Boardwalk Empire and Ideological Codes

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One of my favorite television shows out right now would have to be Boardwalk Empire starring Steve Buscemi. It is based in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the 1920’s Prohibition era. The protagonist character, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson is a politician who is involved in the illegal distribution of alcohol. He has ties with government officials and dangerous mobsters alike.

I like the dated context of this series as well as the accuracy that it employs in its details. The settings and costumes are right on point for that era, carnation pocket adornments and all. Even the ideological codes of that time are employed. Such codes are gender roles, male hierarchical dominance, the importance of wealth and racial segregation. Even the dialect and vernacular employed by characters is accurate for that time period.

Nucky’s second wife Margaret Schroeder reinforces ideological codes and gender roles in multiple ways throughout the series. In the episode before last, when Margaret was asked about business matters, she responds that a women’s role is in the house. Also, in many scenes Chalky White and Eli Thompson are shown displaying dominance and control as the men of the house. They’re families even at times reveal fear of the father figures. Nucky Thompson is highly respected and much of this has to do with his extreme wealth and power. Despite his often-unethical tactics of conducting business people esteem him in his community. In the first season we saw the appearance of the KKK and their racial violence towards African Americans. All these situations display the use of ideological codes in this series.

I enjoy the window this show opens into a distant and unfamiliar time, and I also enjoy the superior way in which it is done. The show is historically accurate in its inclusion of real people such as Al Capone and Enoch Thompson (Johnson in real life). Many other characters are also based upon people who actually existed.

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