in the face and makes him sleep in the study. Babe.
Elizabeth: Poor ol’ Lizzie. We do feel for her right from the beginning, as the typical damsel in distress who is left alone by her fiancé Ross when he goes to war. Believing him dead, she has no choice but to marry his cousin Francis, until shock horror, Ross returns and the flame is rekindled – but not satisfied. The sexual tension is scorching but alas Ross is married to the aforementioned ginger Goddess (Damelza) so when Francis tragically dies, Elizabeth is once again left alone, poor and with no baby daddy. What’s a girl in the 1790’s Cornwall meant to do? Marry the ex’s (Poldark’s) arch nemesis, nouveau-riche boy George Warleggen, of course. Girlfriend Liz has mouths to feed and an estate to upkeep so no judging. An interesting side note here, Turner and Heida Reed who plays Elizabeth both helped replace a rape scene that occurs in the novel with a more realistic and less nasty scene in the TV series.
Verity Blamey: described as super plain – like the Mary Bennett of the cousins – Verity is in danger of becoming an unmarried spinster and living at home forever (gasp! It was the 1790s…) until she falls for an older sea captain with secrets of his own. Despite the obstacles in their path – and being shunned by her sexist brother Francis – Verity stays strong and fights for love. When Francis dies, she steps in and helps her sister-in-law and nephew. Like a boss.
Aunt Agatha: the retired matriarch who only wears black and reads tarot like a badass. Agatha acts like a Greek chorus constantly predicting the dire future and knowing everything that occurs in the house (including the going ons of Elizabeth’s saucy love life). Angry, independent and crass she constantly compares nasty George to Satan and thus is my favourite feminist heroine of the series – so far.
‘Poldark’ screens on Prime in New Zealand.