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Interesting statistics about the HBO series Deadwood **NSFW** Warning- This thread has a Wu Rating of 9.6/10 Login/Join 
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Probably gets my vote for the greatest series of all time and there's some stiff competition. When we finished it, we popped in season one and watched again.

With so much right and memorable about "Deadwood" my favorite scene -- Doc dancing with Jewel.




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quote:
Originally posted by Ripley:
Probably gets my vote for the greatest series of all time and there's some stiff competition. When we finished it, we popped in season one and watched again.

With so much right and memorable about "Deadwood" my favorite scene -- Doc dancing with Jewel.





This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. -Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Joshua Painter Played by Senator Fred Thompson
 
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I'm not a prude and I'll be the first to use profanity where it's needed, but all the gratuitous profanity in this series turned me off when I watched the first episode years ago and I never watched it again.

Even Navy guys coming into Port and getting shore leave weren't this bad.
 
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You just need to embrace terms like cocksucker as a term of endearment. Smile

Side note we had a family reunion years back and we were playing scatagories and the phrase we had to come up with was “term of endearment”. The die roll was A. EVERY PERSON in the family wrote Asshole. The outsiders were a mix of amused and perplexed. Smile

What shocked me about deadwood was going in I expected a western. What I got was Shakespeare in old west setting. Took me a. Episode or three for it to grab me but I ended up LOVING the show.


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The wife and I started re-watching about a week and half ago for at least the 4th time. Absolutely fantastic show. Well acted by all involved


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I binged a couple episodes while in my office.

W#alked to my classroom and one of my students said they were going to miss because of work.

"well fine ya . .. . um . . .. yeah . . . no worries, thanks for letting me know"

I almost said it . . . I almost said it.



This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it. -Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Joshua Painter Played by Senator Fred Thompson
 
Posts: 3558 | Location: Central Virginia | Registered: November 06, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Chapter from Deadwood by Ina Rae Hark entitled Language, Decent and Otherwise, here reproduced under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act (educational purposes only, no profit motive)

Thank you for permitting me to express
myself.
- Whitney Ellsworth

Television has always been more “talky” than the cinema, but
in Deadwood the preeminence of dialogue approaches that
of the stage. So many of its crucial scenes contain no “action” at
all, consisting instead of mesmerizing conversations (or monologues).
This characteristic of the series is all the more noteworthy
because the Western has a reputation as the most laconic
of genres “whose stock heroes . . . embody the tight-lipped,
strong, silent type whose actions speak louder than words”
(Benz 241). By contrast, what Deadwood characters confess,
ruminate upon, or assert, how they construct sentences and
paragraphs, what their most typical verbal responses to praise,
challenge, or insult might be frequently take priority over anything
they actually do. The energy of dialogue, as well as its
frequent idiosyncrasy, often provides a comic counterbalance to
the very serious matters under discussion. This was a technique
brilliantly deployed by both Shakespeare and Dickens, whose
rhetoric and style Milch and his writers consciously evoke.

Deadwood thus has a marked, instantly identifiable “voice,”
especially in light of the fact that so much television dialogue
is strictly utilitarian, so that a given speech might travel from
series to series to series within the same genre without ever
seeming out of place. Nor is Deadwood’s voice a mere product
of its being a period piece. Every Milch program has a distinct
voice. It is a trait that few of his show-running colleagues can
boast of; among current writers, only Joss Whedon and Aaron
Sorkin immediately come to mind as those who share Milch’s
gift in this regard. On NYPD Blue the voice sometimes became
too monolithic, with all cops, regardless of differences in class,
education, or race, tending to sound alike. Deadwood boasts a
far greater range of linguistic practices and registers.

First and foremost, for most viewers, the mention of language
in Deadwood brings to mind not literary giants but prodigious
obscenity. Some early critics actually counted the number
of times fuck or cocksucker occurred in an episode or a season.
Milch’s reasons for overloading the dialogue with swearing are
germane to this discussion, but many of the other characteristics
of the program’s language are even more so. While a thorough
survey would take up the entire length of this book, in
this chapter I will examine the most significant attributes of
both spoken and written expression in Deadwood:

1) Experiments with grammar and syntax function to give
the dialogue a sound that distinguishes it from contemporary
American speech.
2) The rough-hewn vernacular of the working-class, less
educated characters anchors one end of a continuum
that extends to the highly refined, Latinate diction of
the Eastern elites.
3) The way characters use language tells the viewer much
about who those characters are.
4) The difference between embodied, spoken words and
those abstracted through writing illustrates the series
major theme about the power of abstraction to transform
society.

