Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Tudors - Not Your Mama's Costume Drama

Jonathan Rhys Meyers sorrounded by tits. If that doesn't already give you an idea of what this show is about what will?
This might be a bit irrelevant considering the show is not on the air anymore, but how am I supposed to run a blog called Filth Screen and not post at least once about the Showtime's crossover hit The Tudors which ran for four seasons during the second half of this past decade? Basically it's a historical fiction night time soap. It's All My Children in Elizabethan costumes, and there's a lot of beheadings. 
The title is self-explanatory. It focuses mainly on the rule of Henry VIII before he got fat and all syphilis-y and was busy divorcing and executing his many wives. Now, if you ever paid attention in high school history class or read the first five sentences of a Wikipedia entry on the subject you know that this show takes major major major creative liberties. But that's the point. 
Some genius TV executive in Canada was thinking 'what if we hypersexualized the already scandalous and incendiary story of Henry VIII and his six wives? Sure everyone has heard of them but has no idea just how much sex everyone was apparently having. Make it by candle-light and throw bone corsets in and you got yourself some serious medieval pseudo-porn. On the whole it's about how sexual obsession eventually destroys a man from the inside out. Very true...very true. I think every man I know has that problem.
Let's be honest, how good could the sex have even been back then. Remember this was a time when people took a bath once a year and no one shaved anything. Also, it's Henry VIII, I just keep imagining it involved just a lot of blood and tears. But that's the price you pay for being Queen of England, sure you might get your head chopped off if god forbid you sneeze during supper but you take the good with the bad. 
Let's get things straight, apart from him executing two of his wives for infidelity, there might not be an accurate thing in this whole series, but who cares when you've cast really hot young Brits to play much older, plumper and hairier people. I don't. And I have a bit of an Elizabethan costume fetish so I dug it.. 
Cast wise, you can see that no one was beating around the bush and trying to be 'correct' about the whole thing. I mean come on, are you really going to cast Philip Seymour Hoffman as Henry and put him in graphic simulated sex scenes in every episode? Does he really have the stamina for that? No, you've got to go with someone like Jonathan Rhys Meyers and rightfully so. He's staggeringly beautiful and also, he's fanatically dangerous. His eyes are captivating but if you saw them staring at you in pitch darkness you'd freak out a little bit. Though, they could at least have given him a ginger wig, I mean come on. 
To be clear Henry VIII did not kill ALL of his wives as a lot of people misconceive, just two...which makes it totally ok. 
Anyway, back on track, let me describe the wives as I remember reading about them, yes I'm a history nerd.

1. Catherine of Aragon - Spanish, age appropriate, rather chunky and round-faced, a little too religious and prude. Mother of Mary Tudor. She's played by someone I don't recognize, she disappears after a few episodes. Appropriate. moving on. 

2. Anny Boleyn -Mother to Elizabeth and woman that fucked up Henry for life. An innocent, quite literally who got the ax because she couldn't bear sons, also the king thought that she was having an affair with her brother and pretty much just lost interest in her. I remember in a made-for-tv shitfilm she was played by Helena Bonham Carter who is like 25 years older than Anne Boleyn would have been at the time the film is set, but in the series, Natalie Dormer plays her as a frisky mean girl that plays mind games with the king and usually wins...for a while anyway. Seriously think about it, she alone determined the fate of an entire religion by causing Henry to break away from the Catholic Church when she insisted he divorce his first wife if he wanted to get into her old-timey panties.

3. Jane Seymour - Ok here we go, bore Henry his only son, who reigned for like 10 minutes before he died of some lame medieval plague-like disease like a chump. She died too, oddly and quietly. Henry was inconsolable for a couple of days.

4. Anne of Cleves - German-born well-to-do member of the gentry to whom Henry was finagled into marrying, but because he didn't find her hot enough he annulled the marriage and had the man who arranged it killed. And we think men today are shallow. Here's the thing, in the series she's played by Joss Stone, who is unbelievably sexy and charming, and I don't have any idea how the producers got her to agree to this role. 'We need a woman who is so ugly and repuslive that a person would literally kill whomever introduced them...oh Joss Stone's available, get her on the phone!' ...What?

5. Catherine Howard. Oy vey. Where do I start. Well she was 17 when she became queen, which largely had to do with her perky breasts and budding sexual awakening. It eventually steered her down the wrong path because the king couldn't keep up with her excessive need for passionate bunny sex so she found it elsewhere, except she should have known better than to look in the king's own cabinet. Off with her head! She's portrayed awfully by Tamzin Merchant who plays her like an awkward dodo-brained teenager, which in all fairness is what she was, but I'm sure she never said the words 'Oh come on, your majesty!'

6. Catherine Parr. She was one that actually made it through until the end of a marriage with Henry VIII and survived him. Holy shit is that ever an accomplishment. She was older, very religious, and pretty much boring compared to all the others. Joely Richardson plays her in the show. Next to the rest of the cast she seems like an old hag. But I guess that's the point.

Alrighty, did you make it through all that without falling asleep? good. The show is really nothing more than soft-core porn in beautiful elaborate costumes, and none of this is supposed to be stated with a negative connotation by the way. I think it's something that we universally crave. We all see the past as being more romantic than the present no matter which time period we're thinking about, lest it be the 1980's, but anyway, this show isn't trying to be anything more than it is. It's certainly not regarding itself the foremost example of a historical biopic on Henry VIII, everyone knows that 90% of its content is bullshit, but it's ok, because there are people fucking all over the place. Constantly. And it's hot. The end.

Below a behind the scenes look at the characters, basically explains itself. 

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