Dickinson, Empathy, and Anachronistic Adaptations

For some, dissecting the thing they love kills it. For me, it often makes me love it all the more.

I started examining why I love Dickinson, and ended with *gestures to sidebar of screen on which you are reading this and specifically how small the scrolltab is* this.

Much of which breaks down how the show uses anachronism, style, and tonal shifts to generate laughter, pathos, and especially empathy.


First, let’s talk about context of other contemporary shows playing in its ballpark, specifically The Great and Persuasion. All three centre female protagonists, are set in specific near-recent historical periods, and use anachronistic storytelling. Why do I love two of these things, and not the other?

At first it seemed the question was “why am I fine with drastically and radically changing ‘real historical figures’ like Catherine the Great and Emily Dickinson but not fictional novels such as Persuasion?”

It isn’t wholly a matter of ‘reality versus adaptation,’ but that is part: two of these works are open about using historical facts as jumping off points to personal stories they acknowledge we have few external source records about. The adaptation, meanwhile, seems intent on completely misrepresenting everything the author was saying, even with solely textual evidence as its basis. If you’re going to radically alter the events of history, that in itself is often much of the purpose, but if you’re radically altering a literary tale (or engaging in a remake a la A League of Their Own, also a female-centric (and slightly-historical) piece), the why really matters. It’s not that I dislike anachronism in wholly fictional works (see: Clueless and the entire below ‘anachronism’ section), but unless you’re specifically doing something interesting AND in keeping with the work’s central precepts, make your original period bodice-ripper with fourthwall breaks (or whatever the case may be) and be done with it; I’ll eat it up with a spoon.

Which realisation led me to larger central issue: the works’ own basic understanding of their material and what they are attempting to accomplish. Fucking with Emily Dickinson and Catherine II serve to make points about society and people through specific lenses we’ve not often had in other adaptations, documentaries, and artistic depictions; fucking with Anne Elliot is “trying to make this movie we want but also capitalising on an existing IP we don’t have to pay much for.” A big statement, but I’ve got another 4000 words to back it up.

Last: I’d be remiss not to note a passionate woman who struggles with how she relates to / withdraws from / engages with the industry, fame, lovers, friends, enemies, family, and death – personally, but also explicitly in relation to her writing – doesn’t hit a lot of my buttons and doubts and dreams. I’m perfectly fine not requiring myself to be wholly consistent in matters of taste, so long as I acknowledge embrace my emotional malleability and can honestly assess from whence it springs.

Now, about writing consistency . . .


Like every TV show and movie, The Great, Persuasion, and Dickinson writers set story and style boundaries. For example The Americans was fastidious about dates and facts; it wouldn’t use a song as soundtrack if the song was released even weeks after an episode was set [details from the show’s fantastic podcast] whereas Community is flexible dependent on what an episode is accomplishing, showing its series rules were broader and they did more specific work within the room on an episodic basis.

So, what are Dickinson‘s rules? Dickinson abides by large historical context and events, and broad social structures, but completely overhauls the smaller and more personal details.

  • In the broad strokes, society is as it was: slavery still exists; technology and science are roughly at mid-1800s levels; homosexuality is looked at as moral and personal failing punishable by literal or metaphorical death; politics are run by rich white men; spinsters are scorned and women rarely access higher education; water must be hauled and indoor toilets are scarce; people die quickly, young, and all the time. That last especially is treated as a given.
  • In the middle somewhere are sets, wardrobe, hair and makeup, and props: Dickinson uses the era’s styles as a template, which allows for many fun and beautiful outfits and wallpapers and snacks, but doesn’t have the specificity of, say, a BBC production. It plays especially fast and loose with makeup and hairdos, using styles from civil war until now for sheer aesthetic impact, as well as to comment on characters whether in a moment (IE when Emily’s hair is up or down) or seasonal journey (IE Austin’s evolving looks).
  • The specifics and smaller interpersonal connections are what Dickinson skewers and distorts most: the language characters use is peppered with modern slang; non-diagetics such as music run the gammut from classical tunes to Lizzo bangers; people are much more forthright with their opinions, proclivities, and sexualities; Wiz Khalifa exists.