First, let’s deal with that pervasive profanity. Several scholars
who have investigated swearing in the nineteenth-century
American West doubt that people used words like fuck and
cocksucker in any but their literal sense, i.e., to describe specific
sex acts, but not as all-purpose obscenities. Profanity and blasphemy
instead prevailed, with copious instances of hell, damn,
and goddamn. Benz speculates that Milch substituted anachronistic
obscenities for these blasphemies because otherwise
his characters “would not sound very threatening to modern
ears”. It is important that these curses do carry a palpable
threat, for the more violence with which a Deadwood character
freights his or her language, the more likely it will be that
this violence remains discursive and does not spill over into
action. Milch also attributes his use of so much foul language to
the yearning after self-determination that motivated most who
came to the camp: “They wanted a liberation from the restrictions
of language just as they wanted a liberation from politics”.

The writers deploy this swearing to good rhetorical purpose,
however. When and where in a speech an obscenity falls, how
often it appears, what it does to the cadence of the dialogue—
all create a kind of profane poetry in the series. Consider, for
example, Swearengen’s recounting of the abuse he suffered at
the hands of his foster father:

I took some fuckin’ beatin’ after my brother’s fuckin’ funeral.
Smacks comin’ from every fuckin’ angle. Still dizzy
from the smack from the left, here comes a smack from
the right. Brain can’t bounce around fast enough. Headache
I fuckin’ had for three fuckin’ weeks. The fuck fault
is it of mine if my fuckin’ brother croaks? Ain’t even my
fuckin’ brother. Fuckin’ people take me in. I didn’t ask
’em to fuckin’ take me in.


As an adjective, fuckin’ does not necessarily imply a negative
connotation. When applied to his dead foster brother and the
adoptive parents who treated him badly, it certainly carries animus;
one doubts that Al feels as strongly about the angle of the
blow as about the man who delivered it. What the constant
repetition of this one word does do, along with the staccato
accumulation of sentence fragments, is to represent the blows
and the pain they inflict. As expertly delivered by McShane, this
monologue turns every f-word into a metonymy for the slaps
and punches, and the viewer reels from them as if he or she
were also on the receiving end.

This monologue also showcases some of the syntactic features
that characterize the Deadwood vernacular. Subjects of
sentences are often implied, so that sentences begin with the
verb. Auxiliary words, as well as prepositions and conjunctions,
vanish (see Benz). Inverted syntax puts the object first
(“Headache I fuckin’ had”). Even in the more overstuffed Victorian
rhetoric of the educated speakers, the writing tends to
privilege action and result over agency, to strip away “filler”
parts of speech in order to emphasize nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
A typical Deadwood vernacular locution would transform
a complex sentence such as “When a man points a gun at me,
he should be ready to use it” into “Points a gun at me, cocksucker
better commit to using it.”

The Victorian “high style” does differ from this vernacular
both in terms of syntax and, especially, vocabulary. It can be
eloquent and moving, as in the letter Bullock writes to the family
of the murdered Cornish miner, Pasco, or an effective tool
for dominating a conversation, as with Alma, who is capable of
“fighting aggressively with words,” using “powerful allusions,
fecundity, sarcasm and irony”. In the main, however,
the show treats this flowery, euphemistic, and self-important
language mockingly. For instance, when the newspaper
editor A. W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones) composes an urgent story
about vaccinating those in camp against smallpox, he writes
that the shots will be “gratis.” Al wants to add “free,” and when
told that “free gratis” is a redundancy, insists on only “free,”
since few in camp will understand what gratis means. The free/
gratis juxtaposition becomes a running joke in the series as
shorthand for its class differences and unwillingness of the high
to speak so that the low can understand.

