Monday, April 21, 2008

History Class Was Never Like This...

When I was in high school, social studies was my worst class. It was mostly taught by overweight boring white males who didn't want to be in that classroom any more than I did. So it surprised me when I started liking history...or at least dramatized (or fictionalized?) history as an adult. But I have to say, history class was never like this...
I've been watching The Tudors.




(Is this a historical show promotion? or the cover of the next big Harlequin Romance?)



TV-MA is the right rating for this royal orgy of a show. Where else do you get to see Ann Boleyn invite a hot young studly king (wasn't he supposed to be portly and have gout?) to "come soon to my hot bed." I've been slightly confused by the story line, probably because I was also reading The Other Boleyn Girl at the same time...





(Look at this book cover! Do you think Philippa Gregory is a new pen name for Danielle Steele?)



...and since both took artistic license with timelines, characters, and...well...facts...I keep getting my historical figures confused.




My confusion is compounded by the fact that I read The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George (and yes, while the title is "The Autobiography", it was not in fact penned by Hank himself, but is a fictionalized diary accounting of his life and times) about 20 years ago, and little bits of the story are still stuck in the nooks and crannies of my brain.



(Now, while I expect this is closer to what the man looked like, you can't trust a novelist who also writes "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" and "Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles"...but all kidding aside these 1000+ page books were pretty absorbing to read.)


Another of my favorites was Rome - the HBO mini-series.



Again, filled with fine looking men and women - all with beautiful white straight teeth - and many unique sexual adventures (I guess this is what they did before tv?). The political and social intricacies of this historical lesson could put any day-time (or prime-time) soap to shame.



(They were a cute couple until he threw her over the railing to her death....sigh...true love)

With names like Titus Pullo, can you blame the writers of Rome for going for the cheap thrills and jokes?

Much tamer, and yet similarly treated, has been another HBO mini-series, John Adams that just completed its 7 episode run.

(Not quite the hollywood look the others went for eh?)



No royal orgies here...just an ugly whiney patriot, his brilliant if hairstyle-challenged wife, and several bizarre children and their progeny. Since I am a huge fan of all things Tom Hanks, and this was his project, I tend to believe he didn't take too much license here and built as much from historical records, correspondence, and reliable documentation as possible. In fact the website for the show has an interactive timeline, history lessons, and lots of social studies-esque content. Yet they couldn't resist a few scandals, intrigue, and the intimate one-on-one conversations that could not possibly have been recorded.


It was particularly amusing, and not a little bit ironic, in one of the last scenes where Adams is called to Philadelphia to view the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and he scoffs at the fiction depicted...none of the signers were ever in the same room together at the same time, none of them ever looked peacable while signing, and their "shins" were never so well shown. Adams despairs at the fact that the true story of their independence is now lost in myth and fiction.


I guess we can all say the same about our own history. Whether recent or distant, all of our memories and recollections are colored by point of view, prejudices, human tendency to fill in the blanks, or just simply time. And as a woman of particularly poor powers of recollection, I'm more susceptible than most to not only forget, but to fill in all the blanks with fictions.


Following in the models set by the above examples, it could make for a pretty spicey memoir though, don't you think?

8 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My son was in 7th grade, studying ancient Rome, when he decided to TIVO the new HBO series Rome; he thought it would be interesting to learn more about that time.

It was interesting all right!

lyndaspix said...

I have seen none of these shows yet, but I still loved this post! You really have a way of describing things that captures my attention. I think I may need to check out some of the 1000+ page books you referenced. I'm much more a reader than a movie watcher. When there is a movie about a book, I MUCH prefer to read the book first. The Other Boleyn Girl and The Autobiography of Henry VIII are going on my list of books I want to read!

KiKi said...

Ok, now I'm really confused. Did Henry VII wind up with Philippa Gregory or the other Boleyn girl?

TEOM said...

Think of how INTERESTED we all would have been if history class was like that...

Stephanie said...

I like the idea of rewriting one's own history to fill in the boring or the blanks with spicy details.

Hmmm...

Maybe I could write a tragedy about ED that gives her a reason to be so crazy...

Maybe I could write a rags to riches story about myself and make a million... might be fun!

With regard to the rewriting of true history as fiction, it's been interesting to see specifics unfold over time. I bet if we went back to the history book we used in High School, it would be starkly different than the texts in today's classrooms -- and I'm not that old! ;)

A's Mom said...

Yeah, still not into history. Thanks for trying though.

Ian Lidster said...

Well as a former white male history and social studies teacher, I hope I wasn't boring, and I was both young and rather trim, and devastatingly attractive. At least, that is what I tell myself. A bit like the dudes in the Tudors if truth be known.

Josie said...

Wasn't "The Tudors" fabulous, fabulous, fabulous? I have always loved that period of history, and that program made it so much more ... interesting.