tempestsarekind: (no party like a tudor party)
[personal profile] tempestsarekind
So I finally started watching The Tudors. I'm only three episodes in, so maybe it gets better, but so far, I am mightily unimpressed. It's not actually about historical accuracy or lack thereof; my knowledge of the intricacies of Tudor politics is not at all what it should be, sadly, so I'm not particularly concerned with that aspect, at the moment. (Except that I continue to be annoyed when characters wear doublets with no shirts under them. Because those outer layers can't be washed, it was really important to notions of cleanliness to have linen against the skin, to absorb sweat and oils from the skin. So every time someone does it, I can't help going, "ewwwww" in my head.) Though I reserve the right to change my mind about this. And the actors are good, I think.

But all the characters are flat. They state motivations, every now and again ("I want a son!" "I want to be King of France!" "Henry is an upstart and I deserve to be king!"), or they scheme a bit, or are idealistic and wear hair shirts, but there's no sense of why these characters really want anything. *I* know that Henry's having a son is really important in terms of the succession, but it's like it would have taken them too long--or taken time away from the many sex scenes--to establish this as an emotionally or politically important aspect, beyond some crying in confession, on Henry's part, that frankly felt tacked on.

It's especially bad with the female characters, who so far have not given any indication that they have *any* other interests, goals, or desires than to sleep with Henry (or maybe Charles Brandon. Once). And it's not even clear *why* they want to do so. Yes, power and influence--but of what sort? What exactly are these women hoping for? Who are they? It's not enough to say that they were merely pawns, because pawns can have their own feelings about what they're being forced to do, and we don't even see any of that. (And why are these men using them as pawns, anyway? You have to be pretty desperate for power to pimp out your own daughters to the King--so why is Thomas Boleyn doing this? "Our fortunes will be made" is simply not good enough, Michael Hirst. I'm sorry, but it's not.)

I'm especially disappointed in the introduction of Anne Boleyn. The voiceover at the beginning of each episode tells us, "You think you know the story, but you only know how it ends," and suggests that to *really* know this story, we have to watch it play out. But the narrative treats Anne Boleyn as somehow special solely because she *is* Anne Boleyn. Her father says at one point, "There's something deep and dangerous in you, Anne," but we haven't been shown *anything* of her except a few smirks. Likewise, Henry is so fascinated by her that we see him dreaming about her--but she's not the only woman he's wanted to sleep with in this miniseries so far, and his usual tactic is to get his guys to just bring the women to him. He never does this with Anne; for some reason he's changed his modus operandi, and we're given no reason for it--except, apparently that Anne is "special" or "different" in some way, and the only reason for that is who she will be. (And I can't even talk coherently about how gross it is that the one moment in which Anne is given some kind of agency in this situation is in Henry's dream. We couldn't have had an actual conversation between the two of them in which she stated that she wanted to be wooed and seduced, instead of its being Henry's dream-idea? That was too hard?)

Basically, I feel like the people who've put together the show have no vision for why they're doing it beyond this oft-repeated concept that Henry VIII wasn't always a bloated monster; at one point he was "young and fit." Well, "young and fit" isn't a coherent narrative. It isn't a rounded character or an interesting world.

Also, I'm annoyed by the behind-the-scenes features, which were not very good, for the same reasons. Nobody seemed to have anything to say other than, "Henry VIII was a rock star," and while I'm sure that the production designers and costume designer put more thought into their work than that, that was all we got from the special features. And whoever that London tour guide is, he should be ashamed of himself for saying that Shakespeare wrote Richard III in the Middle Ages, when he's supposed to be specializing in the Tudor period. Yes, "the Middle Ages" is a fairly arbitrary designation, but if you're going to use it, you should know what it consists of, particularly if you are supposed to be an expert in the period that is generally thought to mark the (arbitrary) end of the Middle Ages! Also, Thomas More's sister didn't rescue his head, tour guide man. His daughter did.
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