Merrick is exhibit A for this tone deafness. His speech always
sounds as if it has just been typeset, and his style—both
written and spoken—is, in words he would approve of, pretentious,
orotund, and platitudinous. Combined with the fact of
his buffoonish appearance—heavy-set, given to plaid suits and
big neckerchiefs—timidity, and hypochondria, he is hardly an
endorsement for purple prose. When Merrick seeks an account
of the outcome of a violent dispute between Swearengen and
Bullock, he chides Al for using his normal obscene language
and asks for an account that is “true and decent . . . the facts
rendered fully within social standards and sensibilities.” Although
Al finds such a style akin to a snake swallowing its tail,
he improvises a perfect parody on the spot:

Tonight, throughout Deadwood, heads may be laid to pillow
assuaged and reassured, for that purveyor for profit
of everything sordid and vicious, Al Swearengen, already
beaten to a fare-thee-well earlier in the day by Sheriff
Bullock, has returned to the Sheriff the implements and
ornaments of his office. Without the tawdry walls of
Swearengen’s saloon, the Gem, decent citizens may pursue
with a new and jaunty freedom all aspects of Christian
commerce.


Yet after Merrick leaves, Swearengen continues with a passage
that betrays perhaps a longing for the Gem not to be considered
so far outside the bounds of decency and social standards:

A full fair-mindedness requires us also to report that within
the Gem, on Deadwood’s main thoroughfare, comely whores,
decently priced liquor and the squarest games of chance in
the Hills remain unabatedly available at all hours, seven days a
week.
(2.2 “A Lie Agreed Upon, Part 2”).

Swearengen can mimic Merrick so precisely because he is,
as Daniel Salerno notes, “expert in all of Deadwood’s discursive
registers: high, low, verbal and non-verbal”. On the
other hand, E. B. Farnum, owner of the Grand Central Hotel,
has absorbed the high style’s syntax and vocabulary through
study but never connects organically to it, so that the disjunction
between his rhetorical flourishes and his grubby, greedy,
mean-spirited social-climbing nature is obvious to all. That he
has not acquired a posh accent to replace his Tennessee mountain
twang does not help, nor does the fact that he is easily
terrified into incoherence. (Salerno [192, 200–201] provides
an excellent analysis of several instances in which the high style
totally fails Farnum when he is under stress.) William Sanderson,
who plays him, makes the astute distinction that Farnum
is smart but not intelligent (Milch 30). The lack of authenticity
this distinction gives to his language, and the acquisitiveness it
serves, are epitomized perfectly when he quotes Wordsworth
but declares that he has never read him, a paradox explained by
the fact that he has a literary digest from which he memorizes
pithy phrases while suppressing all knowledge of the authors
who penned the lines.

The writers also afford characters ways to reveal themselves
through speech other than conversation. Timeworn theatrical
devices, the soliloquy and the aside, banished from most drama
since the advent of realism two centuries ago, come roaring
back in Deadwood. Sometimes the soliloquies are addressed to
a necessarily mute listener: a dog, a horse, a loved one in his
grave, the severed head of an Indian in a box, a prostitute in
the midst of performing fellatio. But at other times the person
simply talks to him or herself. This permits the viewer to learn
the motives, insecurities, fears, and aspirations of the characters
without awkward expository scenes. It also allows someone like
Farnum, who might otherwise be just a one-note caricature, to
become incredibly richer as a character.

Farnum is a Dickensian comic grotesque whose one “humor,”
Milch writes, is “an obsequiousness, a need to please,
which is based in an absolute resentment and a sense of inadequacy”.
Ironically, because Farnum’s insincerity and
the self-serving nature of his sycophancy are so transparent,
those with whom he hopes to ingratiate himself instinctively
loathe him. Given all the violence endemic in the camp, he is
objectively far from the most despicable resident, seeing that he
never kills or seriously injures anyone. Nevertheless he is probably
second only to Hearst in the contempt with which almost
everyone in Deadwood views him. For some reason Swearengen
tolerates Farnum, and Farnum both worships Swearengen
and would betray him in a second out of greed or fear. But
through the availability of soliloquy and aside, the audience
sees that Farnum knows how awful he is, feels his despair at
always being excluded, and marvels that this self-knowledge
does nothing to ameliorate his behavior. Given to launching
into a running commentary on everything that he sees—probably
a desperate attempt to fashion himself as central to events
rather than a despised supernumerary—he sums up his resentment
perfectly when he yells across the street to where a
meeting of town luminaries is taking place without him, “E. B.
was left out!” Indeed, he frequently speaks about himself in the
third person, as though even he views himself as object rather
than subject. For instance, while on his knees trying to clean
the blood of one of Al’s murdered confederates from the floor,
he imagines himself as Swearengen revealing how little he values
Farnum’s services:

