Jamestown is produced by Carnival, the company that made Downton Abbey , a show that shocked many students of English class history with its presentation of an early 20th-century Earl who agonised about the working conditions and personal lives of his servants and would obviously have voted Liberal Democrat if the option had existed.
This desire to shape the past to suit the present is common in mainstream TV drama. It can feel as if history has been hacked by an admonitory Twitter feed from our age. The strongest defence for retrospectively empowering people is that the stories are intended not as history lessons but life lessons, especially for impressionable viewers. For example, the 17th-century shipped women in Jamestown were in some ways a Jacobean version of the jihadi brides flown out to Islamic State soldiers today, or the arranged marriages that still exist in some communities.
But however well intentioned, this tilting of the actual power relationships risks making the historical situations seem more palatable than they were. The Margaret Atwood novel on which the Hulu series is based projected a pre-feminist Puritan past into an American future in which a right-wing government has removed equality rights and reproductive freedom from women.
The advantage of this tactic is that the setting is able to stand up for progressive attitudes without suggesting that it is or was always easy to do so. Facebook Twitter Pinterest.
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