A Little Accuracy with My Historical Pornography – Please

I know I have mentioned before that I like my historical fiction – regardless of the medium – to be fairly accurate. It’s more than having been a former teacher and believing that there are things to be learned from the interpretation of history. I don’t believe that blatant inaccuracies make something more interesting or “artistic”. Instead it simply presumes the ignorance of the audience and inserts pointless fiction where it would have been just as easy – and interesting – to relay fact. Inaccuracy is just laziness on the part of a writer or filmmaker. If one cannot make real history live and breathe, then one is either not as gifted as one thinks one is, or the subject matter isn’t worthy of retelling. Often the latter is the case.

Not so the Tudor Dynasty of England. The real history is fascinating enough that most people have a vague idea or better of who Henry the VIII was at least, but if you have watched any of the Showtime series based on his life, you have been treated to an historical misrepresentation that would make former Vice-President Cheney proud.

Knowing English history, as I do, every re-interpretation of fact and character jars me out of my suspension of disbelief, and this shouldn’t happen with good story-telling. The reality being built should never stray so far that the audience consciously realizes it.

Granted, many people don’t know much about history and I guess that is the sadder fact. Most of the folks who watch this series haven’t a clue that much of what they are seeing is basically an excuse to legitimize soft-porn by calling it “historical”.

Four episodes in and I have decided to amuse myself by ferreting out the examples of  the Hollywoodization of Henry and enjoying the discussion that Rob and I have during the cheesy moments and afterward – aided by Wikipedia searches to verify our arguments.

And yes, that is a very geeky thing to do. But we roll like that.

6 thoughts on “A Little Accuracy with My Historical Pornography – Please

  1. I haven’t seen the show, lacking cable TV, but I don’t like inaccuracies in historical accounts, either. And our idea of what goes on in the bedroom is a lot different than those of yesteryear. For instance, the castles were poorly heated. Most folks only took off a couple of layers to go to bed. A lot of dalliences would have occurred with both parties fully clothed, since underwear hadn’t been invented yet. Often times what is implied, or hinted at is more fun than what is blatently shown.

  2. Hmmm — I like the linking back to “In Cold Blood.” I think the original poster is right in that I think the book is widely acknowledged to have sort of fictionalized the dialogue. It’s not like Truman was there when the two bad guys were talking to each other, let’s face it.

    I do like my historical fiction as well, and find it highly enjoyable. One book that takes meticulous care in the history portion is a great book based on the Civil War, “Two Brothers: One North, One South, by David Jones. It’s based very closely on historical events and actual people — and that shines though in the writing. (The book tells the story of the Prentiss brothers of Baltimore, starting in early 1861 and ending with a climactic scene in a hospital in 1865.) Lots of information in this fictional account of real history. No historical porn here!)

  3. Do you know who I think started blurring the line between fact and fiction? Truman Capote with In Cold Blood. Have you ever read it? It’s fantastic.

    I just put up a blog post about a production of Henry V that I recently saw.

    1. I’ve read In Cold Blood and I did find it compelling. Do you really think it was noticeably fictionalized?

      I tried to watch the video version (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) and was bored to tears.

  4. I agree. I have the same problem with computer technology as it’s portrayed in movies and on TV.

    Then again, how does one turn down soft porn? And why is it less steamy if accurate?

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