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Reflections on 2001 to 2013; Have your views shifted over the years?
Topic Started: Dec 16 2013, 01:02 AM (1,740 Views)
magical_mist
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Out of Dorm
I'm trying to restart some BG and N/H discussions so here's something that's occurred to me that you may want to chew on. I wonder if any N&H fans who were around when it was a new show in the UK (1999 onwards) have recognised that their opinions have changed like I have. Life can have a way of taking the romance out of you! (I stopped watching around 2001 when N&H left so that's why I called the title as I have).

When it was going out live every week, although I loved and still love both Nikki and Helen, at the time I remember thinking Nikki was a bit too angry/impestuous/jealous/even violent at times and wondered a wee bit what Helen saw in her. I was slightly more sympathetic towards Helen in those days. This was possibly because I saw myself as a version of Helen - aware of my sexuality but otherwise a corporate girl playing by the rules. Someone like Nikki would have been problematic for me to deal with. After digging the box sets out about 6 weeks ago (and have been watching obsessively since then!) I realise now in 2013 I'm more sympathetic towards Nikki. Now I feel that if I was Nikki I'd probably have eventually given up chasing Helen and chalked it up to experience instead of living with the almost endless disappointment and brush offs (so glad she didn't though!). What I used to see as angry bad girl behaviour in Nikki, I now see it as the result of rough justice and her way of speaking out for herself and others in the only way she could as a strongly principled but disenfranchised person (prisoner) with little control even over her own life. I see her as more of a heroic figure now than I did back then. Of course in some ways Helen is a bit of a hero too for doing what she could for the women. I guess that's why they belong together!
I still love them both really, but seriously sometimes I wonder if Helen deserved Nikki's unwavering loyalty for the 3 series. Even in their final-to last scene ever she raised Nikki's hopes by turning up at the bar but then left. It is up to Nikki to ultimately go after Helen (again!) despite this taking place just about 2 days after Helen told her to forget about her and then she walked away with Dr Waugh. Don't get me wrong I'd have been devastated if they hadn't got together (both in 2001 and now) - I'd probably never have
watched the DVDs again - but how many times did Helen try to put Nikki off/tell her to not touch her/outright dump her/tell her to move on and forget about her/went after the Dr! and STILL Helen got what she wanted in the end - once it had been pointed out to her by the Dr what it was that she wanted!

Not sure what all this says about me but probably that I'm both more broad minded and yet more cynical all at the same time! :-)

Final note though: That final episode really turned up the heart rate back when it was going out live and we viewers genuinely didn't know if a) Nicky would get out of gaol b) if N&H would get together. I remember watching the clock and there only being a few minutes left of the series..and Helen turning up.... and then leaving the bar again (I felt my heart sink the way that N's would have) ...I really thought it was going to end badly. Hats off to the writers for the build up of tension!
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richard
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I'm really glad you've started this discussion, Magical mist.

What still fascinates me is what complex characters Helen and Nikki are. Helen's forte was in straight line logical thinking and working within the system yet Helen was astonishingly intuitive in seeing the good that was in Nikki despite the "difficult reputation" Nikki had and in the light of the bruising confrontation of the near riot in the very first episode (as well as being attracted to). Although Nikki could be hot tempered she came over as cool and what is interesting how Tessa Spall totally underestimated Nikki in seeing her as a mild mannered posh sounding woman. You're right in understanding Nikki as someone who had become totally distrustful of the prison system in two years of being locked up- her explanation to Monica of the prison system shows that. Helen had to work terrifically hard in convincing Nikki that she was for real. It is also interesting how Nikki changes throughout the series in softening up and the way she idfentifies as "head prefect" a telling phrase.

I definitely agree that both women are heroic and Helen's battles with Stubberfield and Fenner in Series 1 was certainly very touching in the way she kept battling on- a key episode in early Series 2 was when she finally got Fenner suspended with her brilliant "Well, I don't like it. I don't like it one bit."

The other interesting thing is that you read Nikki by what she says and you read Helen by what she does. Helen hides herself behind and expresses herself through seeing Nikki first as a great ally and then in fighting for Nikki's appeal and is very single minded in this. Right at the very end, you see Helen watching Nikki's post appeal speech on TV but I don't think it is in Chix but some random bar which has a TV and then you see Helen coming up to Nikki and Trisha.
I still think the whole storyline is astonishingly memorable and certainly the last episode kept the suspense back right to the very end. Hope this all helps to kick off the discussion.
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cagey
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Hiya magical_mist and thank you for starting a thought provoking discussion. I hope others will join in.

