Why I can’t Watch Poldark

8th August 2017

I got sent out. I start to fidget and involuntarily crack my knuckles and grind my teeth. In truth I can’t stand it. It’s not that the characters aren’t compelling, or the scenery lovely or the story well told. I don’t mind costume dramas and I’m reasonably confident that I’m not unduly prudish – Hot Fuzz and A life Less Ordinary remain in my top five films – see my comments on Rev. below. But I have tried to watch Poldark and I cannot do it.
I can’t relax….
Poldark reminds me of the slow grind of relational breakdown that it ruining lives all around me in the real world and against which I find myself striving when I’m trying to help people to follow Jesus. When Mrs X is secretly carrying Mr Y’s child and when Mrs A is being repeatedly raped by Mr A and when Mrs Y is being seduced by Mr Z and Mr A is also sleeping with Miss C I cannot stand it. I see the emotional pain and relational carnage that manipulative, carnal, use and abuse of relationships in general and marriage in particular brings. I do see this from time to time in the church – because churches are made up of people. But I see it amplified in communities with their moral anchors in Celebrity Love Island, the London Stock Exchange and Snapchat. I know that emotional tension is what makes a good story. But real life is full of this kind of emotional tension created by riding roughshod over God’s straightforward guidelines for relationships, so it’s not a story I can relax to.
Stereotypical christians..
I’ve seen enough to know that Poldark is yet another example of the portrayal of Christian faith as held by morally repressed simpletons (who don’t understand the real world yet) and by hypocrites who understand it full well and use religion to feather their own nests. Neither of these points of view do any justice at all to the gritty realism and moral purity of Jesus or that of the writings of his first followers in the New Testament (seriously – read them). Poldark christianity does not reflect the life and teaching of the Christian communities I have been privileged to live and work in and it perpetuates negative stereotypes which I’m working hard to overcome.
Is it just me?..
I remember a conversation I had a few years ago about the abundance of parallels between the Christian narrative and the 90s sci-fi classic The Matrix with a friend who had been involved in counselling kids after the Columbine high massacre (following his own involvement as a child in the troubles in Northern Ireland). It was out of the question for him that you could ever use a film that had spawned such awful violence in the cause of the gospel. His experience meant that the wider narrative of a parallel (real) universe behind our own was lost to the violence of the action. Maybe there’s a redeemable narrative to Poldark – something about Ross’ concern for the poor or Morwenna’s self-sacrificial love for Drake.. Maybe someone who has read the book will tell me that there’s a happier ending. Maybe it’s just me. But my experience of ministering to (and sometimes just helplessly observing) broken relationships means that Poldark series 3 is not on my agenda. I’m pretty sure the knuckle cracking would get me barred even if I tried to watch it.