While I have zero affection or interest for 1950s clothing (or really anything post 1920s), I loved watching The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014) because of the women who are the main characters. These four people are so realistically drawn for the period, yet they’re still fascinating enough for a modern audience. Susan, Millie, Lucy, and Jean had jobs that exercised their brains during World War II, and then, after the war, when the series takes place, they’re shoved back into stereotypical women’s roles of the 1950s — housewife or, at best, a librarian or secretary type job.
Susan (played by Anna Maxwell Martin), in particular, chafes in her proscribed place as wife and mother of two children, subservient to her husband’s civil service career ambitions. But when all four women get back together, they can sneak around just enough in their spare time to solve murder mysteries. The stories are plausible, yet entertaining. This is how to do historical fiction — the women aren’t cliche feminists that stick out like sore thumbs (like having a “lady doctor” in an era when that would be implausible, hint hint Versailles). Those in The Bletchley Circle are women of their time, but they are also relatable to women in the 21st century.
This production combined accurate history (even the WWII codebreaking premise, according to one expert) with entertainment, although I guess it wasn’t appealing to a large enough audience for the series to last beyond two seasons in the U.K. However, it’s been available for streaming and on on DVD, so we can still appreciate it and hold this up as a model for others to attempt follow.
Have you seen The Bletchley Circle?