Why I won’t watch a period drama

Not a fan of period dramas? Chris Tosan doesn’t like most of them, either. Here’s why.

Taking on the titan that is period drama.“Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” This is a phrase familiar to those who ever feel like the amount of time they have left on earth has been wasted by some trivial or otherwise lacklustre experience. As far as entertainment is concerned, I feel the same way occasionally – the sensation that there’s a lot of chaff in the world, and the wheat seems almost endangered in its fleeting appearances.

Period dramas. Few word-pairings can put me off watching something quicker. It’s not because I hold no respect for history, or for the literary greats that acted as the primer for many of the endless amounts of “way back when” television that society sees fit to gorge itself on in 2012. It’s because I have the desire to experience the future.

Allow me to elaborate, lest you walk away from your computer with the distinct impression you’ve just attended a lecture by Emmett “Doc” Brown. I have no wish to travel into the future – simply a desire to discuss what will be, what can be, and all the mystery and hope involved in said discussion.

To see this transported onto the screen is something I can happily involve myself with – there’s such variety in our views of what is to come that filling up a reasonably succinct infographic on sci-fi sub-genres (not that all of them use future-settings) didn’t take very long at all.

However, to see yet another film, or television series, focusing on a family of stuck-up rich people cavorting around a remote British estate discussing who must be married and how shockingly rebellious one of their servants is makes me want to claw my eyes out.

I’m not against good period drama – The Help is a phenomenal film that I strongly suggest everyone takes the time to watch whether they enjoy it or not. Here’s a trailer:

It’s informative, moving, careful, funny amongst its other Oscar-accruing ingredients. It also contains actual events in which characters are in danger, or hurt, or risking everything, all the time. Good stuff.

On the other hand, a lot of period dramas feature long, drawn-out scenes where the emotionally repressed sit quietly around the dinner table and no one mentions the one child who decided to, y’know, go and actually have a life, rather than spending their days looking for their own Mr. Darcy.

There’s no purpose to a lot of period drama, no real stand-out personalities, and there are so few likeable characters simply because they’re so bound to the will of a class structure that implies that a stiff upper lip is simply setting a good example for the rest of the human body. When a series based around people who are forbidden to express themselves is pitched to me in an advert, I can’t for the life of me see why I’d want to spend weeks watching people -almost- say something.

Period drama can be exciting, engaging and fun, but the endless spew of Jane Austen Fan Club material has to stop. If you want kids to engage with history at school, make it interesting, and fun. If you want adults to engage with period dramas, don’t show them the only parts of history where almost nothing happens.

Read ‘Why I’ll Watch a Period Drama‘ here.

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