Category Archives: Social standing

Everything old is new again

Here’s something to lighten our recent discussions.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see that the new fashion styles being advertised hark back to the days that I suggested seemed retro when I wrote about the dresses Louisa wears. So much of fashion gets recycled over the years.

It looks like the little floral dresses we are used to seeing Louisa wear are now being promoted as great choices for Spring. See

It  might just be an Easter thing, but there are certainly more stores making pretty floral dresses available this year! (I gotta say most of them don’t appeal to me! But then again, I’m not the right age for them either.)

Originally posted 2015-03-26 09:24:19.

“See the garment, think the person”

When I mentioned Louisa’s fashion style in my recent post about this character, not much commentary came of it. Maybe I’m strange, but I find clothing choices quite telling and now I have learned that I’m not the only one.

It turns out that this past week in London at the Design Museum an exhibit called “Women Fashion Power” opened. (Of course, I saw this in the NYTimes.) It’s co-curator, Donna Loveday, is quoted as saying, “’It felt like it was the right time to look at the rise of women in contemporary power roles, and how they view and use fashion to facilitate their place in the world.’”

According to Times Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, “the show includes 25 high-profile women happy to go public with their thoughts on clothing. This includes the usual suspects: fashion professionals like Natalie Massenet, the executive chairwoman of Net-a-Porter; the designer Vivienne Westwood; and the model Naomi Campbell. But it also includes Wei Sun Christianson, a co-chief executive of Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific; Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris (who also opened the exhibition); Alfiya Kuanysheva, the chief executive of the Kazakhstan finance group BATT; and Kirsty Wark, the British broadcaster.

That, it seems to me, is an enormous and meaningful change in the conversation about achievement and gender. The idea that women whose power is undeniable and exists in traditionally male sectors like banking and politics may stand up and say, for the record and posterity, that clothes matter and require (and deserve) thought is, in my experience, unprecedented.” Vanessa should know, “Friedman was the Fashion Features Director for In Style UK, a position she held since 2000 to 2002. Prior to this, she worked as a Fashion Correspondent for the FT, as an Arts Contributor at The Economist and was the European Editor at Elle (magazine) US. She has also written extensively on a freelance basis for Entertainment Weekly, Vogue magazine, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.” (Wikipedia)

Friedman goes on to say, “what women wear is an embodiment of their voice, and identifying it helps identify their agenda (as it does with men, for that matter).”

So, when I tried to start a conversation about Louisa and the clothes she wears, I wasn’t just making a silly side comment. I really consider her clothes an important feature of her as a woman. I would submit that Louisa is put in dresses that identify her immediately — we see the dress, we know it’s Louisa. (We also identify her through her hair, especially her ponytail.) What do these dresses tell us about her? Is she the rural country woman, quintessentially English because her clothes are filled with flowers and have that classic cut? Do they say independence and individualism are her hallmarks? Are they conservative in that they hark back to Victorian times, or are they merely professional and modest? In S6, Louisa has totally left the blue jeans and sneakers behind and now dresses in more sophisticated versions of her former flowered dresses or even wears a more contemporary look of leggings and jacket with scarf. She has married the doctor who always wears a suit. Perhaps this is a way to mirror him and his social status in the community.

I find it significant and noticeable. Isn’t there anyone else who thinks there is something important going on in terms of Louisa’s clothes?

Originally posted 2014-11-04 17:06:23.

An in depth look at Louisa

When mentioning the importance of story and expressing a hope that we will learn more of Martin and Louisa’s backstories, I ended up thinking more about Louisa. There’s quite a lot about the character of Louisa that brings up questions. All we know is that her mother left her with her father at the age of 11 so that she could move to Spain and be with Javier, and her father is a gambler and has been involved in illegal activities. (Age 11 seems to be the magic age for both Martin and Louisa to have had the rug pulled out from under them by their parents.) Nevertheless, Louisa has fond memories of times with her father and is the one person who believes he is innocent of stealing the lifeboat money until she finally confronts him and forces him to tell her the truth. Although she has a lot of resentment towards her mother for leaving her at such an early age, she is willing to rely on her mother again even after she learns that her mother has entrusted the local juvenile delinquent with her baby. It seems there’s almost nothing her mother can do to utterly destroy Louisa’s willingness to give her another chance. We recognize this as a character trait because she has treated Martin that way as well. Perhaps Louisa’s tendency to give her parents and others second chances stems from a deep impulse to believe people will eventually stop disappointing her. As Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

