I’ve been trying to watch the Danish political drama “Borgen” because so many people have been raving about it. I’m not, I confess, very good at watching programmes with subtitles. I forget I have to pay attention to the screen, and find myself wandering over to the kitchen area to make a drink, or thinking I’ll just put the washing on to dry, or wondering what’s in that unopened envelope on the table, or checking my phone, and then realising that I don’t understand Danish and can’t follow it without giving it my undivided attention. I am the worst person to watch films with, as I can never just sit there and get into it. I have to be doing something else too. The number of times I have been forced to watch “Paris, Texas” or one of those ‘Three Colours’ films and never made it past the first ten minutes. Nothing happens! Give me something to read while I wait for it to liven up!
Borgen does seem worth persevering with, although it annoyed me that a running theme is, yet again, a career woman – the Prime Minister – struggling to juggle her demanding job with family responsibilities and her husband getting sulky and her feeling guilty because she’s not home to see the kids before bedtime. Yes, this is true to life, but does it have to feature as a major aspect of every drama about a woman in a senior job?
In the West Wing Abbie occasionally gets stroppy with Bartlett because he’s let her down when he’s promised to be at a family function. In fact nearly all the characters struggle with the work-life balance thing. Leo’s wife divorces him, Toby’s marriage breaks up, CJ puts Danny on hold while she’s in the White House, Josh can’t keep a relationship going… It’s done with just the right degree of attention though; it’s a part of CJ’s life, not her main preocuppation.
If the Commons is anything to go by, it’s actually the men who are under the most family pressure. Oona King has talked about how her husband would have divorced her if she’d not eased off her workload when she was MP for Bethnal Green, but it’s usually male colleagues who angst about their partners not being happy with them agreeing to do things at the weekend, or going on an overseas trip, or not heading back to their constituency home as soon as we’re on a one line whip. We now have a lot more female MPs but you never really hear them saying that their husbands/ partners are demanding their presence. They don’t need anyone else to make them feel guilty about being at work rather than at home; they already do! Borgen is probably realistic in its portrayal of a senior female politician’s working life, but I just wish they could have spent as much time focusing on the politics – her day job – as they do on her battles to find time for her husband.