Why should I reward E. B. with some small, fractional
participation in the claim? Or let him even lay by a little
security and source of continuing income, for his declining
years? What’s he ever done for me? Except let me terrify
him every goddamned day of his life ’til the idea of
bowel regularity is a full on fucking hope. Not to mention
ordering a man killed in one of E. B.’s rooms. So every
fucking free moment of his life E. B. has to spend scrubbing
the bloodstains off the goddamned floor! To keep
from having to lower his rates. Goddamn that motherfucker!

(1.5 “The Trial of Jack McCall”).

As the most skilled verbal practitioner in the camp, Swearengen
also makes the best use of the ability to speak his mind
to no one in particular. Whether he is commenting on Jewel’s
precarious ascent of the stairs carrying a breakfast tray—“Every
step an adventure!”—or offering bromides to himself to calm
his frayed nerves, he seemingly has to articulate his thoughts
in order to build upon them. When Dan Dority overhears him
talking to himself in his office, Al confides, “You have not yet
reached the age, Dan, have you, where you’re moved to utterance
of thoughts properly kept silent? Not the odd mutter. Habitual
fuckin’ vocalizing of thoughts best kept to yourself” (2.8
“Childish Things”).

The distinction between embodied speech and written language
complements Deadwood’s concern with the movement of
a civilization from the material to the abstract level, with the
inherent benefits and drawbacks such a transformation entails.
Written documents take on more and more significance as the
series progresses. Merrick may seem ridiculous, but what his
newspaper prints—and what it doesn’t—has power. That’s why
his refusal to include the bureaucratically obscure announcement
from Yankton about the validity of claims within the
communal pages of the Deadwood Pioneer and his agreement to
shame Hearst by printing the letter about the death of the miner
whom Hearst had murdered lead to his offices being twice vandalized
by the government and business interests he has defied.
Hickok’s letter to his wife becomes a much-prized item, and
Bullock asks his spouse, Martha (Anna Gunn), to edit the text
of his campaign speech. Written contracts replace the method
of spitting into one’s palm and shaking hands to seal a deal.
Hearst is forever sending cryptic written messages to Swearengen
and does much of his communication through the newly
arrived telegraph.

Salerno explains Al’s somewhat confounding disdain for telegraphy
by pointing out that disembodied messages rob him
of his formidable advantages when squaring off in face-to-face
conversations (199). Yet he knows he has to be able to deal with
this less material form of language and so recruits the allegiance
of Merrick and the newspaperman’s friend, telegraph operator
Blazanov, who abandons his strict confidentiality policy and
leaks the contents of Hearst’s telegrams to Swearengen when
the attacks upon Merrick remind him of the Tsarist thugs he
fled. Moreover, Al recognizes the permanency that the written
holds over the oral. When he and his colleague Silas Adams (Titus
Welliver) work carefully to compose just the right text for
the agreement by whose terms the camp will consent to become
part of the Dakota territory, he forgoes a $50,000 payoff previously
negotiated because it won’t do to have a bribe recorded in
the “founding document.”

Part of the coalescence of the camp from a battlefield of
warring interests to a community that is all a part of the same
metaphorical body involves its inhabitants learning to communicate
with each other, even if their native idiolects are as different
as that of actor Jack Langrishe (Brian Cox), comforting
his dying fellow thespian Chesterton by playing with him the
Edgar-Gloucester scene at Dover from King Lear, from that of
Mr. Wu getting his meaning across to Al through a combination
of stick-figure drawings, emphatic gestures, and a variety
of vocal inflections of the only two English words he knows:
“cocksucker” and “Swed-gin.”
 
Posts: 106909 | Registered: January 20, 2000Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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^^^
Wow, thanks for this from a true Deadwood-o-phile.
I can't think of another series that would demand such an examination. If I couldn't put into words how characters in Deadwood communicate, there is an acute awareness of it as it plays out, like a texture screen on an image.