I am a fairly late arrival to BG but from the time I was first enthralled in 2008 to now my perceptions of Helen and Nikki have changed considerably. This is somewhat thanks to discussion on this board but also just from thinking about "if I was in her shoes" how would I feel.

I think you are spot on that one's personal situation while watching the show will have an impact on whether one finds Nikki or Helen the more sympathetic. For me, Nikki was easier to understand from the sexuality thing but Helen was easier to get from the jobs and trying to work within those confines situation.

At the moment, I couldn't say if I favour one character over the other.
Edited by cagey, Jan 23 2014, 05:10 AM.
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richard
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Hi Cagey- nice to see you again. My immediate identification was with Helen in the stressful work situation which is something I've gone through and Helen's "well I don't like it. I don't like it one bit" was really resonant for me. Nikki too some time to sink in. Right now, I have no preference as both of them seem valid- there is a bit of a X files Mulder and Scully attraction of opposites here.

What I found in Bad Girls in being the top drama for me is the fascinating way that characters went through changes and developed, Helen being the obvious case and this places it way ahead of any soap opera whose depressing message is that whatever happens, everything stays the same. I'm sure that this was part of Shed's agenda when they conceived of the series.
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Prairiegirl
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G2 landing
I didn't see this when it was originally broadcast either. So for me, it was catching it later.

As to my perspective, I think that I have changed over time. I think the first time was to root for the two women to be together. I think the idea of two women overcoming a lot of odds to be together was quite fun, especially at a time when there were relatively few lesbians on television. It was nice to see anything.

I think later my interest was more focused on Helen and her journey. I always have felt that she was conflicted in her relationship with Nikki, something that I see in some of the strong women that I see coming out. I wrote a short fan fic to explore what I think are some of her themes around feeling whipsawed by her emotions, what may be behind her interest in helping other people when there would be much easier jobs to hold and her struggle with someone who is different from her socially. Nikki always coded to me as someone who came out a lot longer ago and who has a battle hardened side that older lesbians can have and it interests me the class differences with what seems to be Helen's background. I think their initial relationship would be very rocky. I have picked up my fic again after several years, the only fic that I ever wrote, and I intend to brush it up and expand it now that it is back on my mind.

I think what drew me back a third time is the idea of having feelings for someone that you are so restricted in what you can do with. I am happily with someone and have been for sometime but I am not straight and don't hold the typical perspectives about relationships that society imposes. I love my partner and have no intention of leaving but recognize that I have feelings for other people. It has been interesting to watch how these two women deal with feelings that they recognize but cannot act on. Helen is better at it than Nikki - Helen can be almost Puritanical at times but then can't restrain herself. But it is interesting in how it ebbs and flows and changes between them.

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magical_mist
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Wow we got us a conversation going on! Thanks so much to everyone who has responded thus far. I'm always up for a BG/HN chat.

Richard - yes I'm sure the bar we see Helen *almost crying* in is not Chix, the other drinkers don't look like they belong in a lesbian bar ha ha! I always read that bit as being Helen being in a random bar somewhere in London, though why they didn't have her at home watching it I don't know. I also don't know if by the time Helen sees it on TV she already knew the verdict ie Claire mentions she will phone her. I have pondered if this is the same bar where Simone Lahbib recorded the Runnerbird sketch thing as she has the same clothes on. I like youre everything stays the same point, think you have hit the nail on the head there.
While I'm talking to you Richard well done on all your fan fiction - love it and please keep going!

Prairiegirl (and everyone else) yes seeing that covert lesbian relationship on TV was/is great. Nowhere near enough of those long storylines at that quality. I actually think I appreciate it all more now than I did then. Also..yes I think most of us would have focused on Helen as she was a major character and had a lot of other storylines going on to do with running the wing etc. I agree Nikki is much more the confirmed lesbian of the two, I think according to her backstory she has been out since age 16 if not earlier.

Cagey - yay to not favouring either one as they're both fabulous! My favourite thing really is them together! I know what you mean about Nikki=sexuality Helen=jobs thing. In 2001 I was not out at my corporate job but I was definitely doing the covert flirting at work thing with one or two other "undercover" lesbians. So I could understand the tension of their relationship i.e. the strain of secrecy and at the same time Helen having to get on with being a responsible employee. (side point a knowing look between me and another woman when someone else mentioned Bad Girls at work all those years ago is something I'll always remember ha ha!, BG was a great flirting device then!).