We know she, Danny and Isobel went to school in Portwenn, and when she went to college in London, she met Holly. We don’t know how she decided to go there and how she was able to pay for it. Where did she get her values, her desire to work with children, her drive? (I think we can come up with explanations for these on our own, but we don’t get any from the show.) Although she appears to be quite level-headed, she has returned to Portwenn with plans to stay despite its many limitations for a single woman, especially one who wants to meet the right man and have a family. In fact, she returns to Portwenn two times from London – once after her college days and again after her first wedding is aborted and she moves to London. London is not for her! Everyone is certain that any school in London would be lucky to have her as a teacher, but when she returns to Portwenn pregnant, she says the school was not happy with her pregnancy. Never mind her argument in a later episode that it is against the rules to use pregnancy as a reason not to hire a teacher. (Presumably also not to fire one.)

She describes Martin as moral and straighforward. She, too, could be described with those adjectives, and she is described as liking people. She demonstrates personal concern and sympathy for many others, including Peter Cronk and his mother, Mrs. Tishell, Allison, and Ruth. We can’t leave out that she is feisty. She immediately challenges Martin during his interview to become the new GP in Portwenn, and there are many great moments when she defends herself or her decisions. She’s not afraid to stand up to Martin, Bert, or Mrs. Tishell. In one scene, prior to her first attempt at marrying Martin, she gives the whole group at her house a talking to.

It’s pertinent to look at the clothes they choose for her too. To a great extent much of her clothing seems to come from the line of Laura Ashley clothing. Here we are in the 2000s, up to and including 2013, and Louisa is, for the most part, still wearing little flowered dresses with pink and red cardigans. Her clothes are distinct from all the other women in Portwenn, especially any of the receptionists.

The dresses are actually quite ambiguous to me. I decided to look into this style and discovered some interesting information about them. I learned that Laura Ashley designs according to this website conjure up terms like:
Florals. Milkmaids. Folksy. Quintessentially English.

It goes on to say, “from the beginning, their designs were rooted in the past, looking to Victorian designs to create headscarves which were a success. Women loved the fantasy of pastoral lifestyle and likewise, their homewards also fitted into this aspiration.”

On the other hand, Jane Ashley, Laura’s daughter, “just so happen [sic] to go to art school with two girls from punk band The Slits and Mick Jones and Paul Simonen from The Clash and so they also did a spot of modelling for the brand.” You can check out some pictures of them here. In case, like me, you aren’t sure what punk is, Wikipedia states “Punk bands created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics…it became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. For the most part, punk took root in local scenes that tended to reject association with the mainstream. An associated punk subculture emerged, expressing youthful rebellion and characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry to bondage and S&M clothes). They add, “Even as nostalgia was discarded, many in the scene adopted a nihilistic attitude summed up by the Sex Pistols slogan “No Future”; in the later words of one observer, amid the unemployment and social unrest in 1977, ‘punk’s nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England.'” Jane deliberately mixed the traditional style of the Ashley brand with punk stars in her photographic representations, something of a subversion of the brand. (The little I know about Caroline Catz’s sense of style leads me to wonder if she, too, considers wearing the floral Ashley designs as a means of being alternative. She has been involved in producing films and documentaries that indicate her appreciation of the music of the 70s, she has worn one of the dresses used in Doc Martin to a showing of her most recent music documentary, and the picture of her at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards shows her in a lacy dress that looks sort of retro to me. She may collaborate on the wardrobe choices for Louisa.)

