inaccuracy in historical fiction


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.