Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the category “Period Dramas”

Is Historical Accuracy Worth The Price?

tumblr_njl1llcClr1qh2n4do1_400tumblr_njl1llcClr1qh2n4do2_400

What would you pay for a historically accurate movie or TV Show? This is a question constantly asked by people involved in the production of historical entertainment for the big and little screen. It often costs quite a lot of money to make sure that everything is period perfect and this may be why a lot of productions cut corners in this department. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the need to adapt a story for entertainment purposes and in some cases it does make the historical figures more interesting. Maybe it’ll even inspire people to look up the real historical facts.

But what if putting a little extra work actually makes a difference?

Case study 1 – HBO’s Rome

HBORome

A cult favorite, this TV show is often cited as a reasonably good representation of what Ancient Rome would have been like. Even one of my professors at university recommended it to us. Not for the plot though, but for the attention to detail in the show. You must, of course, keep your skeptical goggles on, but the sets and props are pretty spectacular.

Unfortunately, it had a very short life span, with only two seasons under its belt. A shame for those who love ancient rome and quality entertainment. The main reason for the shut down seemed to be cost, which seems not to be a problem now for HBO with shows such as Game of Thrones. Rumors have spread that if Rome had been as popular then more “attention” would have been given to the show. However, this becomes a chicken vs egg debate that has been run into the ground for years.

Case study 2 – Showtime’s The Borgias 

The-Borgias-2

The Borgias follows the “reign” of Rodrigo Borgia, a Spanish nobleman who rises through the ranks of the church to become Pope. We also see the lives of his children, estranged wife, and mistress in a decadent Renaissance Italy. Although nobody really knows what the Borgias were like, it does paint a pretty picture of the lives of Italy’s most notorious family. Let’s be honest here, it’s mostly costume and set porn, but it does reflect very much the time that we see in Boticelli paintings or the work of Nicolo Machiavelli (who was a big fan of Cesare Borgia, by the way). I can guarantee that they were able to do this with a substantial amount of investment. Is it historically accurate? Probably not, but at least it makes an effort to look like it. This is the same network that made The Tudors, after all.

The question is, would they have made such an investment if the story itself wasn’t so exciting.  The premise of the show is that the Borgias are “the original crime family.” This implies violence, sex, and intrigue. Would any network want to invest in an historical drama that didn’t have these things?

My point is that history can be exciting and it would be a shame if it got completely lost in the glitz of hollywood entertainment. If only all studios and networks invested a little more effort in historical accuracy then all of us would be happy.

Bonus – Historically Accurate Disney Princesses from Buzzfeed

Advertisements

“Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life,” and other wisdom from Pompeii

The quote in the title is quite ironic, considering that we all know what happened to the city of Pompeii. It’s actually a graffiti preserved by the ashes of Vesuvius.

They were poets back then too!

If you didn’t realize already, last night I went to see the movie Pompeii, with Kit Harington and Emily Browning.

Let me just begin by saying that it was an entertaining movie. It’s a summer blockbuster…in winter. I’m not sure why they decided to release a fictionalized story about the last hours of the city, but there it is.

NOTE : If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, be ready to see Jon Snow all grown up – shiny 6 pack and all.

kit-harington-pompeii

Nothing wrong with a little bit of eye candy, but as a history nerd it is my duty to point out the major historical inaccuracies.

You’re welcome 🙂

S.P.Q.P – For the Senate and People of….Pompeii? 

One glaring thing that basically ruined the entire movie for me was the supposed warfare between the people of Pompeii and that of Rome.

Emily Browning’s character, Cassia, says “I am not a Roman – I am a citizen of Pompeii.”

Now it’s true that the Romans were not always appreciated, particularly in those provinces under direct Roman rule. However, if you were within the boundaries of the Empire, not a slave, and born to a Roman family – you were a Roman citizen.

early roman society

Her family was also very wealthy and her father was clearly the government official of Pompeii. This would have meant that he either was educated in Rome or was sent to Pompeii for his diplomatic posting.

So no matter how much you whine Cassia, you are still a Roman citizen!

That’s all I have to say.

