Thanks to BBC iPlayer, I’ve had a chance to catch up with the Danish political drama Borgen this week.
It tells the story of a woman leading a minor party who manages to become Prime Minister through a combination of luck and guile.
Though it is in a foreign language and you have to read subtitles, I have found it utterly gripping. It’s strength I think is the honesty and simplicity of its storyline.
The politicians are calculating, but also passionate; self-centred but willing to make deals and compromise where necessary; all them with ordinary relationships outside politics that have ups and downs but nothing sinister or over dramatic.
I don’t remember seeing anything like it in the UK. We’ve had great plays like House of Cards and State of Play, but they camp up the intrigue and sinister acts of theirs leads beyond all credulity, and ultimately fail to give a realistic impression of what goes on in politics. If you were to believe them, all politicians are bad and corrupt people.
The West Wing (in my opinion, the finest TV drama ever made until it gave in to sentimentality in the final series) helped to restore faith in the institution of President after the bitter battles of the Clinton years and show that politics needn’t always be divisive as it was during the Bush years.
It is claimed that Borgen helped to pave the way for the election of Denmark’s first woman Prime Minister. I hope so, though I’m sure Helle Thorning-Schmidt could have done it on her own.
My point here is that while dramas are of course all fictional, they do inform and mould public opinion. By always casting politicians as duplicitous, corrupt, ignorant and nasty we undermine the whole of politics in the UK.
In Borgen and The West Wing, good people and ideas triumph, but not always an not always easily. It’s a better reflection of reality though I think and something similar is long overdue in the UK.