Happy Valentines 2014 Helen & Nicky!
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Prairiegirl
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I would disagree with you Richard. I don't think Helen was a straight forward thinker. I think that she is a deeply moral person but that her quest to be honest to her own conflicted feelings takes her through a pretty zig zaggy path. It makes for good TV regardless. She won't be with Nikki, then she kisses Nikki then she won't let Nikki touch her then she is necking with Nikki then she is pulling away then there is the whole Thomas thing. But then, maybe the straightforwardness comes from quest to both be moral and be honest with herself. Maybe that is the part that is straight forward.

I also think that the question of evolution of Helen is colored by the whole thing being in such a constrained situation. As Helen herself notes, prison is not the real world and things get distorted.

I do think Helen's morality is tested and that may be part of the evolution. She comes in thinking that she can make changes and do go and leaves jaded with her an anyone's ability to do good in that situation. It makes you wonder about her back story and what drives her to be wanting to devote her life to such a difficult proposition. I know right now in my life, I am in a system that is fundamentally broken and I feel a lot like Helen. But I don't know if her evolution is just from idealistic to jaded or if it is more subtle. Thoughts?

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richard
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I'm glad this debate has got going so well. I agree with you Prairiegirl that Helen isn't a straightforward thinker at all. She has a strong moral mindset that troubles her in bending the rules even in a good cause- her speech to Nikki that "she's just suspended Fenner when she's as guilty of the same thing in thought if not in deed" encapsulates this. While she has a straight line logic, she also works intuitively in seeing that Nikki could be a "great ally" while others didn't and in letting Nikki off with a caution for attacking Shell when she didn't know why herself.

It's interesting to see how Nikki starts to pick up on Helen's thinking in saying in the very first episode "you should all be sacked" and in the Series 3 riot scene "those responsible should be disciplined" which has Helen's fingerprints all over it. It's interesting that Nikki goes through changes as well as Helen.

Coming back to Helen's zigzag path (like that phrase) to Nikki, Shed did so great in paralleling that to Helen's position in the prison system- as Wing Governor she tries to distance herself- as prison service professional she gets closer to Nikki. In Series 3, she wants them to lie low while the appeal is going on but becoming acting governing governor resurrects her old inhibitions. The only way they can be themselves are when they're both out of Larkhall, Helen's visit in Series 2 being a preview. I'm also in a work situation that seems to be pretty insane and I've has to learn to do things my way rather than follow the crowd.

You raise a very interesting point Prairiegirl about where Helen got her moral values from. You see in one scene with Sean where Helen resents her father for not approving of anything she's ever done so she's showing herself and her father. In the BG book, you read that Helen's 'widower father is an austere Presbyterian minister' so while Helen is a liberal and has rejected that form of religion, the way she uses the word 'duty' has echoes of her father.

My thanks, magical mist, about my fanfic and you have raised the very interesting question about the timing of Claire saying she would phone Helen about the court case and Helen seeing it on TV and another question arises about Helen's 'bit of detective work' in finding Chix.
Bad Girls had an extraordinary richness of characters and storytelling that still hasn't been bettered. Hope this bit of a ramble makes sense. Over to you guys.
Edited by richard, Feb 11 2014, 06:02 PM.
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Prairiegirl
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Great ramble. I agree with the development of the characters and how they change over time. How do you think your own work experiences parallel or divulge from this? I know that one of my character flaws is being too loyal to my peeps - I seem to not get out when all logic says I should - a bit like Nikki. I have always read her as being someone of much more flexible rules but strong loyalties - killing someone for someone else shows that. I always think her greatest journey is in moving to much more traditional boundaries - less mouthing off and more following the rules. Which is a big deal for someone who has basically lived much of her life outside the rules. I also think this will be the biggest conflict when they are out of Larkhall - someone strongly moral and someone of flexible morals. Thoughts?
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ElspethR
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Up to Basic
This is just my own question, as I too have recently rewatched after several years break and I first saw it in 2000 when it was important for me. I've found my opinions wavering as I saw each series 1-3 more than once and also read the insights on here. Currently, I'm feeling pretty angry at Helen and dissatisfied with the writing of getting them together. I've written a piece but think at 1000 words that's it's too long for a forum so I'm putting it on my wordpress blog, same user name (am I allowed to post links?) Happy to put it here too. But basically, I'm so surprised at where I'm at! Would be interested to hear other's views as it seems I'm not the only one who's become more sympathetic towards Nikki over the last decade. Here's the link anyway http://elspethr.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/bad-girls-why-nikki-and-helen-dont-work/
Elspeth