Purple is more than just a color 

Purple was the color of the Emperor and Senatorial elite.

So why was this guy wearing it?

Pompeii-Movie-Stills_16

This is the best photo I could find, but his tunic underneath his armour is purple.

NOTE: Senators wore white togas with a purple sash. Emperors could wear entirely purple outfits.

He seems to be neither.

 Just for fun 

If you haven’t already, I would highly suggest you look at this list of Pompeii Graffiti – it’s hilarious, but NSFW so beware!  The brothel graffiti is especially funny!

5138962675_b3e6e66b61_o

All in all, the movie was entertaining, but the historical reality is so much more interesting!

And we’ll never be royals (rooooyals!)

I have a thing for historical dramas – it’s an open guilty pleasure. I’m talking more than just Downton Abbey though.

I’ve watched some bad ones in my time…really bad ones…

I actually had a professor at University who was famous for his rant against the movie Troy with Brad Pitt and its historical inaccuracies. I always thought it was funny, as a history student, that anybody would take that movie as fact, but there are some gullible people in this world…

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to have a “Let’s be honest talk” about one such drama.

I’m looking at you, Reign 

reign27

The premise (shamelessly taken from Wikipedia):

Set in 1557 France, the highly fictionalized series follows the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, at French court while she awaits her marriage to the future Francis II of France, to whom she has been engaged since they were six. At court, Mary has to contend with the changing politics and power plays, as well as her burgeoning feelings for Francis and the romantic attentions from Francis’ bastard half-brother, Bash. Francis’ mother, Catherine de’ Medici, is secretly trying to prevent the marriage due to Nostradamus’s prediction that the marriage will lead to Francis’ death. The series also follows the affairs of Mary’s Scottish handmaidens Kenna, Aylee, Lola and Greer, who are searching for husbands of their own at court.

The problem: 

It’s a product of the CW, which means attractive 20-something-year-old actors playing horny teenagers. It’s great if you’re a 14-year-old girl, but not so much if you’re a historian.

The solution:

I will selflessly sacrifice my afternoon to bring you the real story of Mary Queen of Scots and her motley crew.

So let’s begin…

Mary Queen of Scots

REIGN

mqs_1558_age_16_orange_elvis470_365x470

  • She was original promised to the English King (Henry VIII)’s son, the future Edward VI
  • Catholics opposed the plan, taking her back to Scotland where they arranged an alliance with France instead (France was a Catholic country)
  • She moved to the courts of France in 1548 (at the age of 5) when she was engaged to the French Dauphin, Francis. She never lived in a convent!
  • She didn’t marry him until 1558, but was only Queen of France for a year. Francis died of an ear infection in 1560
  • Returned to Scotland, married twice and was finally executed in 1587  for suspicion of involvement in an assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth I
  • She was a red head

Sidenote: All the suspicion against Mary was based on the fact that she was Catholic. Ah, religious upheaval…

Francis II 

FrancoisII Francis9

  • Son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici
  • He was sickly and weak
  • Took over the throne, at the age of 15, after the accidental death of his father
  • He was only King for 18 months – died at the age of 16 from an infection

Nostradamus 

Nostradamus_by_Cesar reign31

  • He wasn’t a young hunk in the court of France
  • He would have been middle aged by the time Mary was in France
  • He was, however, a French apothecary and a seer
  • Famous for his book of prophecies
  • Real name is Michel de Nostredame
  • He did not predict the early death of Francis

Catherine de’ Medici

REIGN463155_imagno

  • Her father was the famous Lorenzo de Medici of Florence
  • Nostradamus was not her confidant
  • The King did have an affair, leaving her sidelined until she started producing children
  • Acted as regent for her second son, Charles, who took the throne after Francis died

Ladies in waiting

Ladies-in-waiting_and_mary1

  • Yes they most likely existed…
  • ….but their names were most certainly not Lola or Kenna

This is only a fraction of what is wrong, historically, with this show. I just don’t want to bore you will all the details. However, if you’re looking for Pretty Little Liars set in a historical time period then this is the show for you!

Happy viewing 🙂

Post Navigation