When Princess Diana was a fan of the brand, it marked a Sloane Ranger association despite the fact that the clothes were still very much affordable and from the high street. Again from Wikipedia: “The exemplar female Sloane Ranger was considered to be Lady Diana Spencer before marrying the Prince of Wales, when she was an aristocrat from the Spencer family. However, most Sloanes were not aristocrats as Lady Diana was. Considered typical of SRs was patriotism and traditionalism, and a belief in the values of upper class and upper-middle class culture, confidence in themselves and their given places in the world, a fondness for life in the countryside, country sports in particular, philistinism and anti-intellectualism.”

Today Kate Middleton is considered a Sloane but the brand has changed somewhat and wearing Laura Ashley type dresses is no longer popular amongst Sloanes. Here’s one reference in regard to Kate and her Sloane connection. (It’s kind of eerie that Kate follows in Diana’s footsteps.)

So is wearing this type of dress and cardigan indicative of Louisa being a part of the establishment and settled in her rural life or is it something of a playful way to impart individualism and rebellion? Laura Ashley designs are still made today and sometimes shown with models wearing high top sneakers or other disparate footwear. Jane Ashley’s 70s combination of punk with Victorian style dresses may have been a precursor for today’s fashions.

In my opinion, the outfits Louisa wears when pregnant in the show are the nicest and most flattering to her. That sounds odd, I know, but they appeal to me as more contemporary and sophisticated. S6 used more of that sort of wardrobe too with leggings and scarves, and I think Caroline has aged well and looks more attractive in S6 than in any of the other series. Louisa has matured into a married woman with a child who struggles with many of the same difficulties other working mothers have today. S1E1 began with her wearing something like the corset Edith wears in S4. I found it quite surprising that she would wear a sort of bustier under a cardigan to a serious meeting. But then we could say it was a sign of strength and independence. It was nice to see her relax in jeans at times, even when entertaining Martin for dinner and despite knowing he would be in a suit.

Louisa is a free spirit to some extent and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. Her mother is a non-conformist and Louisa grew up fending for herself from a young age. That she figures she can fend for herself when she’s pregnant comes as no surprise. Louisa is a great female character who contains a lot of ambiguity while also being a symbol of femininity at its best. Is she too harsh in S6? Maybe. But I get a kick out of her.

Originally posted 2014-10-26 09:15:02.

Laughter and Civility

Our last discussion was about attachment theory, and I had been considering writing a post about that, but I have found a different reason to take up my “pen” again. Recently there was a review in the NYT of several books that have been published on the subject of civility. Therefore, I was moved to write about that. (I’m sure some of the current public behavior we have been witnessing had something to do with this urge, but, the fact that laughter has sometimes been connected to civility also made me want to write about it.)

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that the philosopher Thomas Hobbes had written about his theory of laughter. I think I remember it because of the example he used. Hobbes’ theory revolves around those who laugh because they feel superior to someone else as when we laugh at someone who slips on a banana peel. To Hobbes, a society built on laughter would be a society built on mockery, or people laughing at the misfortunes of others.

It surprised me to learn that Hobbes was one of the few philosophers who gave laughter much consideration. Aristotle, for example, wrote more about tragedy and how tragic characters were generally of average or better than average standing. In his view, in comedy individuals of lesser virtue are the norm and we look down on them. The bottom line seems to be that humor is often a consequence of denigrating someone.

I confess to being guilty of this, and suspect most of us are. Moreover, Doc Martin is rife with humor based on this model. Whenever ME walks into a door frame or low ceiling, slips in mud, or drives his car off the road; whenever Penhale attempts anything resembling actual police work; whenever Louisa dangles from a hospital bed or says something that is misinterpreted, we are in the arena of Hobbes’ Superiority Theory of laughter. We could add other characters, e.g. Mrs. Tishell, Bert, and Janice. Each one of these characters has been depicted in comedic settings that would be categorized as a pratfall. A pratfall is basically a stupid and humiliating action. It is something that has been a part of comedy for as long as we can remember. And the remarkable thing about it is that it often involves a perceived highly-competent individual who becomes more likable after committing a blunder, according to something called the pratfall effect. I would venture to say that all of the above characters benefit from the pratfall effect. Thus, we can summarize that we laugh because we recognize how inept these characters are while we also find them more appealing as a result.

Furthermore, I then came across a recent article by Emily Nussbaum, TV critic of The New Yorker Magazine, on jokes article It seemed perfect that the accompanying picture is of a golden banana peel with the potential that there could be a tangential connection to Hobbes’ Superiority Theory. Nussbaum lists Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield, and Don Rickles as practitioners of a type of humor that she calls insult comedy. (I would put Dame Edna in this category as well.) In the process of being rude, these comics also reveal some very incisive points about society and politics.

Indeed Nussbaum comments that the political journalist Rebecca Traister described this phenomenon… as “the finger trap.” “You are placed loosely within the joke, which is so playful, so light—why protest? It’s only when you pull back—show that you’re hurt, or get angry, or try to argue that the joke is a lie, or, worse, deny that the joke is funny—that the joke tightens. If you object, you’re a censor. If you show pain, you’re a weakling. It’s a dynamic that goes back to the rude, rule-breaking Groucho Marx—destroyer of élites!—and Margaret Dumont, pop culture’s primal pearl-clutcher.”

Isn’t that exactly what happens to ME when Bert sets him up with his fake injury using ketchup? Nothing ME did at that point could have salvaged his dignity. Another time this trap appears is when Pauline takes a picture of ME sleeping with the dog on the floor and then shares the picture around town. ME gets comedically “punished” regularly, either with pratfalls or with irreconcilable humiliations. His most prevalent rejoinder is one of superiority towards those who are discourteous to him. There’s almost a “tit for tat” element played out.

I am not saying that laughing at such situations is malicious, even if Hobbes would make that argument; however, I am proposing that we should step back and think about what it is that makes us laugh.

The Superiority Theory leads us to a discussion of the subject of self-esteem, which is how one views oneself or one’s attitude towards oneself. Self-esteem has been the subject of much study with prominent psychologists like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, placing it in an important position in human development. I think we can leave it at the place where we recognize that there are people who have anything from high self-esteem to low self-esteem, and each of those markers is associated with particular personality characteristics. (We have already analyzed ME and LE on the MMPI, and we could get into where they fall on the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, but that is not what I want to concentrate on in this post.) More important is whether our own self-esteem is implicated in why we laugh, or accept without much reservation, that it’s admissible to laugh when comedians are uncivil to others.

First we need to agree on what it means to be uncivil. Civility goes beyond mere toleration, but may inherently imply a mutual co-existence and respect for humankind. It may interest you to know that George Washington wrote Rules of Civility as a teenager. It is a list of 110 ways for how to behave civilly. Obviously he felt compelled to set down some guidelines during his youth, and we can only imagine he had a reason to think society needed to know them. More recently there have been articles in psychology journals that address this concern as well. In the mentioned article, civility is defined as “awareness, self-control, empathy and respect…It requires us to treat others with decency, regardless of our differences. It demands restraint and an ability to put the interests of the common good above self-interests.” Even though I have not tried to find the statistics on current uncivil behavior, I think we can agree that between the online bullying and the overt impolite conduct too many young people exhibit towards adults (not to mention the name calling and other forms of belittling practiced by adults), we can come to the conclusion that uncivil actions have only increased. Should we be troubled by the expression of uncivil comportment in our comedy?

The controversy about civility and how to deal with it has been long standing. In that same recent book review in the NYT mentioned above, Hobbes is noted as having “feared that strident expressions of disagreement would threaten the diversity of views in society (much as hate speech is now thought to do), so he advocated an ethic of ‘civil silence,’ or public discretion: People could differ privately in their opinions as much as they wanted but should not openly dispute one another. Locke, by contrast, wanted to preserve public debate, but worried that too much diversity of opinion might jeopardize productive disagreement (the sort of concern campus speech codes now reflect). So he urged an ethic of ‘mutual charity,’ which required people to cultivate at least a minimal appreciation for the views of their opponents, or else be disqualified from debate. Both thinkers, in other words, imagined bringing about a tolerant society via suppression or exclusion — the very forces you would think a tolerant society would want to avoid.”

