Welcome to the second instalment of Historical Wednesdays. I'm thrilled to have one of my favourite Victoria's on the blog today, the lovely Ms. Victoria Danann., who just happens to be a USA Today Bestselling Author. Trust me when I say she rocks! You can find her bio and links at the end of her awesome post on the CW historical teen drama, Reign.
"Reign: Gossip girls in funky costumes" by Victoria Danann
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away named CW, there was a 16th century historical drama series with little resemblance to our reality. The show is supposed to center around the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Also called “Mary, Teen of Scots” by some, the show demonstrates everything that’s wrong with the ever-growing tendency to treat history as a rough draft. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the show began with disclaimers that names, dates, and places are fictional and any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental.
The cynical among us would say that CW is a corporation tasked with a money making mission. Its purpose is to make money even if that means exploiting a target market populated by people whose brains are six years away from being fully developed. And who really cares if only one out of a hundred high school students could find France on a globe?
Regardless of intent, we are creatures who adapt and learn.
Here are a few things I learned from “Reign”. In 1557 they…
- They danced the minuet to music played with electrical instruments that sounds very much like contemporary tweeny pop.
- When girls cried, mascara ran down their faces.
- They had no need of woodsmen because they used clean and convenient gas fireplaces.
- Queens did their own packing for traveling.
- They could ride in an open-windowed carriage in the middle of a snowy French winter, but noses don’t turn red, eyes didn’t water and magical thin capes, loosely tied over bare skin, were sufficient for warmth.
Perhaps I pay too much attention to such details. Like dress for instance. In one of my former careers, I was an evening wear designer. As a child I was always especially interested in the awards for movie costume design and marveled at the amount of research and care that went into accurately reproducing costumes so that they were authentic, right down to using only fabrics that were available at the time. No Zippers. No buttons. Some even went so far as to make sure everything was hand sewn as they would have been at the time.
That tradition of faithfully recreating period dress may not be sacred, but CW has gone completely off the reservation. Take the ladies in waiting. Mary did have four, as was the custom for royalty. But they dressed like this…
If you think I’m done ragging on the costumer, you are so wrong.
The push-up thing she’s wearing? Not a corset. Not a bustier. No. It’s a basque. It made its first appearance in fashion three hundred years after this period – minus the push-up feature.
The leather pants? Don’t get me started. Let me simply show what Henry’s clothes would have looked like.
Hate to Bash the show, but…
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. There was no Sebastian de Poitiers, bastard son of the king. He was invented for this photo and because the writers must have thought a love triangle would be cool.
If there had been a half-brother named Sebastien, I assure you he would not have been given a motorcycle club nickname like “Bash”. Had a fanciful name been bestowed, it would have sounded more like Sebastian Curt Hose or Sebastian the Sorrowful.
The fictional Bash does have striking blue eyes. I’ll give him that.
Regarding other casting choices, Mary – the real Mary - had bright auburn hair and hazel eyes. She was 5’11” which would probably compare today to a woman 6’5”. By contrast, Francis was abnormally short and so sickly that he was practically an invalid. He was married at fourteen and died at sixteen.
Next to the outrageous regard for historical accuracy in costuming, the thing that bothers me the most about this show is the deserted castle hallways and the deserted castle grounds. Love the shots of a lone couple, Mary and Francis, strolling the grounds of a castle built to house hundreds. Not one other person is present. Not the king’s guard or the queen’s guard (ancestors to the Secret Service which perhaps was somewhat secret seventy years ago when all men wore dark suits and white shirts). There’s not even a dog, cow, chicken or goat to be seen.
Look at it this way. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you know how many staff is required to support a titled family of six living on an estate approximately five percent as large as that pictured in “Reign”.
During the time when the historical Mary was at French court, the hallways would have been perpetually busy with servants, guards, and guests of the king. The castle grounds would have been teeming with both people and industry that supported and served the needs of said noblemen.
But, really, who needs facts if a show works? Certainly not "Reign," – SFGATE
Don’t forget, we can’t have a hit teen show without a horror movie monster who lives in the woods and drinks human blood.
Still not enough to insure all buttons have been pushed? Let’s throw in some BDSM and menage a trois that results in the death of a young woman. Finally, a recipe for a hit teen TV show.
As a writer, I wonder what would happen if Mary had been cast as the rather plain looking individual that she was. Beautiful women get recognition for being beautiful and it comes with a certain measure of power, although short lived like bankable athleticism.
How much more interesting it would have been to portray Mary as being the center of a whirlwind of intrigue, love, sex, conspiracy, bad doings, and assassination plots – which was all true – and cast her just as she was, not beautiful.
I was excited about this show when I first saw the trailer. I thought it might interest a new generation in the study of history. I fell in love with English history because of the movie The Lion in Winter and went on to do graduate level studies because of it. I recall one conversation in particular among several graduate level students of history in which every one of us said movies had lit the spark. I hope such inspiration will always be available, but don’t look for it in “Reign”.
About Victoria Danann:
I write cross-genre with uniquely fresh perspectives on paranormal creatures, characters, and themes. Add a dash of scifi and a flourish of fantasy to enough humor to make you laugh out loud and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. My heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, or past life therapists. My heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners - usually - whether they be elves, demons, berserkers, werewolves, or vampires.
My first book, My Familiar Stranger, was nominated for Best Paranormal Romance of 2012 by both Reviewers' Choice and Readers' Choice Awards. All of my books have opened on the Amazon Best Sellers list and earned Night Owl Reviews TOP PICK awards.
For books published in 2013, Black Swan won three awards. 1. Best Paranormal Romance Series 2. Best Paranormal Romance Novel - A SUMMONER'S TALE 3. Best Vampire~Shifter Novel - MOONLIGHT.
If you're interested in me personally, I am also a classically trained musician who defected to Classic Rock music. I'm the utility player which means I play rhythm guitar, keyboards, sing back ups and a few leads. My band has covered everything (note for note) from Styx to Led Zepellin to Rush.
I live in The Woodlands, Texas which is why I sometimes joke about being the witch in the woods. Married. Four children. One very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog.
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