08 January 2008

Tudor Culture (Through the lenses of the BBC and Showtime).

After viewing most of the episodes of The Tudors on DVD, I should say that I rather like it. I don't mind that many of the charaters are shuffled about and changed in order to make the historical storyline(s) and plots even more salacious than they were at the time (which was fairly salacious).

Iknow that a great deal of the facts (however one can conceive of facts from this early time) are terrifically far off, but the writers have at least captured the spirit of the age (from my somewhat educated perspective).

I especially appreciate the way that the writers are able to emphasize the power of women within the court's political structure--even if sex is generally used as the key negotiating tool. I think that the portrayal of Anne Boleyn is particularly interesting given the way that many historians tend to treat her much more forgivingly than this particular series. She is certainly a brilliant tactician; the king comes off not so well.

The most perfect moments in the episodes exist between Henry and Kathryn of Aragon; her sexuality (of course) is suppressed; she articulate, she is masterful, she is everything that I would have imagined.

I suppose I bring up this version of Tudor culture in sinuous reflection of Jackart's assertion that post modern women somehow need gossip to compensate for their otherwise unconnected lives. I can't really answer for all women now, but I can certainly say that in Henry VIII's court culture, gossip ruled the day. I shall not bore you with my elementary understanding of Tudor History, but I will say that a culture of news and information had to be spread--almost virally.

This is hardly a cohesive post, but here is my question. In order to drum up interest in history, culture or politics of the past, is it a good idea to sex it up a bit? Will this propel people to learn more about this history, politics or culture, or does it simply allow people to rest on laurels that include quite of bit of misinformation (with a whole bunch of nude scenes)?


Neil said...

That question is an interesting one, and opens up a whole can of worms. The very idea of portraying history on film and TV is already a misrepresentation of the facts. The actors are usually better looking, the action made dramatic for entertainment purposes, and the story condensed for the two hour time frame. History has always been sexed up for audiences, and told in dramatic stories revolving around "great" men and women, whether this is accurate of not. In answer to your question, it is probably good to use entertainment values to make people interested in history. The problem is that most people will never go beyond the movie version, and spend most of their lives visualizing historical figures as looking and acting like movie actors.

Jackart said...

Nude scenes are good.

Reya Mellicker said...

It's always good to sex it up ... at least sexing up always makes any topic more interesting.

cuff said...

I don't like it when histories take liberties with historical time -- see Mel Gibson's Braveheart for example, but I do think that traditional histories have crept around the idea of sexuality because those cultures were themselves trying to dance around the idea. Sex is everywhere in our culture, and we don't have time for half-veiled references -- we want it full frontal...besides if it's done right it helps to expose (no pun intended) the interaction between power structures and sexual activity/availability.

a little of this, a little of that... said...

Perhaps it is also a comment on the cultural lenses of today's mainstream American general public: the past on its own terms is not interesting (be it Deadwood, Rome, or Tudor England), the past reinvisioned through present sex and celebrity trash culture spectacles (pun intended) is.

m.a. said...

Neil, I think that most people won't go beyond, but some will. And perhaps that is where we will get some new historians.

Jackart, Really? I didn't know that.

Reya, I know! What fun!

Cuff, I think in the case of the tutors, it makes sex make more sense. It's easy to hide it away with boring histories. haha.

A little...That's probably true, but boy are those shows fun. I love Rome, but I love Deadwood even more. But that's a whole other blog entry.

Airam said...

I'm reading "The Other Boleyn Girl". I saw previews for the movie and wanted to read the book before I watched the movie. I'm really enjoying it so far ... I wouldn't mind watching these episodes after reading your review.

HomeImprovementNinja said...

So you made it to Target without the armoured escort?

Megarita said...

interesting. Of course sexuality played a huge role in politics (still does, if the weird illogical and inconsistent reportage surrounding Hillary--or shall I call it gossip to help your British friend's theory?--is any indication). We might even term this The Beowulf Factor, in honor of the recent film. How am I going to break the news to my students that the poem features NO NEKKID LADIES??? But damn, they're all into reading it already.