Until a few weeks ago I had never seen an episode of BBC1s Merlin. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I set about to watch the first 4 series on DVD expecting great things. On the one hand, I love it. It is fun, easy to watch and entertaining. Arthur and Merlin are both likable characters whose relationship is both funny and endearing. The stories are a little predictable and clichéd but, for Saturday evening viewing, they do exactly what they set out to; they entertain. On the other hand, Merlin’s sexism irritates, and often even infuriates, me.
Other than Merlin, none of the characters appear to have mothers. Obviously they were all birthed by someone, yet every one (Arthur, Morgana, Guinevere, Mithian) has lost their mother at what would appear to be a young age. Camelot is clearly a dangerous place to give birth; it will inevitably lead to your untimely death. Merlin’s mother has been lucky to escape this fate so far, but she is rarely mentioned and seen even less.
All of the other women who have appeared in this show seem to only have one of three functions;
- To be a love interest
- To be a villain
- To die an untimely death
Some of the women, such as the druid Freya, have served all three functions in one episode. Others, such as Morgana and Guinevere, have shifted from one function to another. Both women had little, to no, storyline of their own other than to act as love interests/villains for the major, and male, characters. Don’t get me wrong, Morgana is a fantastic baddy and is great fun to watch. As individual characters the woman are not irritating but taken as a whole they paint a sad picture.
Guinevere was first a love interest for Arthur; star-crossed, tragic love is always entertaining apparently. Since finally marrying Arthur at the end of season 4 however, it appears the writers have no idea what to do with her. They don’t want to kill her off just yet so they have made her the villain of season 5 instead.
Isolde was a strong woman, capable of standing up for herself. She was introduced as part of a relationship but her love for Tristan enhanced her character rather than defining it. Of course, in Camelot, this was not acceptable and so she had to die.
Just once it would be great to see Merlin include a strong female character. She should be independent, capable, not defined by her relationship or her need for power, and she should be allowed to live! These are the kind of women I want to see on my TV. I am all in favour of a bit of eye candy, of which Merlin has plenty, but strong female characters would make the show something really worth watching.