AdventureMan and I are in the midst of a DVD-watching-marathon. Our son packaged up three entire seasons of the HBO show Deadwood, and we are in the middle of season two, now. I had seen occasional episodes now and then on AmericaPlus, here in Kuwait, but what we see here in Kuwait is heavily censored. I made the mistake of watching one episode with my son when I was back in Florida last summer.
Everything was OK (you get de-sensitized to the language after a while) until one very graphic sex scene which sort of happened before we knew it was going to happen. Believe me, there is nothing LESS sexy than watching a graphic sex scene in the same room as your own son. He said it works the same way being in the same room watching with your mother! (no kidding). I never watched another episode with him; couldn’t take that chance, it was just too awful for words.
But watching with AdventureMan, now that is something else entirely.
One of the things I love about the HBO series is that you find the same people appearing as totally different characters in different series, and you start kind of looking for them. For example, Charlie Utter in Deadwood, was also the California drug dealer in John from Cincinnati. Kristin Scott Bell (who will always be Veronica Mars to me) shows up in Deadwood as a young woman with a con game. When she loses, she loses big. Again, this series is both graphic and gruesome, not something to watch with your parents or your children.
Deadwood is the story of life in the days of the California gold rush. In the very first episode, we see how basic and crude and violent life can be without any rule-of-law. From the very beginning, might makes right, the strong take what they want, and the weak suffer, are exploited, die or are killed.
In succeeding episodes, we watch power struggles, and also the inward creeping of small signs of civilization . . . and the strong men have to share a little of their power, the tiniest threads of government begin to creep in. That is what keeps this show alive for me, and why I watch, in spite of the violence and incredibly vulgar language. It is a society in transition, from lawlessness to civilization. Those who prosper under lawlessness have to learn new ways of coping as rule-of-law creeps in.
There is one episode about plague, how it creeps into the community, and it seems to be to be an allegory for how rule-or-law creeps in, first the tiny threads, and slowly those threads weave themselves into the texture of daily life. The town bullies don’t like it, but as men who have survived – they adapt or they have to move on. We are held captivated by this series, and fascinated at how this crude society is transitioning and transforming into something else entirely.
I have two favorite characters, Calamity Jane and the Doctor. Calamity Jane has lived a tough life, had a tough beginning, and – so far – keeps herself pickled in liquor to bear her daily life, especially after Wild Bill dies. She dresses in men’s clothes, swears worse than many of the men, and at the same time . . . there is something insightful and whimsical in her character.
The Doc is a straight talking character, doing his best to patch people up and keep them alive under the very worst circumstances. He treats the town whores, treats the plague victims, treats the town leaders – he is it, he is the only source of medical services in the town. He is practical, and tough, and compassionate.
If you get a chance to watch Deadwood, it will hold your attention – there has not been a boring episode so far. Just don’t watch with your parents or your children!