August 7, 2006 Bonus Blog
Here's some thoughtful feedback on my recent Deadwood postings:
"Okay, so I've sat here for the last few weeks, reading your ongoing moaning and bitching about Deadwood. ENUFF ALREADY!
"Nobody, including Dave Milch, ever said the show was going to be historically accurate down to the "n"th degree. He's not on the History Channel (and Lord knows how many times they've aired Old West shows that are absolutely wrong in so many ways). It's HBO. It's entertainment. It ain't real life.
"I mean, we knew early on that he was going to blur the lines between history and fiction. The show had Wild Bill involved in two or three deadly shootings in Deadwood (the town)--and it's common knowledge that the pistoleer hadn't shot anybody in about four years (there's no indication he'd even drawn his gun in anger during that time).
"Or how about the guy who plays Seth Bullock? Too much of a California pretty boy to replicate the real McCoy--he needs a fake nose or some rhinoplasty to resemble the sheriff, who had a pretty good sized honker.
"And they've got Colorado Charlie Utter as an old, ugly fart who is little more than Wild Bill's butt-boy. Utter actually was much younger than shown on the series and dressed in Brooks Brothers finery--and he had a fine head of shoulder length hair (he somewhat resembled George Custer)--and he had a life beyond that as Hickok's sidekick.
"And this new lesbian angle between Joanie Stubbs and Calamity Jane? What's down with that? There was never any indication that Martha Jane chose the saphic side of the street.
"Of course you're right--the portrayal of George Hearst as a sociopathic monster is not supported by the evidence. I'm sure he had a ruthless side, but it's doubtful he was ordering his men to off his enemies right and left. Milch had better watch out that Patty Hearst doesn't go all SLA on him with a machine gun and beret.
"Then there's the language. No, they didn't use all of those words that often (or in the ways shown on Deadwood). Fuck was a sexual act, not an adjective or adverb or whatever. It's also unlikely that they used "motherf••ker" or "cocksucker" back then. And in the presence of women--even whores--men generally restrained their language. And women--even whores--were a bit more circumspect in their words, too, especially in public.
"Does some of this bother me? Absolutely.
"Does it make it unwatchable? No.
"Milch's interpretation creates a world that has the aura of plausibility. It could have happened that way (even if we know it didn't). It's a dark and tough place, not for the meek and mild. The streets are muddy. The people don't clean up very often. There's disease and garbage and animal crap all over the place. And many of the residents are looking to climb the socio-economic ladder--even if they have to shove a few others off the rungs. And as Milch has said, the language just adds to the darkness, the roughness of the place. He's creating an environment and an atmosphere--one that intends to engross and entertain, one in which violent words and actions are at least an ever present danger (if not a regular occurence).
"Is it accurate? Not terribly. But for decades, we were presented with the sanitized version of the Old West, where everything was clean and nice. The movies often showed shootings where there was never a speck of blood. The dirt on the streets never stirred. And never was heard a discouraging (or profane) word. In fact, most of us grew up on this stuff; it was the impetus for our initial interest in the West.
Milch is the pendulum going the other way. His Deadwood is not necessarily aimed at us. He looks at today's society, one that oftentimes embraces and encourages violence (see any number of video game titles). Strong language is commonplace (check out popular culture--say, rap--and count the number of times one hears 'motherf'••ker" or "cocksucker" or variations on "f•••"). Frankly, he's aiming at a younger crowd. And it's apparent that he's made inroads with folks who are not True West readers, or NOLA/WOLA members, or traditional SASS shooters.
"If just a few of those folks want to know more, if they seek out information that goes beyond Deadwood, then they'll help keep the study of the West alive in coming decades. They'll be the readers, the researchers, the writers. They're the ones who will travel to Deadwood and Tombstone and Coffeyville and Northfield. They'll buy Western wear. Maybe they'll subscribe to True West. But their interest will keep the field breathing.
"So stop yer cryin', fer cryin' out loud. Quit acting like a provincial old man who just can't understand these kids nowadays. If watching Deadwood bothers you, go into the bedroom and watch something else on Sunday evening (and let your long suffering wife enjoy the program in peace).
"But--even grudgingly--give Dave Milch his due. He's created a successful Western series, something that hasn't been done in decades. Just as important, it's a unique show. I admit that I was very skeptical about it for the first four or five episodes--and then it got me. Now, I anticipate the final three shows plus the two movies with enthusiasm over the story lines and dread that it's all ending so soon.
"But if we're lucky, there may be others who'll follow in his footsteps. We keep talking about "preserving the West." In his own way, David Milch has contributed to the effort. And that's a good thing."
Actually, as I am reading a whole bunch of 1880s erotica in "The Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature Volume I" I'm here to tell you that "cocksucker" is used quite a bit, and also (surprising to me) the verb "to blow" and two words I had never heard before (and we certainly don't hear them today), "bubbies" for breasts, and "gamahuched," for female on female action.
Oh, and by the way, Mark, thanks for the long explanation.
"When a thought is too weak to be expressed simply, it should be rejected."
—Luc, Marquis de Vauvenargues
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