Last week, Alix and Megan watched the 2004 BBC mini-series adaptation of North & South. Neither of them had seen it before, any other version or read the original novel. Separated by the Atlantic Ocean and several time zones, they attempted to watch it as simultaneously as possible and keep the other updated on their reactions and opinions. The following commentary is pulled from the 60+ emails between the two of them. Enjoy.
Megan: Okay im watching the first hour of this shiz. Thorin Oakenshield is the main love interest and he’s pretty attractive, buuuuuuuuuut he basically beats up some dude in the first scene.
Alix: Are we watching the same movie? Because a man has proposed in like the first scene and he’s kindddd of a mouthbreather:
Mouthbreather breathes heavily through his mouth pre-proposal.
Megan: Yes, we are. Mouthbreather isn’t in the rest of the movie, as far as I know.
Alix: Thank God. Also, what is it with Nice Guys in period dramas? Mr. Darcy does this too. They’re always like, “WTF you were polite to me but NOW YOU WON’T MARRY ME? STOP LEADING ME ON!“
Megan: Yes, such a Nice Guy. Never mention weddings, it makes me want to marry you! Never mention sex, it makes me want to rape you!
Finally, Richard Armitage sails in on a warm breeze of cotton fluff and magic.
Alix: Ok so I’ve gotten to the introduction of our male lead. Some thoughts:
1) Our Heroine is kind of annoying me so far? Like, she just barges into shit all the time like she owns the place. I think this is supposed to make us think she has gumption, but I actually just think she’s self-righteous and has a stick up her ass.
2) This cotton mill does not have NEARLY enough child labor.
3) Yeah, this male lead is problematic. Not only does he have anger management issues, but his fortune is based directly on slave labor… I don’t know if I can get past that, for all his attractiveness.
Not very much later time later….
4) Uh, ok. I’ll admit it. Thornton is ridiculously good looking. I feel incredibly torn about this.
Megan: RIGHT? INCREDIBLY good looking.
Mr. Bates shows up. He is rocking the chest hair.
Alix: MISTAH BATES!!!! Can he be the love interest?
Megan: Bates isn’t a love interest…but he’s a UNION MAN!
Some other stuff happens. Here’s another picture of Thornton.
Alix: Finished the first episode. I’m so conflicted about how attractive he is in contrast with the fact that he’s a 19th century mill owner. With anger management problems.
Megan: Yes. right? SO attractive. but……….. (so many buts).
Alix: What did you think of Margaret? And the parents?
Megan: Hahaha, oh Margaret. She’s so…boring? You’re right, she’s very rude. But I’m sure she’ll grow on me. The mother is LAME and the dad is SUCH a Mr Bennett.
Alix: Yeah, but in the worst possible way.
Like Mr. Bennett, only less funny and a more terrible father.
Megan: Yeah, all the bad parts of Mr. Bennett, without the humor. Totally has NO CARE about fucking his family over. I mean, he doesn’t even bother to TELL THEM WHY he quit the church and moved them half a country away from their friends and family.
Alix: Exactly. He’s like, “Oh well it’s my duty to act on my conscience.” But then he’s a patriarchal dick and he doesn’t even explain why he’s making them poor and everyone’s going to die of consumption in a mill town. Anyway, on to Episode 2!
Megan: I meant to nap, but I just want to keep WATCHING.
Megan is rewarded for her lack of napping with this:
Margaret has a secret brother. Much like Lucille Bluth, he’s a maritime outlaw.
Megan: SECRET BROTHER.
Alix: Because sure, why not.
Now Mistah Bates gives a speech about going on strike and zzzzzzzz OH MORE THORNTON BEING HOT YOU SAY?
Alix: Ok, so that was the sexiest handshake I’ve ever seen.
Megan: Wow, that was a hot handshake. Until all the business folk dogpiled on her at that party.
Megan: Richard Armitage continues to be RIDICULOUSLY attractive but I had to turn the subtitles on. CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE WORDS YOU ARE SAYING.
Alix: But also, sooooo fucking attractive
Megan: Quote from the show: “I would like to play the overbearing master.” RAWR.
Alix: Ugh, but Thornton has TERRIBLE economics. I cannot HANDLE this invisible hand shit. Like, he’s better than his competitors in that he ALMOST cares if his entire workforce dies of consumption, but only BARELY.
