‘Dickinson’ Actually Had Political Commentary That Parallel’s To Today

While it’s taken a bit longer to gain traction, Apple TV+’s shows are pretty good. It saw major success in the beginning with The Morning Show, but others also have growing fanbases. Dickinson is one of them and tells a fun and modern story about poet Emily Dickinson’s life. Hailee Steinfeld portrays the famous poet, and it dives into her family relationships, her views on life as a woman author at the time, and also her queerness which isn’t explored as often. Because it gives a sort of modern retelling, it also has some political conversations that parallel to today’s climate. 

Hailee Steinfeld at the 'Dickinson' New York Premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse on October 17, 2019.
Hailee Steinfeld at the ‘Dickinson’ New York Premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse on October 17, 2019 | John Lamparski/Getty Images

Dialogue in ‘Dickinson’ really dug at ‘centrist Democrats’ in the current political climate

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner and writer for the show, Alena Smith, talked about a lot of things regarding the show. From major moments in the first season to what the future holds, Smith gave fans a lot to look forward to and ponder on. One being Emily’s dad’s storyline. 

Near the middle of the season, her father Edward is running for office and talks openly about the ”Know-Nothings” which is a party based on “populist economic rhetoric and nativist anxiety.” Basically they blame immigrants for anything going wrong in the community. While it might seem like that’s a dig at Trump in the current political sphere, it’s not just him.

“I think even more so, it’s actually a dig at centrist Democrats who have thought that they have been the good guys protecting this country, when obviously whatever they have been doing has not worked,” Smith said. “There’s sort of a sense that the center cannot hold, and this glib, elitist liberalism isn’t.”

Emily isn’t afraid to talk to her father, or anyone else, about her political affiliation and opinions. That makes her admirable and possibly relatable, and it’s interesting to see how her father’s larger politics play so well into modern ones. 

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The Civil War is going to happen on ‘Dickinson,’ and that event also parallels to the current discourse

The real-life Dickinson died in 1886 at the age of 55, meaning she was mostly in her 30s during the Civil War. It was the most devastating war America had ever seen up to that point, and the show is going to dive into the role it played in her life. Although Smith said that Season 2 ends right before that starts, there’s a lot going on beforehand. Again, it relates back to modern-day too. 

“In the years leading up to the Civil War, there was a sense of a country dividing into two sides that couldn’t live with each other, and unfortunately we seem to be arriving at a very similar place in our politics right now,” Smith said. 

Edward Dickinson was a Whig and is very much pro-keeping the Union together. 

“More or less for the good of furthering business, so there’s a sort of business as usual platform that isn’t really good enough anymore,” she said about his reasoning. “It’s not rising to the moment.”

As for where Season 2 stops, Smith shared that too. She shared that if they’re renewed for a third season, it will definitely cover it completely. 

“We get right up to the brink of it,” she said. “The season kind of builds up to the event of Harpers Ferry, of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, which we are kind of figuring in our show as kind of a 9/11 moment or a moment when war becomes inevitable and the society that has held itself together so far knows that it’s not going to work anymore.”

Season 2 is going to focus on Emily’s relationship to fame

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Season 1 went into detail about Dickinson’s fixation on Death, even personifying him with rapper Wiz Khalifa. Now, Season 2 is going to focus on fame. 

“Emily herself had a deeply ambivalent relationship to fame,” Smith shared. “Season two is really all about fame and the attention economy, which was a central concern in Emily Dickinson’s poems.”

There isn’t a release date set yet, but it was filmed before Hollywood shutdown due to coronavirus. So there’s a chance it could premiere by the end of the year. 

Dickinson was obsessed with fame, even if she ran away from it. Smith shared that the season will also focus on the concept of being a “nobody,” and to choose to be such. “What would it mean to choose being anonymous, being invisible, being unseen and what kind of power is there in being a nobody?” Smith said.

It sounds like, with most things Dickinson portrays, Emily’s relationship to fame is going to take on a modern twist. There might be a parallel to influencer culture in there or a tie back to John Mullaney’s Thoreau or Zosia Mamet’s Alcott. Thoreau fled to nature to escape his fame and Alcott embraced it in exchange for the money she so desires from her work. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great follow up to Dickinson’s first season. 

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