Friday, 9 March 2012

Pan Am

I told Scott this morning that I was going to watch the pilot of Pan Am, the "period drama" about Pan Am airline stewardesses in the early nineteen sixties, during the American golden age.

His response: "Oh eww. . .don't do that. That's like prime time soap opera"

I watched it anyway.

He was right.

But he was also wrong.

What is attractive to me about the notion of Pan Am, as a television series, is the topic itself. Airline stewardesses at the dawn of an age. What the pilot calls a "new breed" of women. What is really interesting about this concept is the unspoken history it attempts to tell. Women's histories were an emerging idea for the period the show describes, and the show itself seems to strive to capture the essence of women coming into their own, stepping up in the professional world in a pattern that would continue through the sixties and the seventies. If the show is to be believed, early second wave feminism has a face, and it is under a jauntily tilted powder blue cap.

This may or may not be true, but regardless, the attempt at portraying an otherwise unspoken female history is in itself admirable. Trying to do it on prime time television, even more so.

The second thing that struck me was the way the show truly captured the feel of 1960's America, with all of its glorious golden dreams of a bright future, but still tied down by all of its past prejudices and conventions. The nation, like the Pan Am stewardesses themselves, is held within the confines of its own metaphorical girdle.

Yeah, I went there.

Overall, I think this show has the potential to be utter crap and I doubt I will watch more of it. As Scott says, it is prime time soap opera. But, it is also more than that and, despite being disinterested in the romantic entanglements that no doubt make up the entire meat of the plotline as the season progresses, I really do admire what Pan Am is trying to do. This is blunt force trauma postmodernism at its best: the insistence on making visible the invisible. The medium is surprising, and the effort is admirable.

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