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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alison Steadman plays a mother in a BBC series –which one?



Okay, here’s a small fun quiz, as to which I will give the answer right away, below, with suitable protection against spoilers!

There’s just one clue--I’m thinking of the role of a mother played by Alison Steadman in a series with BBC involvement. What is the name of the series, and what role does Alison Steadman play? The answer is right below, without any spoilers as to what happens in the series, which will only be visible to those who choose to scroll all the way down a SECOND time:


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Answer:

Janeites will of course have recognized immediately that I am referring to the role of Mrs. Bennet in the 1995 A&E/BBC miniseries of Pride & Prejudice, and will be puzzled as to why I even gave a spoiler alert, given that the series has been seen by millions of viewers over the past 2 decades, and so all Janeites know all about Mrs. Bennet.

Well, the reason for my coyness is that there are also some reading this post who are unfamiliar with Jane Austen film adaptations, but who instantly recognized that the same description also applies to the amazing current BBC America series Orphan Black! In that show, Tatiana Maslany, the lead actress, plays several different roles, each one with astonishingly vivid conviction and compelling skill and depth. It seems an inexplicable decision on the part of the Emmy Awards, not to even have given her so much as a nomination during the first 2 years of the show, and I only hope they will rectify that perverse omission in the coming year's awards.

But what about Alison Steadman? Telling you about her supporting role in Orphan Black may reveal spoilers about what happens in Orphan Black, so ONLY those NOT concerned about spoilers (my wife and I have recently binge-watched the first 3 seasons---via On Demand---which just concluded on American TV yesterday—I recommend the same to those who haven’t seen it) should scroll down to the remainder of this post:

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Further Answer, with some spoilers:

In the final two episodes of Season 3 of Orphan Black, we meet the mother played by Alison Steadman, who turns out to be the desperately-sought original of both the girl clones (all played by Tatiana Maslany) who are the main protagonists of the show, but also of the boy clones who have become more and more important during the course of the first three seasons.

And so the brilliant irony of Alison Steadman playing both Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice and the clone-mother in Orphan Black is that in both such roles she plays a loud-mouthed, abrasive, and vulgar woman, and yet at the same time we learn that she loves all her daughters and does her best to enable them all to fulfill their urgent collective quest—in P&P, for a good marriage, and in Orphan Black, for a cure to the genetic defects some of them suffer from as a result of the cloning process, but also freedom and independence of all of them from oppression by dark anti-female societal forces.

So, I believe it unlikely that the choice of Alison Steadman to play this particular role in Orphan Black was made without awareness on the part of all concerned of this startling ironic parallelism.

And I conclude with the suggestion that it would make an interesting parlor game, for a group of folks who’ve seen both P&P and Orphan Black to match the girl clones to their Austenian “twins” . Here are my choices:

Sarah = Elizabeth  (feisty main protagonist)
Cosima = Mary (the nerd with a lesbian flavor)
Helena = Lydia (wild force of nature)
Alison = Jane  (goody two shoes)
Rachel = Caroline Bingley (not a very nice person)

What do you think?   ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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