author of Parallel Spirals

http://parallel-spirals.webs.com/
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magical_mist
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Out of Dorm
Hi thanks everyone who has contributed so far I'm loving the chance to bump brain cells with you all. Elspeth R I will definitely be reading your piece and I am looking forward to that.
Here's a new sliver of my mind for you - Thomas Waugh. No one ever seems to mention the function he serves (according to my mind!). Shed describe him in one of their interviews as being a test for Helen but I think he's much more. Due to Fenner assaulting Helen it would be so easy and lazy to say she ultimately choses a woman simply because she has been so traumatised that she has lost her trust in men. Thomas is always shown as a moral nice guy and so when Helen eventually decides that she wants Nikki she is stating - as she tells us all - that she wants a woman - not just because that is "safe" because she already has that with Thomas.

Another sliver of my brain - Trish. I didn't like Trish much but when I thought about it she's had a rough deal. Trish is quite often demonised a little by N/H fans, for example in some of the fan fics, but isn't it the truth that this woman basically had a really crap couple of years?! She was assaulted, had her partner immediately taken into custody and jailed for like a decade. She then had to somehow recover from all this and keep a business afloat for them both and then give evidence at the appeal. Stressful to say the least. I know she cheats on Nikki when she's in gaol, but even Nikki said "I didn't expect you to stay celibate" so they might have had an open relationship anyway. Then when Nikki gets out of gaol Trish apparently thinks she might be up for a bit of a reunion but then straight woman (ahem!) Helen - who she apparently doesn't know anything about other than what she guesses from Nikki's speech - comes in and swipes her woman away. Helen is Trish's version of Thomas Waugh almost! LOL
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Prairiegirl
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I've always seen Helen as a deeply moral person. She chooses to work in a prison of all places and she tries to do what she thinks is the moral thing to do - even when it is pretty extreme. Putting Nikki back into prison, almost calling the cops on her, etc. shows how strong her morality is.

I think that there is a pretty blurry line between morality and societal norms. We usually base our morality a lot on social norms - the way that society says that things should be. I've always read that for Helen, getting involved with Thomas was about doing the right thing. You are supposed to get married, have kids, go out for hen night, etc. It is the correct thing to do. By extension, Thomas is the "right" thing to do. The correct thing to do. And I expect that had Thomas not said what he said and instead just let the relationship progress, she would have persisted in it because it was the "right" thing to do - the correct and moral thing to do. It is his rejection that pushes her back to where her true nature is. But for her, I suspect there is a moral change along with a change in gender of the people she is interested in.

But I don't think it is easy for her. You hear her eariler talk about how hard all this is for her way before Thomas and I suspect it will continue to be into the future. That is part of what I have been playing with in my fic - that queston of the morality of rejecting a Thomas and instead choosing a Nikki. In most people's coming out process, there is this conflict, this rejection of the societal norms. I don't think of it as a test per se but moving back and forth between two moralities. It would have been fun if they had another season where we could watch this evolve but it was not to be.

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Prairiegirl
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As to Trish, I have always had a backstory in my head that when Nikki got chucked out of her home, she connected up with Trish and the two of them survived together in that squishy lesbian community way of making family when yours fails you. By squishy, I mean the way you build family relations with people who are not biological family - and relations that get as messy and problematic as with the your bio family. For Nikki, how do you go from chucked out at sixteen to owning a nightclub? Owning a nightclub can be extremely lucrative if done right. I have always thought she and Trish connected, somehow got lame jobs, got a flat, paid their bills, worked with shady characters on some deals that got them enough money to parlayed that into a reasonable life. So I always assumed a much broader relationship with Trish than just lover. Whether they have been or have not been lovers, they are still connected - enough that when Nikki wants 3000 quid, it is just a simple phone call.