Particularly in season three the ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ worlds collide and impact each other more; IE Edward writing his will to leave everything to Austin feels personal, but Edward cites legal and political reasons; his personal belief in men’s superiority is a factor, but secondary to the larger social context.

Any show’s rules can get blurry especially when anachronism is baked into the fabric (see also: time travel, magic, gods/mythology), and Dickinson happily fudges when it suits a particular episode. I find it poetic* Season 2 opens with a blatant “We don’t and can’t truly know what Emily was experiencing in this time; the closest we can get are words of her poems. Anyways, this story is pure conjecture! Go with it.” It’s Coen-esque in its metatextual acknowledgement Dickinson is a bare semblance of a true story, where in lieu of details which have been lost to time, anyways, it serves us a fantastical recounting of oral traditions, staticked with age of generations, coloured with time and our own biases.

But that’s the crux: true story. What it’s getting at is essence of story, but also a person, a lived experience, a depiction of interacting with art and others and life.


The intents of all three shows are quite different.

The Great points a satirical looking glass at society / class / politics past and present, examining what we now know was a massive, world-shaping power struggle through the intimate, complicated power struggle of two people and their closest friends, lovers, and enemies. To achieve this The Great examines intersocial conflict with witty dialogue and pointed insight into human foibles.

Persuasion attempts to leverage a famous name to make their ‘aren’t we clever’ rom-com out of arguably Austen’s only NON-rom-com. To achieve this, well; many others have written about.

Dickinson aims at the idea everything we feel now has been felt before. To achieve this Dickinson puts its characters into recognisable personal situations in an unfamiliar context, where they react dramatically using modern language and seemingly ideology [much more on that later] to give us an emotional core without necessarily historical accuracy.

Dickinson‘s “everything has been before” ethos isn’t profound or new (obviously!), but is still necessary. We humans don’t learn the first time; hell we’re lucky if we even hear something the first five times. Tell it to us again. Give us another book or show or poem to rephrase it in a way which will not only etch it into our hearts but maybe even make us stop and think on it. 

pardon my sanity in a world insane

Whether the primary intent of catharsis is strictly / mostly / somewhat accomplished through the audience empathising with themselves versus the characters, is something I’ll also touch on later. The secondary intent / effect of this framing is to give a new generation insight into Dickinson’s poetry, which it quotes extensively; not to change her words, but to recontextualise them and give us a multitude of ways we can connect to them.

When we’re teens, every horrible event crashes our world around our ears in a cataclysm of pain. We’re the only ones to be so in love, to get our hearts so violently broken, to have such a gulf of misunderstanding between ourselves and our friends / parents / violent enemies. Nobody has had to deal with the deep embarrassment or surety of our unrecognised genius the way we have! Truthfully we think this throughout our lives, but only when young do most of us feel we can be so melodramatic and honest as to express it.

Dickinson constantly in various ways points out “every generation goes through ALL these things, different in details and context while fundamentally and emotionally the same.” Fundamental emotional similarities often present in youth as acting dramatic and/or ridiculous, testing the waters of politics and experimenting with art, pushing boundaries with drugs and independence, and being horny all the damn time. We’ve all been there (are often still there internally, and yet more often still want to be there in some ways) but TV and film so rarely acknowledge this in shows set pre-1950. Most pretend because historical societies were more strict, mannered, and overtly punishing, they actually ‘worked’ to make people chaste, controlled, and docile; if it had, not only would half of us not exist, we wouldn’t have many writings, including Emily Dickinson’s.

