Posted by: ritagone | May 22, 2013

Black and White and Gray


         There’s a new TV series imported from – of all places – Denmark, that premiered here on PBS last week.  It’s called “Borgen,” meaning “Government,” and it’s one of those shows that I think is going to be extremely provocative and insightful.

         In the series opener, a woman of the Moderate Party, several days before the election, slips during an interview and says that if the leader of the opposing party changes his position on a certain issue, her party will not back him.  There goes collaboration out the window; political expediency is gone.  Her handler, a street-wise young man with political savvy oozing out of every pore, moral standards be damned, knows instantly that she has damaged her own position in the Moderate Party.

         On and on it goes, intrigue after intrigue.  The Prime Minister, in London for a conference with a semi-crazy wife on his hands, bails her out on a wild shopping spree by using a government credit card when he has forgotten to carry his own personal credit card.  He knows he shouldn’t do this, but he has to get his wife out of the store before she makes a scene that will attract the media, something that every politician must always be aware and fearful of.  This will come back to bite him by the end of the episode.

         Birgitte, the Moderate Party’s representative whom we like immediately, because she loves her husband and her children and because there seems to be no guile in their relationship (at least in the first episode, cynic that I am), plays fair and square.  (She is also the lynchpin of the series around whom the show pivots.) When her young handler discovers the P.M.’s misguided error with the credit card, he wants Birgitte to use the information to discredit him in an upcoming televised debate.  She refuses because, yes, she has a moral fiber.  What does he do, then?  He takes this slanderous information to her opponent, the leader of the Liberal Party, a man you are meant to instantly dislike because you see immediately that this man has no scruples, would do anything to get into office, and is the absolute worst kind of politician around.

         When, during the course of the televised debate, the Liberal villain discloses the P.M.’s dastardly deed, she knows immediately where the information came from.  The P.M. stalks off, the debate comes to a screeching end, and Birgitte tells her assistant to gather his things from his desk and leave.  She fires him.

         By the end of the show, because the other candidates have been split apart by their dishonesty and their dissemination, Birgitte, the only honest candidate on the platform, wins the day.  She is going to become Prime Minister!

         So far, so good!

         The good guy (gal) won.  The bad guys got punished in their defeat.  All’s well with the world.  At least in episode one.

         That’s the way I like my world.  Black is black, white is white, and there is no gray.

         But, like the unfolding of real life, I suspect this televised drama will not be as clear-cut as the episodes unwind in the weeks to come.  Life (and television drama) just doesn’t work that way, much as we would all like it to.  I fear that the drama of the series will come from Birgitte’s challenge to remain true to her ethics and moral compass as the Prime Minister, even of Denmark. 

I’m going to watch with a broken heart as she goes from black and white (good) to gray (not so good), because then she will become like every politician on my own home soil…and like every one of us.

Which, I suppose, always brings us back to Scripture: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).


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