Pros: exaggerated humor; the opportunity to fit modernity into the realities of the 19th century; part of the soundtrack Cons: changes in facts from the biography; fluctuation between genres “Dickinson” / Dickinson
Genre drama, comedy
Creator Alena Smith
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld (Emily Dickinson), Adrian Anscoe (Austin Dickinson), Anna Baryshnikova (Lavinia Dickinson), Jane Krakowski (Emily Norcross Dickinson), Toby Huss (Edward Dickinson), Ella Hunt (Susan Gilbert), Matt Lauria (Benjamin Newton) ), Wiz Khalifa (Death), etc.
Apple TV+ channel
Year of release 2019
The series is dedicated to Emily Dickinson, who never saw recognition for her work. Emily created melancholy poems with short lines in which she often mentioned death. The poetess lived most of her life in her father’s house – it was this place that became the center of all the events of the new series.
The ten-episode Dickinson project could have been an ordinary classic drama retelling the biography of the 19th century writer. Apparently, the showrunners considered this format extremely boring and unnecessary. Therefore, they presented their version of a historical production – in it, young people who lived in the era of romanticism behave in the spirit of modern mores.
So, the main character of the series is the girl Emily (played by actress Hailee Steinfeld), who is the eldest daughter of the Dickinson family. She is too willful and, what is even worse for her parents, she is passionate about poetry. Emily does not agree that all women her age should find spouses and then become humble homemakers. The heroine longs to study books, attend lectures and share her poems. Emily’s father is categorically against her publications, and other relatives also do not express support. The only friend who shares her views is getting married, and this hurts Emily’s feelings.
The fact that an unusual costume drama is unfolding before us becomes clear even in the first minutes of the series, when a curse comes out of the mouth of the central character. Over time, you will have to get used to the fact that the main character uses slang, and in many situations she will behave like modern teenagers. As the showrunners hint, parties with opium and dancing are not alien to any generation.
Another remarkable detail of the series is Emily’s visions (here without opium), which become the inspiration for her poems. Sometimes she sees a carriage with a ghostly team of horses. Death rides in it, and is in no hurry to take the poetess with him, preferring to share his conversations with the girl. This is not the most unusual part of Emily’s visions. The creators of the series present their interpretation of the character Death, offering to see her performed by rapper Wiz Khalifa (dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings – everything is on him).
A drama created with this approach cannot do without fashionable tracks. They set the tone for each episode, alternating lyrical songs with electronica and rap. It’s unlikely that anyone will be amazed by Billie Eilish’s voice, which can now be heard in the historical series, but the old composition of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will still delight in this madness.
The idea and script for the Dickinson project belong to Alena Smith (who worked on the TV series The Affair). She literally rewrites a story familiar to American audiences, telling it from a new point of view. The attitude of society towards the main character and her response in the series is viewed through the prism of modern views. It is easy to guess that this primarily concerns the position of women in 19th-century society, as well as the lack of prospects for any realization.
Perhaps, in the context of Emily Dickinson’s personality, this makes sense – during her lifetime she was almost never published, and her poems were truly appreciated only by representatives of subsequent generations. For these reasons, Dickinson almost became a “timeless” character. True, her real story was deprived of facts (practically rewriting them for a new plot) and preference was given to exaggerated comedic sketches.
The series “Dickinson” is entirely aimed at a young audience, to whose interests the biography of a famous person was adapted. Even understanding and accepting this, at first almost everything in the series is confusing. After several episodes, about thirty minutes long, the viewing begins to go lively (for those who are not overwhelmed by indignation) and in the end partly takes on a serious shape.
After everything we have seen, it is difficult to give an unambiguous description of the Dickinson series. Obviously, many will categorically not like it, but you can’t call it bad. Each episode balances between comedy and drama, without focusing on one or the other. Sometimes the tone of the series varies wildly, but the message of the showrunners is immediately understood, as is the character of the characters. For those who are interested in such a controversial costume story, the production team is preparing a second season.
the series will not appeal to fans of classic costume dramas. “Dickinson” is aimed at teenage audiences and those who agree to look at a modern interpretation of historical events.