Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hysterical Inaccuracy

Recently, I became aware of a new series on Showtime:

I'm not sure if, on this blog, I have referred to my obsession with British history. There was a time, not too long ago, when I could name every ruler from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II from memory. I probably could get pretty close now. But none of it holds as much delight for me as the saga of the Tudors, the "inspiration" for this new television series.

I say "new" because it's new to me. There are two completed seasons, with season three out there somewhere. I don't get Showtime, so I wouldn't know.

This show has been an utter delight for me, because of its wonderful treatment of historical fact. "The Tudors" does for English history what "North and South" did for the Civil War. To give you a hint, here are some of the comments I made to Sven during Season 1:

"Wow, you wouldn't think it would be so easy to remove your own corset."

"Do you think he knows her name?"

"Don't you think that would chafe?"

Leaving that part of it aside, here are some of the more glaring inaccuracies:

Henry VIII is played by a slender brunette.

Anne Boleyn has blue eyes.

Henry VIII only has one sister, who marries the King of Portugal, and they call her Margaret, and it's just a muddle.

The Duke of Richmond dies when he's still a young child.

Now, if you no nothing about English history, these things mean nothing. Perhaps my ramblings are akin to those Twilighters who boycotted the movie because Bella's shirt wasn't blue in the scene where she meets the Cullens, or the Harry Potter fanatics who insist that every. single. scene. from the book be included in the movie, or it Just Isn't Right.

But this is different! This is HISTORY. This is FACT. People are forgetting that.

Someone posted online the other day that she and her mother were discussing "The Tudors." The mother said, "I can't wait to see what happens with Jane Seymour next season." The daughter said, "Oh, that's going to be sad, when she dies." The mother said, "Well, thanks for spoiling it!"

Jane Seymour died over 400 years ago! Spoiler alert: EVERYONE IN THE SHOW IS DEAD NOW! Sorry!

But the show is effective in one way. The acting is really good. It has humanized elements of the story that never seemed "real" to me. At the end of the second season, Anne Boleyn is executed. (Sorry, spoiler!) I knew Anne Boleyn was going to be executed. I have watched Anne Boleyn get beheaded in several film adaptations and have never reacted to it with anything but a nod of the head.

But when "The Tudors" did it, I cried. They did a scene, which I will describe for you, that just made me realize that Anne Boleyn was a real person, more than any other adaptation ever has.

In the scene, Thomas Boleyn (Anne's father) is being released from the tower. He leaves, and on his way out passes under Anne's window. She looks down and sees him leaving, and she gets a big smile and waves, obviously thrilled that her father is going to be all right. He stares at her for a moment, unsmiling, then walks away. And that was when it really, truly hit me: her father set her up to be the king's mistress, then his wife; he plotted with her, advised her, and controlled her, but when it came time to pay, he walked away while his daughter died.

And I cried. I cried and cried. How silly am I?



Joanna said...

You're not silly at all. Being able to realize that historical figures were real flesh and blood people who didn't know what was going to happen is marvelous.
You'd make a great historian. (No hint at all there. REally. Truly!)

CMGould said...

I can't wait to see the blog after you see how Anne of Cleeves is portrayed

Barbaloot said...

They're ALL dead?! Where was I when that happened?

Kristina P. said...

The only AP test I passed in high school, out of the three classes I took, was AP European History. Loved it. Love the bawdy dramas.

I think I would like this. I wonder how I could fit it into my other 60 hours a week of TV watching.

Mummy McTavish said...

I'd love to see that! I have really enjoyed Philipa Gregory's Tudor series. She brought it to life for me. I read The Other Bolyn Girl only a few months after returning from the UK and touring the Tower of London so I could see the drama unfolding in my mind. I could really see the small tower rooms, the dirty bucket in the corner where a Anne, a lady, was supposed to relieve herself with who knows who watching. It made me so sad for her.