Monday, 14 October 2013

Now is the non-realistic-battlefield-depiction of our discontent

Typical isn't it: you wait five centuries for a Plantagenet to turn up, then loads of them appear all at once.

It's taken me a while to finally get to the end of the most recent BBC historico/fictiono/archaeo TV offering The White Queen

(so about 3 months behind the rest of the world as usual), but I have to say that I quite liked it. 

OK, so this particular slice of British history really isn’t my speciality, so I can’t comment on its overall accuracy (other than to note the curious appearance of zip fastened clothes, modern drain pipes, double glazing and strangely Belgian architecture) but, as a series that covered a period for which I know little, I found it a very useful clarification of the politico-structure of late Medieval England and a useful explanation of who did what to whom, with what and for how long (in much the same way that the TV series I Claudius proved a significant help in untangling the notoriously complex relationships of the Julio-Claudian family). If only the White Queen (or something like it) had been on the gogglebox when I had been doing my History A Level (at the time, I could never fathom who Elizabeth Woodville was let alone how John of Gaunt was apparently related to everyone on the planet - and where exactly is Gaunt anyway?). 

And I must, of course, applaud any attempt at making a historical drama for prime time TV, the schedules being otherwise littered with Real-life Crime documentaries, Pseudo-reality-fly-on-the-wall mockumentaries, makeovers, celebrity-makeovers, life-changers, celebrity-life-changers, talent-shows, talent-less shows, game-shows and other Z-list celebrity crapfests.

There were only a few things that I felt detracted from sense of total immersion in Medieval-land (other than the zip fastened clothing, modern drain pipes, double glazing and strangely Belgian architecture already alluded to). Many newspapers in the UK complained angrily about the youthful / healthy / freshly washed / athletic / fully-toothed actors and actresses, noting how ‘unrealistic’ and un-Medieval they all were - assuming, therefore, that everyone in 15th century England was old, gap-toothed, unhealthy, spindle-legged and covered in chicken manure. 

To be honest, this doesn’t bother me too much. No one who was alive then is around to tell us what things were really like, and I can't think of any historical film (or made-for-TV-drama) that has ever really been that accurate, all of them being a clear product of their own time.

No, the only two things that prevented me from fully suspending my disbelief were the 'spot the moody teenage brother' aspect of the Edward / George / Richard relationship....

...(clue - he's wearing black and has a face like a slapped bottom), and the 'cut-price' battlefield depictions.

Ultimately it's always the BIG epic stuff that disappoints when it is depicted in a way that is patently neither big nor epic. The White Queen's recreation of Bosworth Field, for example, arguably one of the most important battles in English history, was apparently fought by seven men in a wood...

- who knew?

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