September 23, 2010

Boardwalk Empire: The Contradiction of Nucky Thompson

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , — Rachel @ 2:41 pm

Last Sunday, the new series Boardwalk Empire premiered on HBO.  While watching previews, I wondered if the show would address the fact that a large force behind prohibition was the Women’s Temperance movement.  I was surprised and happy to see that it was addressed in the first five minutes of the first episode.  Nucky Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) is shown speaking at a meeting for Women’s Temperance, about how evil alcohol is, and how great it is that women no longer have to fear their drunk husbands.  If you saw the commercials, it’s obvious Nucky controls the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and part of that role is keeping the booze flowing freely during prohibition.  The upside for him is that he now gets to charge astronomical prices for a simple cocktail.

Nucky is a contradiction – while he continues make sure everyone gets to continue to drink, he also has zero tolerance for the men who get drunk then go home and beat their wives.  Later in the premiere, when a Margaret, a woman from the Temperance meeting shows up at his home, asking for money, and a job for her husband, he happily hands over $1000 and a job offer.  Her husband sees her getting a ride home from one of Nucky’s men, finds the money, and beats her.  When Nucky finds out about the events that took place because of his generosity, he attacks her husband in his casino, and takes the money back.

I don’t think Nucky considered the ramifications of defending Margaret, but it wasn’t surprising that her husband was only further enraged.  He comes home and abuses her so bad she ends up in the hospital.  When Nucky learns what’s happened from one of Margaret’s temperance friends, he has his men kidnap and kill her husband.  The final shot shows him showing up at her hospital room with a bouquet of flowers.  I’m hoping the show will provide further insight into Nucky’s feelings, behaviors, and actions in the contradiction of  protecting the women while letting the husbands drink.

It will be interesting to see the role Nucky will play in her life now that her husband is gone.  If he’ll support her, give her a job, or leave her to fend for herself (something I don’t think is very likely considering his actions for her thus far.)

It’s too early to tell after just one episode, but perhaps women will be key characters in the show’s plot.  If so, expect recaps of the first season of Boardwalk Empire.

1 Comment »

  1. I fail to see a contradiction in Nucky’s actions. He is defending both the freedoms of the men to drink, and the women to live without fear of violence.

    Comment by Aiden — September 28, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

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