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Is This New Show A Good Thing? #BarkskinsGate

Updated: Jun 18

Over the next few months, we’re going to comment on the somewhat controversial show Barkskins. We have dubbed this controversy, #BarskinsGate.


By now you may have heard of this new Nat Geo Series. This show is based on the novel Barkskins by Annie Proulx. The book follows the deforestation of North America from the arrival of European settlers through the 21st century. It does this by telling the fictional story of two immigrants to New France and their descendants.

This is a really interesting and unique topic, there are not many fiction books discussing New France in English. Kind of stinks that the underlying theme is how we destroyed the forests of North America, but hey at least they are talking about us.

There will only be minor spoilers in this post mostly just introducing characters. We know most folks in Canada have not seen the show, so we will be respectful of that. What we really want to comment on is whether Barkskins is a good or bad thing.


************Spoiler Warning************

Only proceed if you’re ok seeing a few light spoilers!


Alright, so impressions of the ‘ol Barksins program…..


First off, what exactly is a barkskin? We didn’t hear the term used in the series yet and we are through episode six. A quick Google returned this: a barkskin is an indentured servant who was transported to New France to clear the wilderness. Well alrighty then! Did anyone else picture Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy? Ok, maybe…maybe not.

Without getting too far into plot we begin following two barkskins as they arrive in the fictional town of Wobik, New France in the 1690s. Pretty hard to hate on that start. An American TV series talking about New France? Lies! Nope, it’s real.


We are also introduced to the…….wait for it…….Fille du Roi! Historically speaking the timing is as inaccurate as saying the Red Sox won the 1986 World Series, but still amazing to see on TV (the Fille du Roi program ended in 1673).


Finally, the brave women whose leap into the dangerous unknown is getting a nod in American culture. There are some issues with their depiction at times in the series, but to see their grit and sacrifice acknowledged is quite moving.



Five things we love about the show


New France getting a mention

This is mind-blowing. I never thought I’d see a dramatic series about New France on American television. In the U.S., New France is only briefly mentioned in high school when they talk about the Seven Years War or as it’s called here, the French and Indian War. Other than that…not a peep.


This could be a really great thing for organizations around that U.S. that tell the Franco-American story. We’ll be honest this show is not 100% accurate (see dislikes below), but a mention of our story in the mainstream culture can only be a good thing for us. This could spur new curiosity in tourism and research.


Trepagny

He’s eccentric, to say the least. Guy has some extravagant clothes, oddly worships trees, and is kind of a dirtbag to Mari….but you’ll still like him. He is a guy who has made his way in the rough wilderness and struts around like he knows it. His choice of wife is super questionable though.


Mathilde

She’s tough as nails. She feels like the mémé that runs the show and you want to be part of. She is the one everyone turns to in the village for support. Throughout the season people come to her with problems and she always somehow helps them.


Authentic feel

It really feels like you are in 1690s New France. The town looks stunning and the costumes look really good. It’s nice to see some money thrown into a project like this. It helps to keep people interested.


Here’s a quick video on how Wobik was built: 

The Dude from Scream

Mathew Lillard makes an appearance in the show doing a French accent. It really wasn’t too bad to be honest. It’s one of those “hey it’s that guy” moments when you recognize him.

You're kind of like, wait is that the...it totally is!


Five things we dislike about the show


The English

Why? Do we really need these English dudes lurking around Wobik? These amazingly superior English businessmen/mercenaries are lurking around the town and seem to have their tentacles wrapped around it. There a few different scenes where an

English person corrects French superstition and/or lack of knowledge on a subject. We just don’t see it as necessary. Were workers from the Hudson Bay Company really lurking all over New France and terrorizing people in the 1690s...with the help of the Iroquois? We know there were tensions with the Native Americans, but the English angle does seem forced.





Few French actors

Most of the actors are from the US and UK. It would have been nice to have some francophone actors in the series and in major roles. The series was filmed in Quebec so it seems like it could have happened. Maybe in season two?


Mumbling

This may be a result of anglophone actors struggling with accents, but the show was somewhat hard to follow at times in the first couple of episodes. You had to listen really closely to follow the plot line. It clears up around episode 3.


Wild West feel

You’re going to get to know characters and then, bang, they die. Was it really that rough in a small village like this? It’s somewhat hard to believe it was quite that violent and people were that underhanded

How could they survive with so many people getting picked off all the time


Misogyny

Yea…there are some awkward moments with how women were treated. We won’t get into specifics, but women’s bodies are judged for “purity” at times throughout the season. We aren’t really sure if that’s how it was in New France or not, but at times it's borderline cringeworthy. The most brutal situation is Delphine. When you see it you’ll know and it will leave you puzzled. Did we need that plot line? Unsure.


What do you think? Is this show good for us?


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