The review goes on to note that Roger Williams, a 17th C religious radical, “asked not that everyone keep quiet or respect his or her enemies, but merely that everyone not do anything to stop the conversation from going. Williams’s ‘mere civility’ demands more of us than Locke’s or Hobbes’s civility, in that it requires we have thicker skins about other people’s rudeness or disrespect; but it also demands less of us, in that we no longer have to muster respect for, or mute our criticism of, views we abhor.” In other words, he contrasts forbearance with tolerance.

Who is acting uncivilly in Doc Martin? Topping the list is the group of girls who regularly walk past ME and call him a tosser amongst other things. They are particularly bad when they mock him after Louisa leaves him and suggest he might want to date one of their mothers. Actually I have trouble thinking of any teenager in this show who isn’t disrespectful. From the boys on the beach who tell off ME to the delinquent Eleanor engages to watch James Henry to Becky Trevean and her cohort, they are all extremely impolite and disturbingly combative. Then there’s Becky Wead who writes the critical article of him in the school newspaper and Kelly Sparrock who tells him off and treats him with disdain even while he’s trying to diagnose her seizure disorder.

Apart from these members of Port Isaac’s community, we can include many others who speak disparagingly about the doc, often reflecting an obvious contempt for him. This group would include Allison, Danny and his mother, Mark’s sister, and Caroline (the radio Portwenn personality).

Among the people who are uncivil we can’t leave out Martin Ellingham himself. Could there be a more derogatory and insolent person than him? He is pugnacious towards his patients, generally suspicious of many of the motives of the townspeople, including Louisa, and, of course, has no social skills at all. His character is deliberately constructed in this manner, but we shouldn’t overlook this aspect of his personality. He cannot even restrain himself from giving the people of Portwenn a lecture on diet when he is delivering a eulogy of his beloved aunt.

The fact that these are offset by quite a few people who admire his medical ability and who manage to appreciate him despite his own uncivil behavior redeems him and provides sufficient agreeableness to his character. And Martin Ellingham is himself recuperated by some of the kindnesses he is capable of displaying.

I have previously argued that we don’t want to “fix” ME, or probably any of the characters. I would still maintain that though comedy may stem from uncivil behavior, it is rather harmless in this show. Still, the more we tolerate uncivil treatment of others, the more we may be accepting creeping incivility in our world.

Originally posted 2017-01-22 12:45:51.

About the car

(Sorry this took a while. I had a chance to go on a trip and enjoy some warm weather. Back to cold and wet again!)

For some reason I have neglected to mention the silver Lexus M drives throughout the series. For one thing, I think it should be included among the elements of the show that are indicative of class differences between M and the rest of the village. There aren’t many remarks made about the car by the people in the village, but the shiny, silver LS 430 certainly is noticeable against the pick-ups and mostly compact or worn-out vehicles commonly driven around town. (The one time that I remember somebody noting the car is in the final episode of S6 when M drives into the fruit stand to avoid running into a red van. The driver of the van angrily tells M he should use his “fancy car” rather than borrow the van.) Only the McLynns and Aunt Ruth drive cars of similar status, Mercedes.

I’m not sure why a Lexus was chosen as the emblematic car in the series. It could be something as simple as Lexus offering it for use in the show. From what I can gather, Lexus is not a popular car in the UK. Nevertheless, it is considered a luxury car and is definitely out of place in Portwenn with its narrow streets. Like the doc’s suits, it distinguishes M from the townspeople and is particularly unusual when he drives it down the dirt roads around the area and into the fields surrounding the town, sometimes literally. I’m sure that’s the point – even his car doesn’t fit in!

Its size does correspond to the doc’s height and when the airbags deploy on a fairly regular basis, they match up with the many times M otherwise bumps into things. The car also becomes a place where M sleeps on occasion. The first time is in the opening episode when M is looking for Ross and ends up in a muddy ditch. Thereafter, M dozes in the car when trying to get JH to sleep one morning in S5, and he falls asleep with JH in the seat next to him when L is in the hospital in S6. Under these circumstances the car becomes a refuge, a safe place away from home.

But much of the time it’s a location for some tension. Of course, the ride back to Louisa’s after they attend the concert and M spoils the passionate kiss L gives him is among the most tense. Her irritation with him is so palpable that he actually wants to turn on the radio. And then she delivers the blow of not wanting to see him any more. Ouch!

