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BBC’s ‘A Very British Scandal’ is a frigid, flaccid and frustrating affair

The mini-series about the scandalous divorce between the Duke and Duchess of Argyll doesn’t trust its audience to learn the proper lessons from its tale of aristocratic lust gone wrong.

The three-part BBC series released this week, A Very British Scandal, recounts the tumultuous marriage of the Duke of Argyll, Ian Campbell, and his third wife, Margaret Whigham, and their very public and seedy divorce in 1963.

The scandalous part of this very British story is that during the divorce proceedings, Ian accused Margaret of adultery and had the pictures to prove it. Most notable of these saucy photos showed Margaret performing oral sex on a mysterious ‘headless man,’ so dubbed because his head was not visible in the picture.

Margaret ‘The Dirty Duchess’ giving a blow job to a headless man sounds like either the strangest horror movie porn imaginable or the wet dream of a tabloid headline writer, but this very British scandal is all too true.

The series is an often frustrating, uneven, mixed bag of a drama. It stars Claire Foy – best known for her role as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown – as Margaret, the rich and beautiful socialite who claims to “love sex” and be “very good at it.” Margaret is sort of like a 1950s Kardashian, as she’s a socialite celebrity with a bevy of paparazzi trailing her every move.

After Margaret divorces her first husband, she meets the caddish Captain Ian Campbell (Paul Bettany), the newly anointed Duke of Argyll, who is married to his second wife and apparently actively looking for his third.

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Foy is an appealing actress but, as beautiful as she is, she seems somewhat miscast as the “highly sexed woman” Margaret. Foy is a rather rigid and frigid on-screen presence, and therefore is not a comfortable fit as the libidinous Margaret.

Like Foy, Bettany too is a skilled actor, but doesn’t quite work as Ian. While Bettany certainly looks like an often crazy and lazy lord, he does not strike one as much of a lothario.

Despite its flaws, what is appealing about A Very British Scandal is that, at first anyway, it appears to be more interested in telling a semblance of the truth rather than pandering to its lesser cultural political instincts.

For example, neither Margaret nor Ian come across as the good guy in this tale of woe. In fact, the show most often seems like a case of two horrible people doing horrible things to each other.

Margaret is a shameless, near-compulsive liar and her non-sexual sins are substantially more egregious than her alleged sexual ones. For instance, she forges love letters to Ian’s ex-wife and sends them to Ian, forcing him to doubt the paternity of his children. She also tries to run a scam where she would buy a baby (she’s incapable of carrying a child after an accident) and claim it’s her and Ian’s and thus an heir to the Duke of Argyll title. And then there’s the time she publicly accused her step-mother of having an affair with Ian…thus basically stressing her already ill father to death.

Ian is a real piece of work, too. At best he’s a lazy aristocratic womanizer suffering from WWII prison-camp-related PTSD. At worst, he’s an erratic, volatile, violent, abusive, alcoholic, amphetamine-addicted sociopath. Ian is like a vampire who sinks his teeth into women and drains them of their life force, and their bank accounts of any money.

Like I said, these are two horrible people doing horrible things to each other.

There is no hero here and no noble victim, just two entitled upper-class twits trying to entertain themselves while their worthless lives slowly pass.

Unfortunately, after spending its three-hour run time allowing its audience to see the ugly and unvarnished truth about its subjects, A Very British Scandal makes the most curious of decisions when concluding.

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After the action ended a postscript popped up on-screen that set out to remove all agency from the audience by informing them what they were supposed to think about the preceding drama. The ham-handed postscript tells viewers that what they just witnessed was the “first time a woman was publicly shamed by the UK mass media.” Oh, is that what it was?

It also informs the viewer that the dastardly Duke of Argyll married an American heiress five months after the divorce and, just to prove in contrast how noble Margaret truly was, it also tells the audience that she never revealed the name of the ‘headless’ man she sexually serviced.

It’s utterly pathetic that the producers of this show felt they needed to hammer the audience over the head with the “proper” conclusions they were supposed to reach. God forbid anyone walk away from this series without understanding that what it’s really all about is feminist victimhood and the suffocating power of the patriarchy.

If you thought this was maybe a story about two hurt and wounded people hurting and wounding each other because they were raised in a vapid and corrupted aristocracy devoid of any substance, purpose, meaning, or moral and ethical grounding, then the producers want you to know that you’re not only wrong but bad.

By so shamelessly not trusting their audience and their own storytelling ability, the producers of A Very British Scandal not only undermined the power of their drama but also neutered their own credibility.

The series is at best a forgettable mediocrity, and the people who made it would be wise to worry more about putting out a quality product than about insulting their viewers by trying to control the conclusions they reach.

https://ift.tt/3eAoQ6g 29, 2021 at 09:57PM
from RT – Daily news

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