Dickinson‘s “issues are different in detail but similar in impact through the ages” is made explicit in the way it brings in not only Emily’s contemporaries (Henry David Thoreau; Louisa May Alcott; conglomerated abolitionist writer Henry; Sojourner Truth; Walt Whitman), but those as far removed from her time as she is removed from us. The Shakespeare society scene in 1.05 “I am afraid to own a Body” draws parallels with how many in the 1850s held up Shakespeare as some pure and glamoured creature, but he was bawdy as all fuck, talked about sex and gender and race (sometimes well, sometimes poorly!), and had Jokes. Emily reads and quotes poetry through many decades. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Scarlett Letter (contemporary-to-Dickinson writer, ‘historical’ narrative fiction) comes up multiple times in relation to Lavinia, who has her own subplot about slut-shaming. Chastity and the perception of it was as different in Lavinia’s society compared to the Puritans as it is in ours compared to Lavinia’s, but the human impact is the same. 

The commentary on how we romanticise Dickinson’s age couldn’t be clearer: truth is, they were as bawdy and immature as we all were, despite the specifics in presentation and terminology being unfamiliar to most of us now. Dickinson aims to make their sexual yearnings and jokes and dreams not only recognisable and familiar but relatable.

Of course, intent doesn’t necessarily make a show ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (creatively, aesthetically, morally, or by any metric), but it does factor in. Two other big, intertwined factors here are tone and anachronism.


All three shows take somewhat similar approaches in tone though not specifics; IE The Great uses no fourth wall breaks, Dickinson does it very rarely and only with looks, Persuasion overuses it including the one place it absolutely mustn’t

The most important distinction between Persuasion and Dickinson is: Persuasion uses social conventions and anachronisms as a way to elevate itself and set up a happy ending (which I argue feels infinitely less earned because of these conventions than in the original); Dickinson uses them as a way to point out that even when we don’t get what we want, but that even when we lose love and battles, we can still persevere and have a full life. 

The tonal equilibrium Dickinson plays for is less ‘a balance’ than ‘a complicated juggling act with sharp swords and flaming bowling pins.’ It doesn’t always get the mix right, let alone stay completely consistent with its anachronism (it approaches anachronism like its world rules, bending both when needed to accomplish bigger goals), but it does always swing for the fences, which is all you – or at least I – ask of such a show. 


There are as many ways to use anachronistic conventions as there are anachronistic stories. Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You update Jane Austen and Shakespeare by bringing Emma‘s and Taming of the Shrew‘s characters and plot into the 90s. Shakespeare in Love gives us a tongue-in-cheek biopic of the bard intertwined with wholly fabricated experiences in the theatre and with historical characters shaping his plays. Dickinson is halfway between Shakespeare in Love and A Knight’s Tale‘s cheeky pasting of slang and rock’n’roll over a tale of Heath Ledger interacting with historical figures including [now-]famous writer Chaucer.

Broadly, anachronism works best when it can centre the original figure or work (a famous play, Queen Elizabeth, etc) in a truly good story and layer in modern elements (cell phones and proms as plot devices, Queen songs on the soundtrack) around said story, rather than making them the point.

Specifically, some of how anachronisms work is a matter of taste; amount and specifics of modern vernacular in particular is subjective. For example I don’t bump on Emily Dickinson saying “make out” but hearing her say “fart” physically jarred me. To ‘solve’ this you could pull back or push further more often, but overall it’s a personal thing; as a writer you simply have to work with your own sensibilities and put it out in the world.

Assuming, then, the specifics will hit or miss, what are the overall reasons for anachronism? One intent of using modern vernacular is to shorthand concepts for the target audience, who in the case of Dickinson skews young. Concepts examined across 30 episodes include: slavery; anti-Immigrant (and particularly Irish) sentiments; the price of fame; allyship; complex family bonds and generational emotional abuse; servicing the needs of those you love without abandoning yourself; various privileges (especially class); and how the hell do we know what to do with our art, and ourselves when making it?

Dickinson‘s anachronisms are mostly intangibles – language, soundtrack, concepts, lighting – but it pushed further than most of the above-named anachronistic works into the Absurd, using daydreaming, drugs, time travel(ish), and gothic nightmares (one of my favourite episodes!) to bring concepts and metaphors to life. But in keeping the show’s thesis, none of the concepts are new to use, nor were they new in 1850.