Some other tense moments in the car include Martin picking up his parents at the train station. It’s a mystery to him why they chose to visit and, as they haven’t spoken in 7 years, his mother is mostly silent, and he’s not much of a conversationalist, the ride to the village is uncomfortable at best. Then Danny flags them down because his car has died, and he piles his gear into the trunk. Now Martin has his estranged parents in the car along with the one man in the village he despises. Danny tries to be cheerful, an additional irritant, and he makes things even more awkward by not only thanking Martin, but also blessing him. I find all of this amusing while at the same time being testy.

Then there is the time when Martin speeds to find Louisa after Tommy’s Taxi has driven off the road. He’s worried about Louisa because she’s pregnant, and he has to deal with Tommy’s methanol poisoning. Louisa is worried about Tommy, and the ride is filled with urgency to get Tommy to a pub so alcohol can counteract the effects of the methanol. Hanging over the episode is the expectation that Martin is leaving for London and this sojourn is just a little side trip. The baby is born in the pub and the next episode begins at the hospital where Louisa has been checked for any postnatal complications. She’s free to go and Martin offers to drive her back to Portwenn with the baby. This car ride begins with Martin helping Louisa buckle into the back seat while she holds the baby, and they bicker over whether she will accompany him to London. Once on the road, they spar about the baby’s name and about Louisa going back to work, a constant battle in their relationship. Louisa reminds Martin that he’ll be returning to work, then Martin shocks her (and us) by telling her “they’d manage if you died.” Somehow all is well again once they get to Louisa’s house.

Finally we have the race to find JH when Mrs. T has absconded with him. Martin drives rapidly to the school to tell Louisa that Mrs. T has taken JH. He runs in to find Louisa while Ruth and Penhale wait in the car. Penhale brilliantly notes that Louisa is upset and probably mad at Martin when they come running out of the school towards the car. Once they take off to “the castle,” Martin reveals that Mrs. T has clippings of him in her wardrobe, something pretty disturbing for Louisa to hear. Penhale tries to calm down L only to make things worse, as usual. Ruth adds to the level of concern by explaining that no one can know what kind of psychological state Mrs. T is in and whether the child is safe. Obviously they are all on edge throughout the ride and remain so while looking for Mrs. T.

I found the incident when Martin talks to Edith while driving fast to see a sick patient pretty tense. Edith is waiting for him at lunch with Robert Dashwood from London who expects to talk to M about the London surgical position, but M brushes her off, a clear indication of his priorities. Going to lunch would be the best thing for his career move, but he cuts off Edith decisively and she is left to cover up for him. I would imagine she’s not too happy about it. Maybe it’s also a sign that Martin will not be pushed around by Edith.

Less significant but still tense moments in the car include the many times when the dogs find a way to get into the car. Martin either kicks them out or delivers them to others with a sneer. One of the few times when Martin voluntarily puts a dog in the car is when he backs over Mrs. Wilson’s Yorkie and wraps it in a newspaper to bring to her. And there is the time when Martin agrees to drive Mrs. Wilson home because he nearly ran into her on the street. He’s not pleased in the first place, and her dog is with her too. He also ends up taking Caroline home when she nearly crashes into Mark Mylow. M hasn’t figured out what’s going on with her, but she’s unsteady and can’t drive herself. She is angry at M and doesn’t hide it, but she accepts the ride as a last resort. The minute they get to her house, she exits the car without a word of thanks. The time in the car must have been pretty icy.

There’s no doubt that the car plays a symbolic role as a conspicuous feature of Dr. Martin Ellingham’s persona. It is anything but helpful to his overall image and adds to the many ways in which ME has trouble integrating with the village. Like so many of his personal characteristics, the car he brings with him magnifies his differences. Driving it and/or riding in it is no party either.

Originally posted 2014-03-07 22:07:09.

