Thursday, August 23, 2007

Character Study: Claudia Blaisdale

The swelling pompousness of the opening score with its erudite grandeur. Even the little musical murmurs are decadent. Slight instruments which only belong in full orchestras tremor with excitement. My excitement. My excitement at every single episode. I'm blissfully unemployed and partaking in excesses of Dynasty, whose second season was released on DVD last week. I've already worked my way through it. 22 episodes in one week. 6 discs. Suffice to say I'm steeped. But everyone dismisses me when I talk about it. They click their tongues like I'm engaged in some frivolous affair - like watching the walls would be more worthwhile. I know better.

It's callous ludicrousness hasn't reached the extent that it would. Far from the Moldovian massacre, I'm worried about the arrivals of the more feathered ladies. The Eighties ladies. Girls really, cause Krystle and Alexis are the ladies. It still has its pertinence. It takes drastic turns you wouldn't expect it to. There's, of course, the gay son, but by season two he's rather old hat. So he beds Heather Locklear - cause what gay son wouldn't? Then he makes his zealous departure. Alexis makes Krystle lose her baby by firing a rifle at her horse. Nearly everything Alexis does is magically rancorous. And she turns this acerbity into sonnets. But Krystle gets even. The first ever Dynasty catfight is worth the legacy. I don't think its a moment which particularly warrants words.

After a dull turn in season one, I found myself shocked as Claudia endeared herself to me. Kooky Claudia whose fits of depression and maternal regrets burdened the premier season turn to balletically crazed hysterics. Oh Claudia, dear, dear Claudia. Your daughter, Lindsay, is gone. Her husband took her cause Claudia slept with the gay son. There's a lot of women around this gay son... Krystle accidentally shoots her in the head - that aids the crazy. Then she can fervorously scratch at the invisible head wound (here, hairdos trump naturalism) whenever irritated. Read, whenever she hears what she doesn't want to. "I finally figured it out about you." She tells Krystle, nodding her bandaged head like a battered Mother Theresa. "God punished you , he punished you. He took your baby cause you took mine.... You deserved to lose your baby. God chose to make it happen. Can't you see how simple it really is?" She throws a baby off a roof, but not before she declares what a beautiful mountain they're standing on. She develops a habit of flicking her wrist theatrically when she's upset.

Claudia is the design for future soap crazies like Kimberly (Melrose Place) and Amber (Footballers Wive$). She is the ultimate in feminine duress. Her suicide attempt at the opening of the season causes her to bed in restraints. She limply tugs at the bindings. Claudia's sole purpose in life is reunification with her daughter ("Where's my daughter!"). Blake's nemesis Cecil Colby makes her spy while under employ at Denver Carrington because he knows the whereabouts of her Lindsay. But when the car carrying Lindsay is found ablaze in an amazon jungle, Claudia is given free reign to cull from the sample book of crazy. She cuts out clothing she'll buy for her daughter from magazines "because clothes are so important at her age." She habitually places her fingers to her lips, eyes darting about the room. Her magnificence is in her casualness. The Colby baby is snatched and she sighs, breezing by the frantic parents, "Well I did see a foreign looking man with a dark beard by the greenhouse... but I didn't recognize him. Is something the matter?"

Caludia is really the star attraction of season two. Everyone else is cast as themselves. Linda Evans stands regal and statuary. Her appeal has never quite made sense to me: all white and flowing. But then I always preferred the Disney villains. And that would be Miss Collins. In her first show, she tells Fallon, her daughter, "I'm glad to see your father got your teeth fixed... if not your tongue." When a pregnant Fallon crashes her car into a mound of dirt, a beglitzed Alexis (donning a golden gown, trimmed with innumerable fox tails) shakes her conscious with a rabid hysteria. Collins' faux British exclamations of "FALLON! FALLON! Oh God, there's been an accident!" are, in a word, fabulous but don't hold a candle to Claudia's obsessive thespian free-for-all.

Dynasty worked because it refused to conform to respectability. Claudia is a soap Jodi Foster or Julianne Moore. The fact that she was a soap character allowed her to take the role to a far more indulgent place. She embraces the absurdity of her trappings and carries it over the threshold of decency. What would sadly become a one dimensional show with pallid character types is here, in its infancy, a delightfully absurdist melodrama with multifaceted characters. It's a well balanced extremism. It's decadence still casting a curious gaze on American want instead of pandering to it. There is no better a figure of this fissure than Claudia, who, in season one, was a lower class waitress. Recently out of her first stint in an asylum she viewed the Carrringtons like an exotic creature in a cage. By season two they all but adopted her, bearing the weight of her psychological instability. She doesn't know how to make the transition. But really, would we?


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