Struggles with art, people dehumanising others, people standing up for others, women sleeping with women, men loving men, husbands and wives cheating, people being queer and crossdressing and changing their concepts of sexuality and love, taking drugs at parties, realising Teh Patriarchy is oppressive, having post-partum depression, families being wildly dysfunctional and horribly abusive while in utter denial: all these things may have looked different, but were done in the 1800s and have in fact always Been. To discuss them in many forms and formats better makes them tangible and [hopefully] impactful on us as people, and then society we inhabit.

The anachronism of music and slang and values encompasses all that and more, but I want to park a moment on the queer aspect.


Trying to figure out how someone would have identified in a different time is tricky for multiple reasons. Dickinson sidesteps specific labels (with one time-traveling exception in 3.07 “The Future never spoke”), while doing three important things:

1. Handling Coding. I’ve written about queer coding’s many iterations, and Dickinson does some coding, but crucially never in a way which makes it seem either characters or show are ashamed. Characters ‘code’ for broader society, while their sexuality is intently overlooked by those who wish to remain wilfully ignorant, and accepted without comment by everyone else. Ben Newton is shown in flashbacks to have the hots for Austin (also showing equal opportunity for “people who form love triangles with Emily and Austin”) and we also get a more flamboyantly queer Toshiaki (whose nationality is never stated but Kevin Yee is *gasp* Canadian!).

2. Bending norms outside sexuality. Emily and Sue dressing as boys to sneak into a talk is a trope we’ve seen before (though no less fun!) but Austin dons a dress for Shakespeare and his (hawt) crossdressing isn’t played for laughs or mockery.

3. Making Emily broadly queer. Emily is sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women (Sue seems likely wholly sapphic, but as she’s not the POV character it’s not only less clear but less important). The show keeps with its broad / specific rules around Emily’s sexuality / ability to act on it, but by refusing to say “she can’t find love because of her sexuality!” but making it specifically about her and Sue, it doesn’t make her a Tragic Case as historical queer stories too often are.

Attempts to respect the personal while acknowledging the societal is are demonstrated in many other aspects, too. Dickinson doesn’t shy from Emily’s disappointments, losses, and failures, particularly how often they are a result of the tension between her progressive ideas (small, personal scale) and the show’s decision not to advance society’s ideas (large, historical scale).

NOT HANDWAVING (failure, society, self) AWAY

Emily may recognise and accept her queerness without Big Internal Struggle (more of that in all TV, please), but she still lives in a society where she can’t openly kiss Sue, even if her circle of friends clearly know, and that knowledge drives organic conflict.

Emily also has strong opinions about women but she can’t get her mother to comprehend them, much less agree with them (relatable!).

Importantly, Lavinia shares some of Emily’s views on women, but few of her desires for life outside a husband and household, which helps give a range of personal perspectives along with Sue’s more social-driven views and Austin’s desire for children.

Emily has many small breakthroughs in publishing and carving out time for writing (much because of her relative privilege, but also requiring her own constant efforts; as it was then, etc), but in the big picture she constantly finds herself where she began, a ‘spinster’ unable to control the trajectory of her own life.

In the first and second seasons Emily’s struggles for publication including using a man’s name which leave her wholly unrecognised, and being at the whim of an editor demanding “good guy” status for doing his job’s bare minimum. The third season centres around her family tearing itself apart, her pains at seeing Sue while never being able to be fully with Sue, and using her writing to grapple with the war’s effect on the country and souls of everyone who lived in it, all while suffering the existential dread of not knowing whether it would be of any use universally or personally.

Emily doesn’t magically get everything she wants because she desperately wants, or because she fights for her desires with the beautiful desperation of poets and teenagers. There’s beauty in the struggle, and perhaps personal success during it, but often failure in many of our end goals. This is where I find the show’s divide in anachronism-on-small-scale but reality-on-large-scale most effective.

Some disagree.


Friend-of-blog RuthAnn wrote why she dislikes anachronism, specifically Dickinson‘s.