This is like being attracted to a Republican.* It’s very sexually confusing and I DON’T. LIKE. IT.
*Alix has nothing against Republicans. Some of her favorite people are Republicans! She just doesn’t normally want to, you know, sleep with them.
Megan: OMG IT IS. THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT. Which, when you put it like that MAKES ME REALLY ANGRY. Because I feel like, at their core, all Republican men who like liberal women think that they will get over their idealism, grow up and settle down.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH NOW I HATE IT. SHE NEEDS TO REJECT HIM FOREVER. BUT HE’S SO HOT. AHHHHHHHH SO CONFLICTED.
Alix: Mrs. Thornton has some SERIOUS Jocasta issues. Even if Margaret can get over the fact that she’s in love with a Republican, she should probably wait for her potential MIL to die, because she is CRAZYCAKES
Megan: omg YES. HOW have we not talked about this??? I love her being like “UHHHH, I just want ONE MORE NIGHT of you loving me the best.” GROSS. Some serious Bates Motel shit going on in that place.
Also, I love that with the whole marriage proposal, the mom was basically like “well, she totally EMBARRASSED HERSELF in front of ALL THE SERVANTS, making it SO OBVS SHE LIKES YOU. I GUESS YOU’RE STUCK MARRYING HER NOW.“
Like….WHAT??? Haha, like, I love the idea that if I made an ass of myself in front of a crush, they’d be like, FORCED TO MARRY ME.
ALSO, people need to stop STARING AT EACH OTHER THROUGH WINDOWS.
ALSO, Fanny is ridiculous.
Fanny is ridiculous.
Bla bla bla more union storyline THORNTON PROPOSES TO MARGARET. She, much like Lizzy Bennett, is not having it.
Megan: OOFFF. that rejection scene was rough.
Alix: Yeah, the rejection WAS rough. But I think it’s excellent how they staged the proposal scene EXACTLY like 1995 P&P. Like, EXACTLY. With him hanging out by the clock on the mantle and all.
Ok, BBC. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Megan: Hilarious thing from the wiki page:
As the BBC had low expectations for the series, it was not well publicised and went almost unnoticed by critics. Audiences, however, were more receptive; hours after the first episode aired in November 2004, the message board of the programme’s website crashed because of the number of visitors the site was receiving, forcing host bbc.co.uk to shut it down. This sudden interest on the serial was attributed to Richard Armitage, a relatively unknown actor, whose portrayal of the emotionally restrained John Thornton drew parallels with Colin Firth’s portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy on the BBC’s 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice, and the reception he later received. Armitage himself claims that the series was a success because of the “industrial landscape and the attention [that the series gives] to the working classes and the way they develop”.
YEAH I’M SURE THAT’S WHY PEOPLE LIKED IT. WAIT, NO DUDE. YOU ARE WRONG. PEOPLE JUST WANT TO BOINK YOU HARD.
And on that note….
Alix: CRYSTAL PALACE ALERT! WOOT! HISTORY! But ugh, Mouthbreather is back.
Thornton and Mouthbreather verbally spar for Margaret’s love, despite the fact that she wants neither of them.
Alix: HAHAHAHAHA EPIC PISSING CONTEST BETWEEN THORNTON AND MOUTHBREATHER.
Megan: HAHAHA, this pissing contest between Thornton and Henry is HILARIOUS.
Bla bla bla union storyline nobody cares.
Alix: I am SO OVER Crazy Eyes McStrike-Breaker. Could not care less about this subplot.
Megan: OH I HATE THAT GUY. I swear he must be like, 5 annoying book characters rolled into one, because no one could write ONE character that boring and terrible, right? Like, am I seriously supposed to FEEL BAD THAT HE HAS SIX KIDS TO FEED? Like, DUDE YOU ARE DIRT POOR. Hows about you PULL OUT every once in a while and give your wife a break. I mean, Mr. Bates somehow managed zero population growth.
Well, at least Mr. Bates hates that ginger piece of trash as much as I do.
Mr. Bates’ daughter dies.
Megan: Poor Mr. Bates and his sad, dead daughter.
Meanwhile, Thornton continues to mope about Margaret’s rejection.
Megan: OH GOD, things you NEVER SAY TO YOUR MOM: “No one loves me. No one cares for me but you.” BLECH.
