The Past Through Our Modern Eyes

All right, be honest, folks: who enjoys new vintage television?! Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire or Mrs. Biggs?! I know I’ve discussed this before, but the topic continues to occupy my mind. With Downton Abbey back on TV in its third season, I feel strangely drawn to those period dramas and annoyed by them at the same time. It’s the love to detail in the costume department and the choice of fantastic actors that definitely wins my approval, the soapy drama and rushed plot, however, puts me off. I know it’s supposed to reflect realism, showing gloomy pictures and characters who delve into pragmatism and near depression, but I’m not fond of it. Same goes for the modern topics and social criticism that are always shining through, a mandatory element for programs that travel back in time. Women were always off worse, without exception. No choice, no freedom, no decent men. Take the recent Bletchley Circle, for example – is there really no other way to show female strength but to demonize the male sex? Is the violence truly necessary?

In all honesty, I wonder how our day and age will be presented fifty years from now, in clips and programs on the internet or elsewhere. How distorted we’ll feel those pictures are, how apt or cruel? If the next generation will understand our point of view and how much unscripted reality will be left?

You see, in my opinion, nothing about the past has ever been perfect, no matter how nostalgic our memories may be. The way bygone decades are presented to us these days however, blurs the truth about what it meant to live through change, progress and challenges. To look at the 1920 through 80s through millennium-fogged glasses hardly does these times justice, nor the people who came before us. It is easy to roll our eyes at their imperfect lives without realizing how little has actually changed or dwell on an erroneous belief that our present is superior in so many ways. For as long as we don’t learn to regain an innocent perception and sense of beauty, I am tired of revisiting the past in a modern setup. I want to see what it was really like – codes, decency and censorship included – to have a better understanding of where we came from, what we lost and what was rightly left behind.

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