Danish ‘West Wing’ To Premiere In US

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Photo courtesy of Arbeiderpartiet

Prior to September 15th a female Prime Minister was only the stuff of small screen drama in Denmark, but in a case of life imitating art Helle Thorning-Schmidt claimed victory in the September election. This is all perfect timing for San Francisco-based cable channel Link TV. On October 29th Link will premiere the hit European drama, Borgen, about the first (fictional) female Prime Minister of Denmark.
Borgen - which means “the Castle” and refers to the house of Parliament in Copenhagen — is touted as the “Danish cousin to the West Wing.” The show tackles familiar topics such as the 24/7 news cycle, political in-fighting and the challenges of being a working mom.
The significant thing about the timing of the series premiere - aside from the election of a woman PM - is that it comes at a time when real-life women are making in-roads into governments across the globe. In its September 26th, 2011 issue, Newsweek magazine ranked the “Top Ten Countries” for women. It didn’t surprise me that the Nordic countries, including Denmark, dominated the category. Iceland landed in the top spot thanks, in part, to the huge presence women have in their government. They recently elected an open lesbian, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, as Prime Minister.
The US and Canada fared relatively well on the Newsweek survey, eighth and third respectively, but one category where North Americans are noticeably lagging behind our Northern European sisters is in the number of women representing us in government. As former San Francisco First Lady (and multi-hyphenate), Jennifer Siebel Newsom, points out in her documentary Miss Representation, women make up 51% of the US population, but only 17% of Congress. Perhaps because of the increasing prominence of female political stars in both parties - or because of the inordinate number of women politicians representing Northern California - I was surprised to see just how low those numbers still are. Compare our 17% representation in the US with roughly 40% in Nordic countries and it’s clear we have some ground to cover.
It’s been suggested by Newsom, and others, that positive media images of women in leadership roles may encourage more young women to leap into the political fray. Perhaps a critical mass of actual women leaders, combined with programs such as Borgen, will contribute to a wider acceptance of women leaders. Another encouraging sign is the recent news that Universal Television is set to adapt the series for an American audience.
Here’s a little preview of the Danish series before it airs on Link at the end of the month: