Alert – Borgen Spoilers
|Look at those cheekbones!|
It’s no secret that I have recently become addicted to Danish drama. I’m not alone in this; a fair number of the UK population secretly and not so secretly thinks that watching Borgen and The Killing makes them semi-fluent in Danish, and that they too can carry off a Sarah Lund style jumper (sweater to my American friends). Is it the strong, confident female leads? Is it the sexy men with their incredible cheekbones? Or is it a bit of both plus a liberal dose of incredible story telling that doesn’t talk down to its viewers?
At the heart of Borgen are four incredibly strong Alpha characters. Birgitte Nyborg, leader of a small political party who finds herself Prime Minister; Phillip Christensen, her gorgeous businessman husband playing stay-at-home-dad; spin doctor Kasper Jull, born Kenneth, who has totally reinvented his past and his ex-girlfriend fiercely ambitious reporter, Katrine. As much as the politics and the intrigue it is the relationships between these four characters that provided a great deal of the conflict.
A lot of romances have an alpha male as their hero; they’re not alone, many genres do whether films, novels or television series: thrillers, westerns, paranormals. Very few have a real alpha female and these characters, like Buffy, struggle to find a partner who can easily accept her strength and leadership (I’m looking at you, Riley Finn). Part of what makes Borgen so intriguing is the power play at home between these alpha couples. Katrine and Kasper, for instance, are bound together by their past, by loyalty and by love but kept apart by distrust; their jobs, his lies. Yet when it comes down to it, they can only really depend on each other.
The Nyborg-Christensens are a completely different proposition. Older, settled with two adorable children and living in an unostentatious but divine house (with the master bedroom weirdly just off the kitchen and fabulous shelving) they are the perfect power couple. They even have found a way to pursue two careers whilst raising kids, each gets five years to concentrate on their career and then they swap, Philip is working as an academic and raising the kids, Birgitte is an MP and leader of a small party hoping to get enough seats in the forthcoming election to make up a small percentage of the coalition.
Only she becomes PM and everything changes. It’s Philip’s turn to carry on with his career but with a wife who is never home that isn’t going to happen – and when he does insist a conflict of interest scuppers his dream job before he gets to pack his briefcase and scout out his new office. The loving, caring relationship descends into silence with Birgitte starts barking out orders as if he is one of her staff whilst Philip sulks. Her insistence he resign from his job is the last straw and it comes at a terrible price. As the series ends Birgitte is alone.
Some people think this terribly unfair, that male politicians fictional and real have spouses prepared to stay at home and forward their husband’s career, why should this female Prime Minister have to pay for being a strong woman, a working mother? They want to see an idealised world where she is supported by a husband who may have given up a six figure salary to unload the dishwasher (a lot, they get through a lot of dishes the Nyborg-Christensens) but is happy to do so – after all women do it all the time.
|Sadly in a shirt not a vest|
I think that’s missing the point. Yes he turns sulky and I am a romance writer for goodness sake, I am never going to condone an affair but this is what can happen after the Happy Ever After when one partner suddenly starts putting a lot less into the relationship. A successful HEA in category romance only happens after both hero and heroine open up, lay themselves bare, risk everything for the sake of the relationship. Philip risks the relationship physically through his infidelity but Birgitte risks it emotionally as she withdraws, rather than fix it she gives him carte blanche as long as he’s discreet. Philip is waiting for her to show that she needs him, wants him, she asks him to put on a façade for the camera. She can’t lay herself bare and he’s stopped trying.
There are two series to come so who knows how this will pan out. Despite everything I am hoping for a reconciliation – and not just because Philip is one of the very few men over forty who can carry off a vest.