Monday, August 18, 2014

My deepest fears expressed through a Danish TV drama

PEOPLE. If you haven't watched Borgen, and you think you want to, don't read this post because it contains SPOILERS. If you have watched it, or don't think you yourself will become obsessed with a Danish television drama, please, read ahead:

Over the past few weeks, we have finished the first season of the Danish TV drama Borgen -- which translates something like government or castle, depending on whether you are asking the subtitles of the show or Google translate. The government is housed in a castle, so maybe that is the confusion. It follows the story of a woman (wife, mother, moderate politician) who becomes prime minister, a post she herself never actually wanted but somehow fell into her lap. I was hooked from the start -- I loved her politics, and her personality, and most of all her relationship with her husband. It was like me and Tim ten years from now. They talked, they had great sex, and he supported her 100%. At first. But then, even though he encouraged her to take the job and told her her would pick up the slack at home, he gets lonely. She is busy, for obvious reasons (as she finally reminds him later: "I just made statsminister!"), and she becomes distant and distracted (because, you know, she's running a COUNTRY). He wants to be a CEO, and instead he's stuck teaching 22-yr-olds at a community college about international finance. He becomes bitter. He has an affair. And ultimately their marriage falls apart.

I KNOW, I KNOW, this is a TV show, right? I have been strangely devastated by this turn of events. I think because from the beginning, Philip reminded me so much of Tim, and I like to think I have a little Birgitte in me too. And sometimes I can see Tim getting bored and restless spending so much time with the kids while I am being wildly successful in grad school (well, while I was). And not like I'm saying Tim is the cheating kind (in fact, I have never once actively worried about this even though my husband has long Facebook conversations with a lot of women), but I think I must have some subconscious fear of infidelity that is surfacing now watching this show. Or at least fear that my ambition will lead to the dissolution of my marriage. And it's not like it's the first show I've watched where a husband cheats on his wife, but I could relate to them and their marriage so much. They were doing the "five-year plan" like how we've talked about -- trading off careers/childcare... you on for five years, me on for five years. He is kind of broody and quiet and good-natured... like Tim. She is smart and talkative and a perfectionist and a tad controlling. I was rooting for this show to be the example of the feminist family! Now, instead I'm disappointed and wondering whether this can even be a reality. Not like I will ever be a Scandinavian statsminister, but I think one day I may go into politics, and even if I go into academia, I will be busy and distracted many days and won't be able to focus my attention on my kids and husband. And maybe he or they will resent that... and I will be too busy and distracted to take the time to figure out what is wrong or how to fix it. Or maybe we will make our own Danish television drama one day, and the couple will stay together and it will garner fantastic ratings.


  1. This is an interesting post. I think no matter what lifestyle you choose, resentment can creep into a marriage, and unless you deal with it in an open and healthy way it can create problems.

  2. I just now read this post, and I can totally relate, except that for me the show was The Politician's Husband, which is a BBC mini-series starring David Tennant. He and his wife are both in politics, but when a political risk leads to a lull in his career and opens up the opportunity for his wife to rise politically, their fairytale egalitarian marriage becomes increasingly strained.