The English is an Amazon original that left me feeling disappointed and a little bit offended. At its core, this is a white savior narrative disguised as something empowering.
Cornelia Locke has made it to America in search of the man responsible for her son’s death. Now she, with the help of a Pawnee Indian she meets along the way, scours the western frontier seeking her revenge. Can she survive the unforgiving landscape of the new world and find the man she’s looking for, or will the unforgiving plains claim another victim?
The show is an average western at best and very preachy. The acting is great, but the story and its pacing aren’t. The series jumps between different stories ineffectively, making this a disorienting experience. While I appreciate the attempt at a more complicated narrative, there is a lot of filler. This is a series that takes too long to get to the point.
The biggest issue I have with this series is how it tries to whitewash history. I was a bit disgusted by the lengths to which this series goes to prove that not all white people during this period were terrible. I don’t believe all white people are bad, I just don’t like how hard they try to prove this.
There is clearly a white savior complex and some virtue signaling at play in this series. You can see this with Cornelia and how she carries herself. Every episode has a moment where she has to talk about how brown people aren’t bad and that we should respect them as people. She has a whole speech about how white people are stealing from the Native Americans. It gets a little much, and I had trouble caring.
I get that Cornelia has a reason to be so kind, but this series goes above and beyond to prove that she isn’t racist. Other white characters in this series suffer from this same complex. Lately, I have been noticing many examples of modern media capitalizing on white guilt and virtue signaling. We don’t need this kind of whitewashing and hand-holding, especially when we are dealing with the terrible aspects of our history. Tell the stories how they are. They are meant to make us uncomfortable because they were uncomfortable stories.
I did not appreciate how this series presents the atrocities of this time as reactions from the good white characters. There is a problematic scene in this series where an entire Native village of Native Americans is slaughtered. You hear the slaughter in the distance, but the focus is on an English man and his overly dramatic anger. I am not saying they should have shown the slaughter, but this type of commentary is insulting. It was as if the series was saying, “we know this was bad, but there were good white people trying to stop this from happening too.” This shifts the focus from a terrible event and puts it on a white man.
I might be taking things a bit too personally, but this theme was too present to ignore. The English isn’t a good redemption story because it is sloppy and lazy. It isn’t a good romance because there isn’t any chemistry, and the romance wasn’t set up properly. It isn’t even a good western because of how cartoonish it becomes. They have great actors who are wasted on such a mediocre story. I am sure there is an audience for this, but it wasn’t for me. I would recommend you skip it, but you can stream it on Amazon Video if you have a Prime membership.
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