But the more anachronistic storytelling I consume, the more I’ve begun to feel as if there’s something ugly about sanding down the edges of historical reality, especially when, in the case of shows like Dickinson, historical reality — the world that enclosed actual, live, women — is modified, softened, or even erased in order to tell modern feminist parables about empowerment.

I’ve laid out why I don’t think Dickinson‘s broader world is modified and softened*** and how despite her passions she is bound by environment, and perhaps feels those bindings more than most.

Many of her advantages are in keeping with the times, IE her privilege as a white woman with some money and thus ability to do things such as have servants and make artistic headway through her father’s political cronies and girlfriend’s social connections. Nothing wrong with acknowledging she was able to write so much because of her status, while not challenging its actuality or equity. (I’d think Virginia Woolf would concur.)

It matters to me that Emily Dickinson was a real woman, and it matters to me that she was, as a woman, subject to the same passions and emotions that we are, but also that she was, as a historical figure, bound by an environment that is not a setting.

I disagree Emily’s historiocity necessitate the show’s setting be wholly accurately depicted (were that even possible) to facilitate our understanding of her, or honour her legacy. The reality is there are multiple ways to approach a person and their art, from scholarly, artistic, creative, personal angles. Dickinson is not a recreation of reality but one depiction which has chosen to examine a story from many angles, leaning heavily into the artistic license which is most effective for its intent.

If one believes historical art should give us ‘factual’ understanding as well as emotion, Dickinson‘s ‘broad veracity versus specific fantasy’ play perfectly; we get discussion of death and disease and inequality which are historically quantifiable, alongside conversations between Death and Edgar Allan Poe, nude charcoal sketch scandals, roiling nightmares of the Gothic and domestic household varieties, and Anna Baryshnikov’s portrayal of a dramatic, petulant, thirsty teenage girl.

“artists and audiences both have come to champion anachronism as the predominant literary device through which we portray historical reproduction on screen.” 

‘predominant’ is the key for me. First: is it? have we? Second: how would you figure those stats – number of productions, number of hours, the art which breaks through to ‘mainstream’? Arguably anachronistic works have sharply risen in the last 5 years, while more ‘accurate’ shows are still made. Taking fictional characters, historical characters, and literary period adaptations, all in one lump: War and Peace and Victoria and Howard’s End and The Tudors and Chernobyl and Medici and Call the Midwife etc. all have different range in their period accuracies but mostly work to stay true to the historical details of their times.

She is not a woman ahead of her time in any literal sense, whatever that phrase may mean figuratively.

Until time travel, the literal cannot happen outside of art, so let it happen with it!

I think it hardly unfair to say Dickinson, as with writers from Sappho to Octavia Butler, was ahead of her time in ideology if not actions, which tension drove their clashes with and animosity towards the world. Dickinson mostly deals with then-forward-thinking ideas wrapped in modern vernacular. Its concepts reflect how women through the ages have had radical or then-unactionable ideas about everything from women’s independence and intercontinental travel, and attempted to pursue or live out their ideas to various extents.

Emily’s position on women’s agency does not need to reflect the greater opinions of surviving political writing of the time. (Season 2 in particular parallels her and Henry’s push against political norms, and Betty and Henry specifically are shown ‘ahead of society’s curve’ while thwarted in efforts to change it, but that’s another essay.) People within those systems knew they were wrong, swathes of people not disadvantaged by the rules still understood them to be unjust and terrible. They say winners write history books, but just because we have those books doesn’t mean our depictions of people in history must all align with conclusions of said slanted records.

Simply because we must fictionalise content because most progressive arguments were actively suppressed by those in power doesn’t mean ‘modern’ ideals weren’t asserted, in whatever form; I argue that makes it MORE important. Thus to position Emily as a sort of progressive makes perfect sense, especially when using her words verbatim to interrogate her status.

We don’t understand her better by placing ourselves into her world — it is not a move that benefits her — we understand ourselves better.

I argue we understand both ourselves and Emily better. The show’s conceit of quoting a poem every episode underlines its intent to give us fuller appreciation of events and emotions behind Emily’s words; where they sprang from and what they meant to her. I’m wholly unsure a more historically subservient style would assist our understanding her any better.

