Sigh, ugh! Tootie won Top Model. I think I'm hung up on her Tootie hair. She would've been so much prettier with, say, a flattering cut. Anyhoo, it was a pretty boring season (excuse me, cycle) altogether. At least I have Project Runway to keep me going. And perhaps, someday, The Office will be back.
Given the lack of appealing tv viewing, I was keen to hop on board the North & South train. If you've been by Ramblings on Romance or Sula's Space, you may have noticed a lot of posts devoted to this 2004 BBC miniseries. No, it's not the one with Patrick Swayze and Lesley-Anne Warren, as I first suspected. This is an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1855 novel about the industrialization of England. As soon as I read a little bit, I knew I had to watch it. I lurve BBC miniseries. There is nothing like beautiful people in beautiful costume swanning about lavish settings. Plus there is always restrained, yet smoldering passion. Good times, good times. One of the best things about becoming involved with blogging was finding like-minded souls. People who become obssessed with things like this or The Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea miniseries etc.
Okay, the show. North and South centers on Margaret Hale, the daughter of a country vicar who uproots his family to Milton, an industrial city in northern England. The dark, dingy city full of mills is nothing short of complete culture shock, and Margaret's low opinion of the area and its people is cemented when she meets John Thornton, a local mill owner. Thornton happens to be disciplining one of his employees for smoking. By beating the shit out of him. John Thornton is a self-made man who saved his family from poverty. Although he is wealthy, there is a great social divide between the two. Their deepening and changing feelings for each other are challenged by a union strike which tests the city and everyone's way of life.
North & South not only thrilled the romantic in me, but also the English major. This is a very interesting portrayal of a changing society. Margaret represents the traditional aristocratic way of life. Even though her family is not wealthy, she obviously has family and social connections, and she has that air of superiority. Her way of life is the best, and she assumes that those "in trade" lack the sensitivity that she has. John Thornton represents the more modern way. He had to work for money and position, and doesn't hesitate to hold on to what he has with whatever means at his disposal. He is honest and blunt, and basically kind, but he lacks the eloquence and refinement that seem important to Margaret. It's idealism vs. pragmatism, naivete vs. cold-hard experience, the ivory tower vs. down in the trenches. Margaret seemed overly harsh and kind of bratty at first, but she's definitely a product of her upbringing. And there is a third force here, personified by Nicholas Higgins, which is threatening to both of their ways of life. We see the beginnings of the working class attempting to take some power for themselves,through unionization and striking. Such actions are serious challenges to Thornton's wealth and power and to Margaret's assumptions about herself, Thornton and the workers.
But opposites attract, and oh the romance is hot! These are two people who do not want to be attracted to be attracted to each other. But they are, and they fight it, and it's fascinating to watch. The casting and acting was wonderful. Richard Armitage as John Thornton cuts quite the distinguished profile (he is extremely hot). He is fabulous too. You can see all of his conflicted emotions and his struggle to contain them. Daniela Denby-Ashe (as Margaret) is grave, pretty and luminous. She stands out among the dingy surroundings. She is intelligent and blunt and it's easy to see the attraction for Thornton. And the ending! The "train scene." It's anachronistic and unrealistic, but ohmygod they're finally kissing and yay! I re-watched it five or six times.
This was great entertainment. A sexy, sweeping romance set against a fascinating historical background. I've got to give props to the rest of the cast, particularly Sinead Cusack as Thornton's steely mother. I have to re-watch before it has to go back to the library, and I think I must buy it for myself. Count me as a new devotee.