Magazine article The Spectator

Television: Godless

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: Godless

Article excerpt

Boy came to me the other night in a state of dismay. 'Dad, I just turned on Match of the Day to watch England vs Kazakhstan and guess what: they never mentioned this, but it's the women's game.'

What bothered him was not so much being forced to watch a slower, less athletic, duller version of real football -- though obviously that too -- as that the BBC was being so utterly disingenuous about it. This policy of pretending there's absolutely no difference between men's and women's international sporting fixtures has, I know, been operational for some time. But for those of us living outside the PC metropolitan bubble -- i.e. most of the BBC's actual audience -- it still feels insulting, hectoring and dishonest.

But you can't escape it. Even really good drama series that you might actually want to watch have been infected. The new Netflix cowboy drama Godless, for example.

Or rather, I should perhaps say, cowgirl drama. Godless, you see, is set largely in La Belle, New Mexico -- a mining town that is mysteriously inhabited almost entirely by women. This, we later learn, is because all the men were wiped out in a mine disaster. But astonishingly their wives and girlfriends -- not to mention the pretty prostitute who has had to turn the customer-less Magdalena's House of Rapture into a school -- all doggedly stayed behind. Now the women manage the town and its various operations as well as, or possibly even better than, those useless dead men ever did.

Don't worry. Once you get over this politically correct implausibility, the drama is a cracker, for reasons I shall shortly explain. But I don't think we should let it off the hook just yet. For example, the mine disaster, we learn, happened some while ago: so how come, in the interim, those widows haven't been snapped up by hordes of male suitors in a region and era when eligible women must have been in desperately short supply?

Also, did we really have to have a scene where the tough, possibly lesbian girl who decides she would much rather dress as a man than as a woman taunts one of the male characters for never having experimented with wearing a dress. This is the 1890s Wild West, for heaven's sake, not a gender-neutral toilet facility on Yale campus last week. …

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