The Thing I Like About …

Murdoch Mysteries: the progressiveness within the time period.

Murdoch Mysteries is set in 1895. It’s about a police detective with a good head for science – especially the very latest science. To modern eyes, the “very latest science” is fairly banal, but to the 1895 crowd, it’s so new as to be unheard of and possibly suspect. The inspector is a nice enough man, but he runs his precinct the way the 1895 crowd would – physical “enticements” for the suspects to confess, conservative attitudes about social politics, a notion that a shot of whiskey solves most emotional troubles, etc. The townsfolk behave as people would have behaved at the time – with a reservation and sensibility not seen much these days. Things that were illegal – such as homosexuality – are depicted as illegal without apology, and things that were legal – such as denying a man a promotion because of his religion – were fully expected and understood (if not liked).

But within this true-to-the-times framework, the main characters push the envelope – becoming willing to examine their own views about seemingly incontrovertible things, accepting other human beings as inherently equal, experimenting with new ideas and technologies with an open mind – and, within that 1890’s framework, they represent all the people whose shifting attitudes slowly transformed the world into the one we have today.

Our world may not be perfect, but seeing the beginnings of change – seeing how dramatic those changes felt to the people who were being asked to experience them, seeing how very different things were not really so very long ago – puts things into perspective; while there is probably always room for improvement in such a complex world, we don’t have to be cynical or discouraged. We’ve actually come so far.

And we don’t have to be afraid of change going forward, any more than the 1895 crowd needed to be as afraid as they probably were to see their world get turned on its ear. We should be vigilant, to be sure, to try as best we can to make the changes positive … but change in itself isn’t bad. It’s difficult, and scary, and some of it might even seem suspect, but being willing to face change and embrace it will make everything go a lot more smoothly, and peacefully.

To paraphrase Detective Murdoch as he pondered a murder case: If the killer had just accepted the situation for what it was, instead of reacting with fear, no one would have been hurt in the first place.

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