So much food for thought here, I have to mention how you've formatted this, Para, thanks!! So much more accessible and readable, I'd love to see a lot of our long posts displayed the same way.




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Posts: 8279 | Location: Flown-over country | Registered: December 25, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I have seen the dialogue referred to as “Redneck Shakespeare” and that’s probably a good description in modern terms. In an interview with Bernie Taupin Elton John’s song co-writer lyricist, Taupin commented on the heavy influence of American Country songwriter Hank Williams on his work. Taupin referred to Williams as “Shakespeare for the common man”.

I grew up hearing that Shakespeare’s works were something appreciated by society’s educated upper classes and not us ill educated lower classes.

My exposure to his work started in high school and continued in college. I was not an English major but found myself taking more lit classes than required to fill out electives. I’m certainly no Shakespeare scholar, but once understanding the slang of the times began to have a faint understanding of some of it.

My understanding was that Shakespeare’s works were not considered the “high fallutin” literature of the upper and royal classes, but were written in the language to the common man of that time. The primary audience of the Globe Theatre was the common ill educated lower class and merchant class. The slang was their slang. Even so, his plays attracted some interest from the upper and royal classes.

Shakespeare was in fact the “Redneck Literature” of that time. He and Williams were writing for the same same folks.

I thoroughly enjoyed Deadwood and miss it.
 
Posts: 1605 | Location: Texas Hill Country | Registered: April 07, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Ripley:
So much food for thought here...
Yes, this passage offers a far more astute analysis of the writing style of the series than I had previously encountered.

For example, it's rather interesting to note that the writers of the series accomplished exposition in the clever way described here:
quote:
The writers also afford characters ways to reveal themselves
through speech other than conversation. Timeworn theatrical
devices, the soliloquy and the aside, banished from most drama
since the advent of realism two centuries ago, come roaring
back in Deadwood. Sometimes the soliloquies are addressed to
a necessarily mute listener: a dog, a horse, a loved one in his
grave, the severed head of an Indian in a box, a prostitute in
the midst of performing fellatio. But at other times the person
simply talks to him or herself. This permits the viewer to learn
the motives, insecurities, fears, and aspirations of the characters
without awkward expository scenes. It also allows someone like
Farnum, who might otherwise be just a one-note caricature, to
become incredibly richer as a character.
Naturally, viewers of the series witnessed these scenes but I am certain I am not alone when I say that the way the writers permitted characters to reveal inner thoughts in this fashion escaped conscious thought of the viewer; we saw it and yet, in a manner of speaking, we did not see it.

This is further evidence that Deadwood was and is as great as its fans claim. And those who clutch their pearls and recoil at the constant drumbeat of profanity have missed out on a high water mark in television history.

It is perhaps the greatest tragedy in the history of all television drama that we did not get that last season of Deadwood, and instead, we had to wait a decade and a half to get that politically correct mess of a movie in 2019. Taking all things into account, I'd say that it would have been better to have just left the series alone.
 
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I agree with Para…it is/was one the greatest series in Television history…well written, cast and acted…the long awaited movie didn’t even come close to the series…I sorta feel the same way about Firefly Frown


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"we've gotta roll with the punches, learn to play all of our hunches
Making the best of what ever comes our way
Forget that blind ambition and learn to trust your intuition
Plowing straight ahead come what may
And theres a cowboy in the jungle"
Jimmy Buffet
 
Posts: 10566 | Location: Southeast Tennessee...not far above my homestate Georgia | Registered: March 10, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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As I watched, I knew much more was going on that I couldn't verbalize. Even after three viewings, I felt incomplete. I'll admit to being lazy and looking to YouTube vids that scratched the surface, revealed a few truths but left me wanting. The Hark article goes where Deadwood begs someone to go. Film or narrative analysis can get overly caught up in its own cleverness or academic tapdancing. As I watched Deadwood I regularly felt exhilarated, reading Hark's observations was also exhilarating as it slapped me in the face and reminded me who I could be.




Set the controls for the heart of the Sun.
 
Posts: 8279 | Location: Flown-over country | Registered: December 25, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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