Dynasty is a horrid, crass, offensive show – so why can’t I stop binge-watching it? | Nancy Jo Sales

I didn’t watch the 80s soap in its heyday, but cut to a global pandemic and I’m hooked

Dynasty – and I mean 80s Dynasty – was a worldwide television phenomenon. It was the No 1 show in the US in 1985, seen in countries across the globe. I never watched it back then. I was in college, and didn’t have a TV – I sort of looked down on television, which, with the likes of The Dukes of Hazzard also topping the charts, wasn’t the astonishing art form it has become. Cut to a global pandemic, and end times, and it seems like I do nothing but watch TV. And Dynasty has me hooked.

This isn’t because Dynasty is a good show – on the contrary, it is a horrid, crass, offensive show. The plots are absolute madness – they called it a “night-time soap”– full of plane crashes and kidnappings, the appearance of long-lost children, and people being thrown from horses or falling down stairs. There should have been a drinking game for the frequency with which someone on the show exclaims, in horror: “What?!”

But that’s nothing compared with the ways in which it is, quite frankly, homophobic, sexist and racist. It had one of the first gay characters on television, the longsuffering Steven Carrington, whose dutiful trip back into the closet doesn’t spare him from having to endure his family’s homophobic slurs – and who goes on trial, essentially, for being gay (in a custody battle). Rapes and sexual assaults are commonplace on Dynasty, with no punishment for the perpetrators. People of colour barely seem to exist in this world, except for Dominique Deveraux, played by the lovely Diahann Carroll, who wants more than anything to join the white Carrington family, and who never gets to refer to being Black.

So why can’t I stop watching this trash? Well, for one thing, Joan Collins, whose turn as Alexis Carrington Colby is a belated revelation: her shimmering sex appeal, her clothes, her ’tude! And I think there is some comfort, watching Dynasty, in knowing that we have actually come a long way from those days.

• Nancy Jo Sales is the author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers and The Bling Ring


Nancy Jo Sales

The GuardianTramp

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