Dickinson serves its cake of historical context topped with decadent humorous fondant and lets the viewer eat up the depths of turbulent and inconsistent human emotions its characters would have experienced. Yes, it gives us more understanding of ourselves because of the way it deploys modern vernacular and situations, but it also genuinely fleshes out the characters until we have various degrees of empathy for them all.


Some of Dickinson‘s most unexpectedly complex and ultimately empathetic portrayals are of three men introduced in the pilot: Emily’s brother Austin, Emily’s dad Edward, and George Gould. The first two seem to be “he man women haters,” with George positioned opposite as the sympathetic bookish boy in love with Emily and deserving of unconditional support if not her hand in marriage. As the season progresses, things get much more complicated.

It quickly turns out George isn’t just the nice, pretty, Teddy-next-door type we immediately assume he is; he reacts angrily to Emily’s rejection, tries to be authoritarian / paternalistic to all the women in his life, and shows a casual misogyny and racism which repulses Emily. In later seasons those edges are softened (partly to make way for Samuel Bowles’s Nice Guy character) but the show never makes him the ‘super nice sidelined boy!’ most would be setting you up for in the pilot.

As the father figure, Edward is not always an abusive bully, but neither is he always a kind man. This is often how people – even horrific and rotten ones! – work. Some viewers may think this means Edward is not well-written, and Austin and Edward can episodically swing whiplash-inducingly one way or the other; the perils of a style which prioritises story, episodic impact, and overall character to slow, directional development. ‘Overall’ is the key: it’s wholly realistic for Edward to be benevolent when he can afford to be, and turn quickly angry and abusive when he can’t or doesn’t want to. That’s far closer to the truth than depictions of dads who are always violent, or who constantly side with their daughters to the detriment of themselves, or who steadily progress with no moments of backsliding. 

In terms of Austin, we know ‘real’ he and Sue had an unhappy, then estranged, marriage. Our knowledge that Emily – the person whose words have reached through decades to touch us all, as well as the central character – was/is in love with Sue means we’re predisposed to paint Austin as a bad brother, husband, and human. It would have been easy to make Austin a one-dimensional villain, but Dickinson avoids this. Next easiest would have been making Austin completely ignorant or totally oblivious, but the show digs much deeper. It paints him as a poor husband, confused boy, and sometimes unreasonable man, while giving us further understanding of why he is such: left wholly unequipped for life by his parents, feeling completely adrift the way most 18-20 year olds are, and being the third wheel in a love triangle society insisted was emasculating, unjust, and untoward.

Austin shows care for Sue and later their baby in his way, which makes it truly sad when his marriage relationship sours for reasons he had no tools to full comprehend. He has several scenes to showcase his sense of humour, as well as showcase everything from cowardice to burgeoning attempts to overcome the racist and abusive tendencies his father taught him. His erratic spates of anger are personally driven by feeling inferior to Emily’s brain, and his cheating spurred on by jealously of Emily and Sue’s love. He ultimately resorts to the only weapons society has given him, wielding them against his wife and sister but also harming himself: a perfect embodiment of ‘the patriarchy fucks men up, too.’

Dickinson doesn’t condone Austin’s actions, but it explores his motivation, and it extends this understanding to all**** its characters, no matter how strange, simple, or antagonistic they may seem upon first glance.


None of Emily’s relationships are straightforward, and all gain depth as the characters evolve. The second season in particular sometimes confuses throughlines from episode to episode, but overall the show approaches not only Emily but everyone with empathy. Dickinson gives all characters scenes to show their worst sides, and scenes to gain grace, again and again stating a thesis which feels simple but is not: people who do bad things to some people, can also do good, and neither is necessarily the entirety of their Selves.

