Look back at me.
Have you ever thought, said, or wanted to say this as someone walked, drove, or flew away?
On this Labour Day when people march forward to celebrate how far workers have come and how much further they need to go, it’s good to look back on the brave people that fought for workers’ rights.
The BBC miniseries North & South is based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell; screenplay by Sandy Welch and directed by Brian Percival, yes, same title, different show than the American Civil War miniseries, North & South. This North & South refers to the North and South of England, and focuses on industrialization and the inequality between classes.
A couple hundred years later, not much has changed.
The lower classes work themselves into an early grave while the upper classes pay them less than they should to work themselves into an early grave.
Gaskell does an amazing job of showing both sides; some of the upper class want to be fair and some of the lower class want to be more.
Elizabeth Gaskell, considered by some as less romantic than some writers in the Regency-era, after all, she dared to tackle the subjects of: poverty, discrimination, unsafe working conditions, the multiple health hazards of working in factories, unions, child labour and welfare, daycare, nutrition, pollution, inequality between the classes and more, head-on.
Her work, now seen as classic wasn’t beloved by all, still isn’t, many factory owners and the rich didn’t like the truth being exposed or their methods questioned. That hasn’t changed much either.
We feel Gaskell’s conviction in the strength of Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe). She’s not a simpering miss who’s only thought in life is to marry, but a woman of principles, faith, and compassion. She has feelings for John Thornton, well, duh, it’s Richard Armitage, but she stands resolved to be true to herself and others.
Supporting cast is incredible, including Brendan Coyle (now well-known as the enigmatic Bates on Downton Abbey, also Larkrise To Candleford and so much more – I think he’s one of those British actors who probably have their own period piece costumes at the ready).
If you can’t get enough of British period pieces, check out Gaskell’s Cranford series, familiar faces for Downton Abbey fans, Carson (Jim Carter) and Michelle Dockery (Mary), and even an Asgard god (Tom Hiddleston)…one of fav TV games, spot the actor to see if they became a star.
Yes, North & South is at times a grim visage of lives suffered, but with just enough seething, barely contained Victorian passion, fingers lingering as a cup of tea is passed and obligatory smouldering looks to keep it interesting. Have I really been crushing on RA in N&S for 10 years? Wow.
Sometimes it’s the simplest of words, murmured with brooding passion, that capture and inspire, as Armitage admirers (sure, let’s call us that) around the globe believe.
Look back at me.
I won’t tell you if she does.
I can tell you what I would have done.
So as another Labour Day marches on and another summer draws to a close, we look forward. On the off chance you actually believed companies and corporations willing give their workers: fair wages, reasonable hours, days off, health or safety benefits, vacations, or well, anything good workers enjoy, think again. Those were paid for in blood, sweat and tears.
Be thankful and vigilant.