Monday, February 2, 2009

Load Screen... Not Today

Another two weeks... still a lack of updates. This time, however, it has not been for lack of progress. I've actually worked quite a bit and have often found myself choosing module-building over blog-updating. I guess I just wary of updates that are nothing more than reporting my new percentage completion.

But since I mentioned it, I am now just over 75% done with the dialog scripting, and I have completed all of the OnEnter scripts, some of which are a bit on the complex side. The village of Navatranaasu is supposed to have a population of around 120, but you won't meet most of them. There are 19 individual characters (as of right now) that come and go and have daily cycles, so they won't always be available to talk. Some are major and some are minor, but these represent the core that is necessary to solve the mystery of the village. When this core is fully tested, I may add another few ambient characters to provide a bit of flavor and increase the sense of "business" about the place.

So There's This Article...
I have also managed to finish the first season of Rome. I've been collecting my thoughts, but a review is coming shortly. Indeed, it needs to, because I just got my CDs for the second season of The Tudors, and I'm already through the 3rd (of 10) episodes.

Anyway, I was Googling The Tudors out of general interest, and I stumbled across the following article from 2007. I mention it here because both it and the readers' comments are the type of thing that generally piss me off. OK, so yes, it's the Daily Mail, and that should be my first clue to not take it seriously, but nevertheless... The title says it all: "Henry VIII: The glaring errors in BBC's sexed-up, dumbed-down Tudors."

The criticisms, both in the article and the accompanying comments, generally fall into two categories. First, there is gratuitous sex. Second, there are historical inaccuracies. Taken together, this equates to "dumbed down." Where to start?

First, yes, there is sex in The Tudors, but is it gratuitous? I suppose that's a matter of preference. On the extreme position, I could argue that any sex scene is gratuitous, as there are always ways to imply what is happening without explicitly showing it. I would also note that the sex shown in The Tudors pales in comparison to that shown in Rome. I could also argue that I'm pretty sure they did have actual sex back then, as the human race somehow survived to the present. But none of that matters if it crosses the viewer's threshold. All I can say is that it didn't cross my threshold, though I would advise those who are more sensitive to take caution.

The second criticism is more interesting to me. I noted in my review of season one that there were definitely inaccuracies but that the essence of the story was true. This was in stark contrast to a quote in the article from a "Tudor biographer" that stated that the essence was not true, so I read further to see exactly what inaccuracies so bothered the quoted authorities. The following is a summary of the main bones of contention I found.

Modern radiators, Tarmac driveways, concrete bollards and Victorian carriages have all made appearances in the tenpart series set in the 16th century.

The characters talk in completely unnatural ways, addressing their own family members as "Anne Boleyn" or "Mary Boleyn" so that we, the stupid audience, understand who they're supposed to be.

Henry VIII was exceedingly powerful, both politically and physically, but Rhys Meyers is pretty, rather than macho and thus completely unconvincing.

Henry had red hair, not black hair as this actor has...

Henry was a very discreet king; he would never have indulged in womanising openly. While he may have liked the ladies he would never have been so indiscreet - that is why there is so little evidence of his affairs.

Let's nail these one-by-one. First, yes, the series has made the choice to give the Tudors a distinctly anachronistic tone by using props more suitable to the 17th century instead of the 16th. This was made clear in an article about clothing, and it obviously is true for other items as well. By the way, some of the guns used are completely inaccurate too. I don't know that I agree with the artistic choice, but I don't see how stupid things like the carriage suspension system leads to a charge of "dumbing down" or how using the correct carriage would be so much more interesting.

Second, I remember one time that Anne Boleyn's father referred to her as "Anne Boleyn" when talking directly to her, and it did seem slightly awkward to me at the time, but I didn't notice it as a general rule. One time in ten hours is hardly cause for concern in my estimation.

I agree that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is completely miscast, at least physically, as Henry VIII. Not only is he too young for the events depicted, but he doesn't bear a resemblance to Henry at any time in his life. I have to believe that there's an actor somewhere in the U.K. that could have been a better fit, but again, does Rhys Meyers really cause that much angst?

Finally, the subject of Henry's discretion. At least this finally gets to something of his characterisation and so has a little weight to it. I also note that this criticism is made by Alison Weir, who actually is a name of note, though she is not without her own critics. However, we know of at least two mistresses of Henry's: Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn, and this doesn't count mistresses who later became wives. Second, the series doesn't exactly show him cavorting in the open. At most, the series shows his friend, Charles Brandon, with knowledge of his affairs and maybe one or two others. Having the secrets known by a few members of the court hardly qualifies as indiscretion.

So I'm a bit perplexed. There are certainly inaccuracies in the series, some of which I noted in my review, but of all of them, why concentrate on such trivial details? The concrete paving, red hair, and supposedly open sexual liaisons? This is what incenses the "authorities?" How about the curiously compressed timeline? How about Henry's two sisters being merged into one person? Isn't there anything more meaty you can be upset by?

Some of the comments are equally funny. At least a couple viewers noted the problem with Henry's sister(s) and how the series shows her marrying the Portuguese king (she didn't), but others obsessed about the clothing, lack of red hair, and a generic lack of historical accuracy.

OK, enough. My point is that all of this criticism smacks of something that really irritates me about the historical profession: namely that anything that's not an outright documentary doesn't "ring true." If it's made to be entertaining, then it's dumb, cheap, or otherwise suitable only for the great unwashed who are too stupid to understand the truth. The whole thing smacks of elitism and the need for some to demonstrate how much better they are than others because they "get it" and we ignorant brutes don't. As many here know, I'm slowly working on my masters in history, and unfortunately, I get a lot of that attitude around some of my fellow class-mates. I guess it allows them to feel important in a world in which they're going to make minimum wage when they get out because they stupidly got a degree that private enterprise doesn't especially prize. Oh, I'm sorry. Was that snarky?

The real merit in a drama like The Tudors isn't that it examines the period from every possible angle. It's that it presents the material in an interesting way that both educates the viewer and might cause them to go ask someone more knowledgeable or do further research on their own if they really become interested - sort of like a gateway drug, but for history. In the end, they may not be Tudor experts, but they'll certainly know more than when they started.

In short, I've seen precious little in the noted criticisms that I would classify as substantial, and I stand by my earlier statement that the first season of The Tudors did actually "ring true." I'll see if I also think that about the second season after I've watched the whole series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. I think I can sum things up with my own opinion of course. The Tudors is a show, it is for entertainment and not a true history lesson we will be tested and graded on.

As for being dummied down. Well..... As stated above, it's sole purpose is for entertainment. Not a text book classroom. As for me. I found it quite entertaining and enjoy the series tremendously. Accurate or not.

Now on to Jonathan Rhys Myers portraying Henry. Showtime and all who have invested in this show cast someone with sex appeal, charisma, and acting skills for a reason. It's about the money. No one would go ga-ga over someone that actually looked like Henry. lol And well. Going ga-ga and tuning in each week achieved! I pay the $14 something a month to keep showtime for my favorite series! "hang sold sign here"

I love your reviews Tiberius! keep em coming :)