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Hope y’all have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Poldark: An Unfortunate Case of Character Assassination

It happened in season 6 of Parenthood. Close your eyes if you don’t wanna know!

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Parenthood fans know what I’m talking about. When our beloved and loyal and devoted Joel turns into this unrecognizable character that leaves his remorseful wife and refuses to work on their marriage. Mostly because of a kiss that, lest we forget, also happened between him and Racquel in season 1 or 2.

I was irate, because that was not my Joel! My Joel would stay and fight for his wife. He would never leave. This new, lookalike Joel was some imposter from the underworld, sent to make us Parenthood fans turn violent on our televisions.

It’s called character assassination.

This moment when we, as the viewer, feel betrayed, because the character we have fallen in love with, the character who has won our hearts, has suddenly turned into a total and horrendous jerkface.

Enter Poldark.

A show a few good friends of mine had been talking about.

Enter this weekend, wherein I needed to check out from post election insanity and find a happy place. And so, while I organized all the things and folded all the clothes, I watched all of season 1 in a day. My husband says I have an addictive personality. He’s probably right.

And I fell in love.

Spoilers ahead: don’t read if you’re not caught up on last night’s episode.

Swoon! Ross Poldark and Demelza.

Could there be a better couple in all the land of television?

I mean, seriously. The unexpected marriage. His fondness for her in the form of THAT GRIN. The one he tucks away in one corner of his mouth.

The moment that fondness turned into love.

And then baby Julia, and the more precious-than-presh scene where Ross is holding Demelza while Demelza is holding their baby and we have all the very best feels.

Then baby Julia and his wife fall ill and Ross loses his mind, he loves them so much. How can any of us forget the desperate, tortured look in his eye when he asks annoying-Elizabeth to pray that he doesn’t lose the LOVE OF HIS LIFE.

Oh, right. I guess Ross forgets.

At this point, there is nothing I love more than Ross Poldark’s love for Demelza. Together, they are my most favorite.

And then we get to season 2.

Which I watched the next day. (It’s a disease I have, y’all. A disease.)

We still have our beloved Ross, whose integrity and honor are both his strength AND weakness. How could you not love a man like that?

He goes to court, wherein every possible card is stacked against him. Yet, despite the odds, the verdict is not guilty. We all rejoice!

And then everything falls in the toilet.

The Ross we deeply admire slowly disappears. We see glimmers of the old Ross. Like when he tells Demelza about the dog star. Or when he gives her the Christmas present. But it’s kinda hard to stomach in the midst of those simmering looks he keeps giving annoying-Elizabeth.

It seems to come out of nowhere. One minute he doesn’t want anything to do with her, because Julia. Then they all make up at some harvest thing, and suddenly, he’s whispering things to her that make me want to punch him in the throat.

It escalates from there, wherein Elizabeth becomes a widow (RIP sweet Francis) and Ross becomes downright neglectful of his wife (and son … who we all forget exists because nobody ever talks about him).

Then the BIG BAD AWFUL happens, wherein he tells Demelza to get out of his way. TO GET OUT OF HIS WAY, people. I about chucked my computer out the window. I don’t know what’s worse. That moment, or the morning after, when he claimed to have no choice.

Um, Ross? I watched the U.K. version of the show. From my angle, it looked like Elizabeth was the one who didn’t have a choice.

Basically, he lost his integrity AND his intelligence, all in one fell swoop. And Demelza’s not having it.

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How does a person possibly come back from that?

How do we, the viewers, get over it? I mean, what in the world happened to Ross Poldark?

The writers of Parenthood found a way to redeem Joel. But then, Joel didn’t do what Ross did. Whatever creature from the underworld that possessed Mr. Poldark was a thousand times worse than the one who got a hold of Joel.

Look.

I understand that this is  based off books, and they want to stay true to them or whatever. But at what point is it just better for the writers of the show to say, “Um, I think there’s a better way.”

I mean, do any viewers think it’s worth it? To make a character change so unimaginably? To go from the underdog hero to the guy who makes us all want to break things? I have to tell you, as an author, it seems like a poor move. It’s one thing to put your readers on the edges of their seats, to make them despair, even. But to make them viscerally hate the main character?

It doesn’t seem wise. But then, the Poldark books have been successful enough to be made into a television series. Twice. So maybe I’m missing something.

All I have to say is, I wish I would have stopped watching after episode 2 of season 2, and taken that for my happy ending. Back when Ross was still Ross and not the unrecognizable creature he was last night, when the assassination of his character was made complete.

What do you think? About Poldark. About this thing called character assassination. Does it make you stop reading/watching, or become all the more maddeningly invested?

Paving a Way to Unity

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. – Romans 12:15-16

In this cultural climate where many are weeping and many others are calling for harmony, these have to be two of the most relevant verses in the Bible right now.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they come hand-in-hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one precedes the other.

The Greek word used for weeping here is klaio. It means any loud expression of grief, with an emphasis on the noise accompanied with weeping.

And we’re seeing it, aren’t we? We’re seeing pain and fear surface these days. It’s loud. And honestly? I think for most of us entrenched in white America, it’s uncomfortable. We don’t like to leave too much space for lament.

Yet, in this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us that part of our job as believers is to enter into the feelings of others. Even if they are louder than what we’re comfortable with. Even if they don’t make sense to us.

I love what Anthony Bushnell says in his post, Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear:

“We don’t have to agree with the intensity of their fear in order to empathize with them. Compassion doesn’t require us to be convinced another person is entirely correct. It requires us to care about how he is feeling. Even if you think the danger won’t come to pass, the fear is certainly real.”

I immediately thought of my daughter, Salima, who has a deep-seated fear of dogs. It’s gotten better the longer she’s been with us, but when she first came home, she would crawl up my body at the sight of one, screaming like someone was about to saw off her leg. It was intense. It was extreme. And while I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to it, it didn’t negate the fact that her fear was 100% real.

In this short, simple verse, Paul reminds us not to be like Elphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, three “friends” who tried to reason with Job when what he needed most was a sympathetic ear.

Weep with those who weep.

Because doing so ushers us closer to the harmony Paul talks about in the very next verse.

Interestingly enough, this harmony isn’t the setting aside of differences. It’s not the idea that we should all just get along. This harmony is talking about being of the same mind. It’s present tense, which means our same-mindedness should be an ongoing, continual process.

Being of the same mind means wanting for your brother or sister what you would want for yourself if you were in the same position.

The problem is, we don’t know what position the other is in. But the Lord. He is clever, isn’t He? He knows that when we step into another person’s grief and weep with them, our hearts start to go soft. Suddenly, we want to understand.

But just in case we forgot to actually do verse 15, Paul gives us a directive.

Do not be haughty.

Don’t think we somehow know better. Just because we may not be going through a thing, doesn’t mean our brother isn’t. And we certainly shouldn’t tell a person how they should feel when they are experiencing something we never have.

Don’t be wise in your own estimation.

I love how one theologian put it:

You don’t know what your brother is going through until you get down in the trenches with him.

And that’s where Jesus calls us, isn’t it? Into the trenches, so we can weep with those who weep. He calls us to put on humility. He calls us to listen well.

Instead of trying to silence the division that already exists, as if silence is somehow the same as peace, let’s step into the heart of it. Let’s do the hard work of healing, where true unity is born – the kind that makes the watching world take notice.