Monday, October 25, 2010

The Naughty Boardwalk

What new show has had a more hyped premiere than 'Boardwalk Empire'? It was directed by Scorsese, it was starring Steve Buscemi, it was about the 20's and bootlegging, etc. HBO really advertised the fact that this was the time of going back to quality programming. The show's relevance is rather questionable, and though interesting to me and a few other History Channel nerds out there, it's main point is to revive interest in perhaps the most significant decade for the United States (no, it wasn't the 1960's. Sorry hippies). There was much in this decade that would were catalysts for profound changes not only on a sociopolitical level, but on that of sexuality as well.
Paz de la Huerta playes Lucy, Nucky's sassy and dimwitted mistress. In this scene doing the quintessential 20's thing right after the Charteston; popping out of a birthday cake. 

When I say 'sexuality', i am not simply referring to the act of sex, I am referring to attitudes, dress codes, and general notions regarding the 'rules'; flirtation, proposition, rate of exchange etc. 
I'm sure among the many things that people forgot about those golden years, one of them must have been just how much sex has changed since. The first show that harkened back to sexual politics of a different area that seem completely alien in this day and age was 'Mad Men' (2008). Not only did it show us the undertones and taboos of sex in the work place, but also the attitudes between the sexes that are influenced by everything from clothes to suggestive gestures. 
Now, 'Boardwalk Empire' deems to take us even further, to where it's not so much a history lesson at the end of which, we are thinking; 'oh that's how that thing started', but serves as a retrospective on the history of gender relation and sensuality coupled with the intense changing of the times. We can see this transpire in the dichotomy between the upper and lower classes. The former is symbolized by Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson (Buscemi), a corrupt politician. The former represented by one of his workers, Jimmy (Michael Pitt) who just came back from WWI to settle back into family life with his wife and kid, as well as get his hands dirty in the booming business of bootlegging. More so, its personified in the women that serve as their better halves (and I am using this term liberally). Nucky has some 20-something, pretty in a high class escort kind of way, dimwitted broad with a voice like Jean Crain in 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952). She's loose, beautiful, and not too smart. The perfect composite of a 1920's flapper. Jimmy's wife is homely, pale, skinny, and mousey. You get the feeling that had she had the opportunity to be born into wealth, and met the right men like Nucky, she could very much end up like Lucy (Paz De La Huerta). She has the legs for it. Instead, she gets stuck in domestic purgatory taking care of a brat who's father is away at the front in France and doesn't write.
Add a very awkward Oedipal relationship between Michael Pitt and Gretchen Mol (who get this, plays HIS MOTHER), and you've got yourself a controversial hit. What separates 'Boardwalk Empire' from mostly everything else on TV (with the exception of Mad Men) is that it is not exploiting the content for shock value which always always equals ratings. It's taking all the wonderful sex and violence of the 1920's and building a story around it. There might be a bit of an areola overload in it lately. But I for one can't wait to see what new debauchery these crazy cats get into. And if you are successfully managing to sell Steve Buscemi as a sex symbol, then you get major kudos. 

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