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Because I live to entertain, and because I make bad life choices, I have decided to recap 1985’s Civil War classic, North and South. Look for a new episode recap each day of Snark Week, and enjoy the frosted lipstick!
We begin on a plantation in South Carolina, 1842. Two REALLY ANNOYING little girls are dressed in frilly dresses, holding hands and skipping the way no real human beings have ever done. Oh, and they’re skipping through the slave cabins, what fun!
Turns out their Big Brother, Patrick Swayze, is the son of this planter family and is headed to West Point for military school. He won’t even get any leave for two years. Swayze’s hair is the fluffiest mullet you’ve ever seen, and he is ROCKING the poly-baroque-satin PEACH CRAVAT. CRAVATS. SHOULD NOT BE PEACH-COLORED. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Mom is polite to a house slave. Clearly we are Good Southerners.
Swayze runs into a Southern belle whose carriage has overturned, because either she or her driver are an idiot and are running their horses at breakneck speed. Meet “Tits Out” (Madeline), played by Lesley-Anne Down. Swayze is mesmerized by her beauty and charm. I am mesmerized by her inappropriate cleavage, frosty makeup, and attempts to portray a charmingly sweet 16-25ish-year-old when the actress is every inch 31. Tits Out is accompanied by her governess-type attendant, free woman of color Maum Sally. They’ve just moved to Charleston from New Or-leahns but are visiting a family in the neighborhood.
Because I like keeping one toe in reality, here’s an 1840 fashion plate showing the look of the period:
Swayze offers Tits a ride to the plantation she’s supposed to visit. She divests herself of her ugly hat (because, of course, Southern ladies are TOTALLY into suntanning) and happily joins him for a snuggly ride. En route, they make out, and she gives him her handkerchief (not a euphemism).
Let’s look at early 1840s hair:
Swayze takes Tits to her father, who is a low-rent Ricardo Montalban. They’re visiting a planter played by David Carradine, and his thinning hair and 1970s lapels tell me he’s no good.
Swayze ends up in New York City and is all “aw shucks gee!” at how big and impressive it is. He suddenly has a trunk that he hadn’t had during all the Tits shenanigans, and ends up in a fight with some Irish hustlers who want him to pay them to carry his trunk. Pennsylvania boy George Hazard pulls up all jaunty with hooooors in tow, then jumps into Swayze’s fight. The two begin a Serious Bromance, which involves some polite discussion about slavery — Swayze claims “some of us” are more progressive, but doesn’t disavow the institution.
At David Carradine’s plantation, Low Rent Ricardo Montalban is on the poly-baroque satin, peach cravat train, thus making me question my life choices. Tits joins in, wearing her own peach-colored poly-baroque satin stripey dress with puffed sleeves, cleavage, and lipstick to match. HER HAIR has gone from faux-mid-Victorian to full tilt, teased Dynasty level 1980s perm.
Oh, people talk about the issue of annexing Texas as a slave state and the possibility of war with Mexico. Low Rent Ricardo Montalban has ALWAYS encouraged his daughter to read and have her own opinions.
Swayze and George show up at West Point. Nearly every possible soldier-y drill is happening. They are impressed but nervous about hazing.
It’s time for Tits and Papa to head to Charleston, but not before David Carradine has more time to ooze over Tits. She’s apparently gotten extensions, because no perm straightens out to THAT long of a braid. I actually kind of like her riding habit, minus the whole inappropriate-cleavage thing. Oh, and the fact that NONE of the women’s dresses in this episode in any way read as 1840. It’s all much more general-mid-Victorian, maybe 1850s or 60s, although at least there’s no hoops (as there shouldn’t be yet). We learn that Carradine beats his slaves, which must mean he’s a Bad Southerner.
Back at West Point, our boys are being trained by Cadet Bent, who is from Geor-juh and Southern up to HEAH. He doesn’t seem to like anybody, but particularly is harsh on dorky northern farmer Fisk, who is VERY out and proud in being anti-slavery — but not for moral reasons, because slave labor is cheaper and so his father’s farm is always barely squeaking by. Bent gets all sadistic, making Swayze and George do some kind of hazing exercise that involves goose-stepping while holding buckets of water.
Back in the dorm, Swayze writes to Tits, using this tender moment to get his shirt off and his hair extra fluffy.
In Charleston, Tits is all a-twitter at getting a letter from Swayze. Once again, her hair (and lipstick) is full Dynasty. Maum Sally is actually semi-decently dressed, although again, there’s nothing terribly 1840s about the style lines on anybody’s dresses.
Back at West Point, Bent keeps picking on Fisk, but Swayze shows him via a super dorky saber fight that Swayze wins. Bent is humiliated, and is excited to catch Swayze and George out drinking at the local tavern. He chases them, falls through some ice, and Swayze rescues him. But Bent continues to be a jerk, making Swayze do guard duty in the snow despite being sick. Luckily insert-rank Grant (as in, Ulysses) steps in on Swayze’s side.
Tits is sad! Swayze has stopped returning her letters! Maybe it’s because she can’t seem to put her tits away, or dress in any way in 1840s-style fashion? Maum Sally tries to comfort her. David Carradine visits and brings her a cheesy unicorn music box.
It’s 1842 and our boys have finally gotten leave! George takes Swayze to visit his family and their ironworks in Pennsylvania. We meet George’s family, including sister VIRGILIA, a name that doesn’t even need a nickname because it inherently sounds like a venereal disease. She’s played by Kirstie Alley, who is wearing a shitty acetate taffeta dress with her own tits out, and frizzy, frizzy hair that is essentially the same style she wore on Cheers.
VIRGILIA (all caps, because it’s such a bad name) is reading all that abolitionist literature. She asks Swayze if he’s evil.
George takes Swayze to tour the ironworks, because Swayze is all fired up to modernize his plantation and install a cotton mill. There’s a lot of pointed discussion about slavery, and how the way the northerners treat their workers is not that different from the way southerners treat their slaves.
At dinner, some random floozy wearing plastic cameo jewelry is waaaaay into Swayze, being all excited about passing the salt and pepper.
Kirstie Alley would have been about 34 when this was filmed, and just like Tits, reads as waaaaay too old to wear her hair down. She’s clearly on the comb-your-hair-100-times-so-it’s-extra-frizzy bandwagon. Also, the nude-toned, spackle-applied makeup bandwagon. She makes a giant statement against slavery, and stalks away from the table.
Swayze has been sad because Tits stopped answering his letters. He stops by her house in Charleston, but nobody is home. So he heads home for a visit.
Swayze finds out that the new overseer has started whipping the slaves. He tells off the overseer.
Swayze’s family has been invited to a wedding! Dun dun DUNNNNNN — Tits is marrying David Carradine! She’s wearing some Gunne Sax I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck, including the world’s ugliest veil. There’s a ridiculous dramatic moment where she and Carradine turn around mid-wedding ceremony to watch Swayze ride up on his horse.
There haven’t been a ton of extras so far, but they’ve been decently dressed. Until now. Now we know where all those early 1980s bridesmaid’s dresses ended up.
Swayze and his fluffy hair are about to leave, but Tits confronts him about why he stopped writing to her. She realizes that her father must have destroyed both of their letters. It’s all VERY TRAGIC, but not as tragic as that fugly-assed sheer/lace neckline fill-in.
On the wedding night, David Carradine rapes Tits. Apparently it’s incredibly easy to rip open a structured, boned bodice, who knew? Oh, no chemise or corset underneath, natch. Once he’s asleep, Tits puts on the SHINIEST plastic-metal-thread-accented lace dressing gown to have ever existed, and contemplates her fate.
Dear god, why did I sign up for this?