Secret Brother has shown up because Margaret’s mother is on the list of characters that need to be killed off during this episode. Unfortunately, this is very dangerous because of aforementioned Lucille Bluth crimes. The Hales try to figure out what to do about his being a maritime outlaw.
More people die. Also, oops! Secret Brother killed one of them. MOAR LEGAL WOES!
Alix: Improbable sentences: “I know a lawyer! I think he’s quite clever. His name is Henry Lennox.” Uhhhhh Henry = Friendzone Mouthbreather. NOT A GOOD READ ON THE SITUATION, MARGARET.
Megan: Too bad Henry didn’t have forums to troll back then! So he could complain about how wronged he was by Margaret and therefore by ALL WOMAN KIND because even though he lives in a patriarchy it’s not FAIR that he can’t have any woman he wants, including Margaret, as though shopping for a pound puppy.
The Hales are also very bad at keeping Secret Brother a secret. In fact, Secret Brother is about as well-kept a secret as Scotland’s Secret Bunker. Everyone knows he exists, only everyone also thinks he’s Margaret’s not-so-secret lover. Margaret seems alarmingly fine with these rumors.
Megan: It’s so AWKWARD when your male suitor things you’re shtuppin’ your estranged brother!!!
Alix: So Mr. Thornton is significantly less attractive in episode 3 because he spends the entire hour glowering about being friendzoned like Mouthbreather.
Megan: OMG ARE THEY GOING TO START A CLUB??? I love the idea of dudes becoming friends because they were rejected by the same girl. FRIENDZONE BROTHERHOOD.
Alix: LEAGUE OF EVIL EXES!
Megan: OMG YOU’RE RIGHT. THAT’S EXACTLY IT. Except even worst than for Romona….these people aren’t even TECHNICALLY EXs. Just stalker Nice Guys™.
Annnnnnnnnnd then he slut shames her for hanging out with her brother. Awesome. On to 4!
Alix: Uhhhh so Thornton is quickly turning into Robert Owen. SOCIALISM = HOT
Megan: NO NO NO NO, he can’t, he CAN’T. If he does, MY GIRL PARTS MAY IMPLODE.
Mr. Hale goes to Oxford to visit Mr. Bell, for some reason. Mr. Bell wears his best trousers to celebrate.
Alix: PANTS WHAT
Mr. Hale dies.
Alix: Uhhhh, MAJOR WTF MOMENT JUST NOW.
Megan: Omfg Mr. Hale?!!?? BUT HE WAS SO HEALTHY!!! Did someone kill him??? (I’m weirdly a little sad about this.)
Margaret moves back to London, with her cousin, cousin-in-law, and CIL’s brother, Friendzone Mouthbreather. Her guardian is now Mr. Bell, Mr. Hale’s BFF and proprietor of Thornton’s mill. Thornton has a sad.
Megan: The scene where Thornton was all like LOOK BACK AT ME was totes awk.
I hope Mr. Bell doesn’t turn out bad because I LOVE HIM. Even when he wears insane pants.
Mr. Bell contracts a terminal illness, moves to South America, and dies. Margaret gets all his shit, including Thornton’s mill.
Megan:Okay, so that part where he asked his goddaughter to become his wife was a LITTLE CREEPY. But when she said no, he took it like a champ and gave her all his money, so all is forgiven! Viva la pants!
Alix: God the plotting in this is SO WEIRD
Like, there’s NO LEAD UP to ANYTHING. It’s like watching a Korean Drama and suddenly everyone has stomach cancer.
Megan: I love that Mr. Bates and Thornton are bros now. BROS FOR LIFE.
Because of their bromance, Mr. Bates spills the beans about Secret Brother. Thornton smolders.
Megan: THERE ARE ONLY 7 MINUTES LEFT. HOW IS THIS GOING TO RESOLVE??!?! I NEED AT LEAST 5 FULL MINUTES OF THEM MAKING OUT OR I’LL DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
The train scene. Nobody is disappointed. Except Henry.
Alix: Just finished. SWOON x INFINITY
Megan: OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG THAT WAS SO SEXXXXYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Alix: I watched the last scene five times, no joke.
But you know what wasn’t sexy? Friendzone Mouthbreather staring through the window while they were having their moment.
Megan: Yeah, that was REALLY UNCOMPH.
Alix: Well, seems like we aren’t the only ones who think so. Some enterprising youtuber edited Friendzone Mouthbreather out of the scene: