Posted by Trish Milburn Mar 8 2014, 12:01 am
Promotional image, CW Network
I saw a post on Facebook yesterday criticizing the TV show Reign for its historical inaccuracies. For those who don’t know, it’s a teen-targeted show on the CW network about Mary, Queen of Scots and her relationship with and eventual marriage to Francis, the dauphin of France. Are there big historical inaccuracies in the show? Yes. But I argue that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.
Reign isn’t meant to be a history documentary full of facts. It’s basically a teen drama with pretty clothes against a historical backdrop. If the show followed what really happened between Mary and Francis, I venture to guess not many teens would watch it. And thus an opportunity would be lost to actually interest them enough in the real people that they would go and read about them. I’ll admit that I did some research about Mary and Francis, as well as Catherine de Medici (mother to Francis), after I started watching the show.
I did the same thing while watching The Tudors, another program that got complaints because of historical in accuracies. More pretty people in pretty clothes that took a lot of artistic liberties with the history of King Henry VIII and his wives. But after I became a fan of the show, I read more about Henry and his various ill-fated wives. Whereas I couldn’t name Henry’s wives before I started watching The Tudors, now I can — and realize just how popular the names Catherine and Anne must have been in the 1500s.
When I started watching The Borgias, yet another drama to be heaped with criticism from history lovers, I knew basically nothing about the Borgia family and its ties to the papacy. After watching episodes, I would go online and start reading about the family and other characters in the show to see who was real and who wasn’t, what events actually occurred and which were fabrications.
Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire (Warner Brothers promotional image)
I’ve done much the same after watching various movies, including 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire, which I saw yesterday. I read about the Battle of Thermopylae (where the 300 Spartans fell) led by King Leonidas after seeing the first movie. When I started seeing the previews for the sequel, I read about Artemisia (played by Eva Green), who really was a naval commander in the Persian navy during the invasion of Greece. Again, a good amount of artistic license was taken, but her story in the movie was interesting enough that I sought out the truth about her.
Have you ever watched a movie or TV show loosely based on historical figures and events that led you to read more about the real people and events? If so, what was it?