Borgen is praised in Vanity Fair
24 Apr 2012
Danish tv drama is now celebrated in the temple of popular culture – the life style magazine Vanity Fair, who just issued a ‘tv issue’. Watch out Hollywood, tv drama is soon to beat you on glamour, as well as quality.
We were in Venice. Waiting in what used to be a ballroom in a palace by Canale Grande, to meet Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow and talk about Steven Soderbergh’s pleasantly terrifying international thriller Contagion.
And yet, the cool British BBC journalist that I’d just met, was much more interested in talking about the Danish tv show The Killing. So what if Gwyneth was wearing a pink Michael Kors dress? She wanted to know about that female detective in that sweater.
A friend of mine just came back from Holland, where he’d been approached by fellow psychology professors who, independently, wanted to hear about the Danish tv show Borgen. Another aquaintance was recently met by the same curiosity by a family in Oman.
Our reputation may still suffer from the Muhammed drawings and the years of progress for the Danish far right party’s politics. But – finally – there’s a little something to be proud off with new Danish tv drama.
The show about the both political and personal challenges of Denmark’s first female political leader does not only have fans in number 10 Downing Street – despite his political beliefs, quite different from the fictional Birgitte Nyborg’s, David Cameron returned his thanks with a handwritten note, when he received a dvd with the first season of Borgen, saying how much he enjoyed Danish tv drama “when putting his feet up after a long day of hard work”.
The rumor of the show’s qualities have reached the highest temple of pop culture – Vanity Fair. The May issue of the magazine is dedicated to television, the ultimate sign that tv fiction is now not only much better than movies, it is – maybe – about to become just as glamourous as well.
Television certainly has an impact. Even if Borgen did not directly influence the following election which actually gave Denmark its first female leader, it is – in the words of Vanity Fair’s renowned editor Craydon Carter: “the best evocation of the nexus of politics and journalism that I have seen in some time”.
It has been some time now, that I have answered: “Can I say Sopranos?”, when asked the question, we film critics love to hate - ‘what’s your favorite film?’. My view of America is shaped by The Wire. And I’m in the process of writing a book on Mad Men. The quality of the best American television shows is mindblowing.
Yet, surprisingly, also Danish dramas resonate abroad.
Making the writer the star, and obeying the principle that the crime show, love story, political drama, whatever, should be of an educative quality and in essence stimulate democracy were two defining decisions made by DR, which is behind the most successful Danish tv drama.
This, however, does not explain why Borgen’s creator Adam Price when receiving an award in France, was met by some 50 journalists from leading media, who wanted interviews.
Rather, the growing hype around Borgen seems to stem from the show’s focus on two major modern dilemmas: family vs. freedom – and social welfare vs. personal freedom.
In other words the sticky stuff, that (seemingly and hopefully) more and more modern democracies deal with. The questions of equal rights between the sexes – and what I call the economics of modern family life when both mom and dad want careers, but not au pairs. And the question of individualism vs. social awareness and responsibility.
Of course, there may be a simpler explanation.
The other day on a trip to London, I read a feature in Sunday’s The Independent on a new trend – the increasing number of sex scenes in tv shows. The two first seasons of Borgen has, maybe, three sex scenes. As far as I have been told, they are all featured in the show’s American trailer.