This week I started watching the TV show Salem. It is a piece of fiction set in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1680s and '90s, the period leading up to the Witch trials and probably including the trials themselves. But I will never get that far. I made it almost all the way to the end of the first episode.
As I say, I am not an historian so the facts of the case never bother me as much as the way daily life is presented. I could live with John Alden (the son of "Speak for yourself, John", and Priscilla Mullins) as the best preserved 60 year old I have ever seen. But I was beginning to fuss about the clothing. Most of the women wore white linen caps, as they should. Mary Sibley, the beautiful young love interest wore a bit of black lace on her head. Not very practical. The single thing that made me realize that this series was not for me was a quick glance Mary's hands. Her fingernails were perfectly manicured, sparkly with clear nail polish. This is a woman who never did any hard labor. Now, of course she was the wife of the richest man in Salem, but even a woman of status did her share of the work. There simply were not enough hands to do everything that was needed.
I am not fond of the portrayal of Cotton Mather (see picture) as another young hunk. He was in his late 30s at the time of the trials. I'm not sure he was ever a hunk, even during his teenage years when he was a student at Harvard. He was a brilliant and caring man, who is seen here as a raving fanatic.
What didn't bother me was the portrayal of the devil as a real creature. I though he was sort of charming, if over sexed. He certainly was more interesting than any of the real men in the story. I wanted to see more of him than little flashes.
What the viewer is deprived of here, is the view of these people living on the edge of a wilderness, three months of rugged ocean journey from their home. They have clawed out a tiny bit of (English) civilization on the coast of an unforgiving land with inhabitants who don't act at all like Englishmen. They face death daily. They work hard to stay alive. They are dependent on the stability of their community to support them.
Isn't this a far better story than that of pretty ladies and gentlemen lusting after each other?