Class differences in UK

Previously on this blog there have been comments about how the relationship between Martin and Louisa should also take into account the difference in their class status. Veronica noted that in England it might be unusual for a person from Martin’s background to fall in love with and marry a person from Louisa’s background because of their class differences. She used the naming process as an example: When they leave the hospital and Louisa mentions calling the baby Terry after her father,Martin thinks the name Terry is too common. He covers his first comment by saying “I mean too many Terrys already?” trying to make it sound like he means it’s too often used rather than it’s not of high enough status.

When they go out to dinner to discuss the baby’s name (S5E5), Martin mentions he’d like to use Henry, his grandfather’s name, and that his grandfather was an accomplished physician. Louisa counters that her grandfather’s name, James, would be her choice and that he was a postman. She appears defensive about that and tells Martin the fact that her grandfather was a postman doesn’t make his choice more valid. For his part, Martin denies he was making any judgement about status, but the issue is out there.

During the course of the series there have been comments by villagers about Martin’s suits. His suits function in so many ways that I hadn’t given much thought to how they would also be a symbol of class distinction. But it’s certainly true that there isn’t any other villager who regularly wears a suit. Penhale, and the other police officers, wear uniforms and that sets them apart from the people in town, but most of the town dresses casually on a daily basis. That’s not really so different from most towns, although Portwenn has no evident lawyer, banker, or corporation that might include others dressed in more formal attire.(Actually, Tom, Caroline’s husband, has a coat and tie on in the episode where he appears.)

I mentioned in my entry about myself that my husband practiced neurology in a small town. One of the amusing things about some of the doctors there was that a few liked to walk around town with their white coats on. Sometimes they’d go to the post office or other places in the village with scrubs under white coats, or just the white coats over a nice shirt and pants. We always thought they looked ridiculous and were trying to impress people.

In our experience in the medical profession, some hospitals expect the medical students and doctors to wear ties and white jackets or coats, some do not, and some of these practices have changed over the years. We see some of that when Peter Cronk gets taken to the hospital and those doctors are wearing ties or dressy clothes. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota requires its doctors to wear jackets and ties as a sign of respect for the patients. So for Martin as the GP to wear a suit wasn’t so remarkable to me. (I know it’s also used as an indicator of being uptight, closed off, oriented toward ritual, etc.) But I have to admit, wearing a suit also sets him apart and above the villagers.

I have to say that Louisa, too, often dresses more nicely than her colleagues or most of the other villagers. Because of that, she seems more likely to be a woman Martin would find appealing, but it also sets her apart to a certain extent. We do see her in jeans at times, though, and that connects her to the community.

Of course, it is their altercation over schools that causes a big brouhaha in their marriage. Martin is already interested in signing JH up for a boarding school, but Louisa is totally against it and can’t believe Martin would be thinking already about sending JH away when he’s still such a young baby. She’s upset for more than class reasons — she’s the headmistress of the school and considers the school fine for a good education. After all, she was educated there and went to college in London. But Martin wants to give JH the best education available.

This argument is consistently a part of US education discussions. Are our public schools giving our children a sufficiently good education? Do parents need to send their children to expensive private schools, boarding or otherwise, to get them a quality education?

I really hadn’t thought too much about this concern in terms of UK and this show until I saw an article by the associated press recently that reported:

“In most areas of British life, success comes down to going to the right — usually expensive — school.

A third of Britain’s lawmakers, half its senior doctors and more than two-thirds of its High Court judges went to private schools, which educate just 7 percent of British children, according to statistics compiled by the British Parliament. Well more than a third of Oxbridge undergraduates still come from these private schools.”

So it looks like the show actually is making an accurate point about the importance of going to an elite school that will lead to a high-status career. The conflict is not just a good way to put Martin and Louisa at odds, especially about something that is her profession.

There’s also the matter of whether Louisa should return to work now that she has a baby. Martin doesn’t want Louisa to work, a sign that he makes enough money to support them both and that he’s still thinking like old-fashioned elite men who want their wives to be home with the children. He gets a lot of blowback on that from Louisa throughout series 5 and into series 6.

We also know that Martin’s parents consider his move to Portwenn to be the GP a definite step down for him.

More than I originally realized, it seems like class and its importance in the UK is a factor in this series.

Originally posted 2014-02-12 16:25:00.