I think that for fans mad at Trish for not maintaining sexual fidelity or even relationship fidelity, I think that misreads the whole thing. If you see their relationship first as family, then Trish is totally awesome. She's a brick as far as getting money, drumming up publicity, getting people there to support Nikki, etc. She may not be lovers, but that isn't the most important aspect of their relationship - family is. I too have people like this in my life - chosen family - who I openly understand and acknowledge as such. I will also have to admit some have been lovers in the past but it is pretty immaterial to the family commitment. Also, these people are more reliable and better in my life than much of my bio family - perhaps because we choose the relationship rather than getting stuck with it.

Within the bounds of a family relationship, sex and dating can absolutely be fluid. You can be in a sexual/dating relationship or you can be with other people but the family piece stays. Or you can see it as an open relationship (just another lens of the same thing).

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Prairiegirl
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I've always seen Helen as a deeply moral person. She chooses to work in a prison of all places and she tries to do what she thinks is the moral thing to do - even when it is pretty extreme. Putting Nikki back into prison, almost calling the cops on her, etc. shows how strong her morality is.

I think that there is a pretty blurry line between morality and societal norms. We usually base our morality a lot on social norms - the way that society says that things should be. I've always read that for Helen, getting involved with Thomas was about doing the right thing. You are supposed to get married, have kids, go out for hen night, etc. It is the correct thing to do. By extension, Thomas is the "right" thing to do. The correct thing to do. And I expect that had Thomas not said what he said and instead just let the relationship progress, she would have persisted in it because it was the "right" thing to do - the correct and moral thing to do. It is his rejection that pushes her back to where her true nature is. But for her, I suspect there is a moral change along with a change in gender of the people she is interested in.

But I don't think it is easy for her. You hear her eariler talk about how hard all this is for her way before Thomas and I suspect it will continue to be into the future. That is part of what I have been playing with in my fic - that queston of the morality of rejecting a Thomas and instead choosing a Nikki. In most people's coming out process, there is this conflict, this rejection of the societal norms. I don't think of it as a test per se but moving back and forth between two moralities. It would have been fun if they had another season where we could watch this evolve but it was not to be.

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richard
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Jesus, there has been a lot of good thinking that's come out here
:clap

First off, you make some really good points, Prairie Girl and Magical Mist about Trisha's point of view about Nikki's 2 years in prison up to the breakup and their life beforehand- I read Nikki's words "I didn't expect you to stay celibate" as her realistic take on Trisha's situation and the way Nikki tries to make it easy on her that Nikki's got someone else. Also Trisha freely stumps up the three grand bribe money when Nikki breaks out.Your point about Trisha being the equivolent of Thomas Waugh is spot on- certainly as they both edge Nikki and Helen back together .

What's fascinating about Helen is the way she is both moral and ambitious, something I've not seen in real life but is very convincingly portrayed. In series 3, what is interesting that Helen's ambition comes to the fore as she has a run of successes, in her report on security at Bodybag's do (and making Stubberfield sweat, yippee), the lifer's unit, finding out where Shell and denny were holed up, getting the appeal on track and finally becoming acting Governing Governor.

At this precise time Thomas comes on the scene and encroaches on Nikki's role as Helen's assistant over the Pam Jolley thing and Helen freaks out when Nikki comes close to taking retribution on Fenner over assaulting Fenner. When the prison riot takes place, Helen goes through 'new promotee' syndrome and there was an agonising situation that Helen was dealing belatedly with Femi's problems but Nikki not knowing it and being pressured by Crystal and Babs into taking action. When the riot breaks loose, Helen sees that Nikki and isn't safe but Thomas is safe.

There's a faint ghost personality resemblance between Thomas and Nikki even down to Nikki's (misplaced) 'two faced tart' line and Thomas's accusation that Helen is being dishonest even with herself.

Just to follow up Elspeth's well reasoned thesis that Nikki is forever pursuing/ declaring her love and Helen retreating / rejecting, it it a typically Helen motif to show committment through her actions, i.e pursuing Nikki's appeal which she does doggedly and singlemindedly as verbally expressed in Helen's words in the arts room scene, A major heartwarming exception is visiting Nikki in prison in the face of disapproval (an ex officer visiting a con) where Helen remains radiant and previews the Series 3 finale (except that Nikki isn't free). The post on Nikki and Trisha's backstory is such an eloquent piece of writing

Just a few thoughts to be going on- hope this helps.
Edited by richard, Feb 19 2014, 06:14 PM.
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