The difference between empathy and sympathy is key. Empathy furthers understanding of the characters, whereas sympathy furthers identification with them. Empathy gives broader details of their circumstances, sympathy brings us around to their worldview or gives us desire for their success. If we empathise, we can relate. If we sympathise, we will defend. Giving us an understanding and some sorrow for Austin, without giving us reason to defending his actions, is where the show goes. If we follow its lead, we have empathy, but not sympathy.

Understanding everyone’s point of view is important, embracing those views is not. That’s a crucial distinction for a show which delves headfirst into social conventions around women’s lack of agency, characters fighting and killing and dying to defend unjust laws, and people treating their lovers and friends badly but for complex and incredibly specific personal reasons.

Intent, Tone, Anachronism, Rules: give me EFFECT!

Here’s where I acknowledge I’m not sure how to bring this behemoth in for a landing, or if anyone is even still on the plane. What’s the gist? What is the show making us think and feel and understand, and how does it achieve that? 

Dickinson sets our experiences as the lens with which to understand people and relationships from the past. This should inform us how to better interact with others, which would give us more empathy towards people not in our circumstances; and so it [ideally] goes.

Dickinson wants to dig at deeper emotional truths, perhaps clearest shown in the conceit of quoting one poem (and often letters) per episode. Dickinson is not merely encouraging modern viewers to read and enjoy Emily’s poetry, but also understand the wider context and personal emotions Emily produced her art in. In encouraging better understanding of Emily, her society and her relationships and her words, it furthers knowledge of ourselves, our society and our feelings and needs and relationships. Thus it becomes, to paraphrase one of our preeminent artistic commentators and cultural critics: a historically styled modern-facing horseless carriage which generates empathy.


*cough sorry not sorry. also not sorry for the cough.

**this is the good kind of “have friends you disagree with!” Someone who despairs at your taste in art and shoes, has certain different political opinions, and rolls their eyes at both your philosophical declarations and fervent defense of certain music as “not country music” and “excellent country music.” NOT someone who, for example, disagrees with your right to exist or get married or make your own healthcare decisions (all also touched on within Dickinson; look! I tied it in). Learn how to have friends who are quite different and hold opposing views to you. Never learn to accept fascists at your table.

***While it holds many deaths via disease and childbirth and war and slavery, none are graphic; stylistic choices don’t necessarily mean philosophical softening.

****We do get repeat comic relief Ithamar Conkey, a Mr. Collins-esque townsperson played by Robert Picardo, but this exception proves the rule.

A good S2 overview from the tail end of when the AV Club actually cared / paid writers, which makes many points re: historical echoes of Dickinson’s time, Emily’s privilege, anachronism’s effects, etc.

– Episode 1.08 sealed my love. Perhaps nowhere near its best episode, but many brilliant moments and some laughs with a twinge of aint-that-the-truth pain; a wonderful small exchange between a [excellently-playing-drunk Jane Kasmaric] Mom Emily and Our Emily where Our Emily realises what her mother wants and she can never give; and one of its most romantic, where [someone] says to Emily “being with you, it’s a lot like being alone” and by gods does it work; and then the poem really, REALLY lands. It also contains the most egregious green screen of the series, but, eh, they spend money well on other things.

– It’s an excellent ensemble, but as most shows titled after a singular person, it stands and falls on its lead, and Hailee Steinfeld carries it off with aplomb landing her on the ‘EGOT when?’ list [See also: Jessie Buckley, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr.]. Especially since she’s producing.

– In regards to both “the concept of anachronistic works of art based around historical figures and/or adaptations” and “list of EGOT likelys”: I’ve seen Hamilton, once; it was fine; just because Lin-Manuel Miranda recognises great talent doesn’t mean I’m picking them off the basis of it; RENT, Blindspotting, Person of Interest, and a prevailing love of all musicals, even the terrible ones, planted in me by MGM, are what led me to Hamilton.


– What a wild risk to take having Emily interact with only Death and the Dressmaker, leaning into her individualism and isolationism and ways she communicated with the world nearly entirely via writings and yet would choose to do so happily, and how meaningful that is and can be. A completely unique, unexpected finale, in context of most TV and Dickinson itself.

It is perfect.

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