Posted at 10:12 on 24 Apr 2008 by Pandora / Blake
I've been watching Sharpe recently, which as well as being a finely made show provides a wealth of material for an imaginative spanko. The Napoleonic war is one of my favourite historical settings - I love the European context, the espionage, the uniforms, the songs, the society. The Sharpe films are gritty, thought-provoking, swash-buckling, full of military discipline, floggings, English traditional folk music and Sean Bean being the hottest thing I've ever seen in uniform. Ho yus. This is my kind of television.
Imagine my glee, then, when the episode I was watching last night turned out to include some pretty explicit CP references. The first glimpse we get of our favourite pastime is in a scene between Jane Gibbons, the spirited but low-born ward of Sir Henry, and Sir Henry himself, the vicious, greedy villain of the piece. Jane has run away after being told that she's to marry Colonel Girdwood, a slimy and corrupt officer keen to get into Sir Henry's good books. She's caught, of course, and fetched back. The only glimpse we get of her punishment is Sir Henry turning around and picking up a cane off the mantlepiece, lashing it through the air, and then lifting her chin with the tip of it as he snarls, "On your feet."
Later Jane's dog escapes during a parade, and Sir Henry angrily tells her to control it - if she can't manage to keep it quiet, he won't beat the dog, he'll beat her.
This was more than enough to get me excited, but during a conversation between Jane and Sharpe towards the end of the episode, she tells him everything. He needs the ledgers that will prove Sir Henry's and Colonel Girdwood's corruption, and he comes to ask for her help. He has to break into the house - she's defied her governess, and is being kept prisoner. When he expresses surprise at a noblewoman being treated this way, she tells him,
"Major Sharpe, I am not of them. I am the daughter of a saddler and Sir Henry's sister in law, fit only to be married off for whatever reasons suit my uncle. I ran off when I was told I was to marry Colonel Girdwood, but Sir Henry fetched me back, and - "
"You're frightened of Sir Henry?"
"Yes - but I do want to help you."
"Could you find the ledgers?"
"I want to, but it's hard..."
"It would help me disgrace Girdwood."
"I know. I should take the risk ... but if I fail, I shall be punished."
"My uncle beats me. He let Girdwood watch the last time because he thought the colonel should know how to treat a wife. He uses a cane. There are marks on the study wall where he thrashes and the cane scratches the plaster. He gets very angry."
"How dare he treat you so!"
Oh, Sharpe. Heroic you may be, but in this case I think the fantasy is better off without you.