As I watched the three-night miniseries Hatfields and McCoys on The History Channel this week - which apparently drew in over 13 million viewers - I was struck how, from start to finish, the show about the famous 19th century feud between two families on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky was grounded in a wider context of spirituality and religion.
|"Devil" Anse Hatfield|
The other lead character - Randall McCoy, played by Bill Paxton - is outwardly religious, and is constantly alluding to hell, damnation, prayer, justice. As one would expect from the era and locale, there are also several scenes in which Bible verses and churches play prominently - and the series culminates and ends with a baptism in a river. (Costner - as he emphasized recently at Whitney Houston's funeral - was himself raised in a Baptist church.)
What should we make of this background for a story that is all about bloody violence and revenge? And how do these deeper meanings inform the story of Hatfields and McCoys?