History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

16 July 2008

Robin Hood: A Legend In (Of?) Our Lifetime

As authors whose novels are grounded in history, we strive for as much accuracy as possible. Miring ourselves in research, we struggle with the nuances of vocabulary, often agonizing over whether a single word or phrase is anachronistic, let alone the details of period-accurate wardrobe and props within our settings.

When a work of fiction set in a time and place other than our own is adapted for the screen, we find ourselves discussing at great and lively length whether the cinematic creators "got it right." We cheer when they slip in a bit of minutiae that history buffs would handily recognize (the right food; the accurate reference to a law; the correct weapon; and the proper silhouette and construction of a costume).

Likewise, we occasionally feel the compulsion to slit our wrists when the specifics of an historical event (e.g., those surrounding the death of Cardinal Wolsey in the first season of Showtime's The Tudors) are wilfully--or cheerfully--ignored by the producers. In an interview with the New York Times published as the second season was about to debut, the series' creators acknowledged that they were perfectly aware of the facts, but elected to ditch the actual history in favor of giving Wolsey a more dramatic exit from the world. How did The Tudors kill off His Eminence? He slit his wrists. With a paring knife, no less.

Tonally, The Tudors takes itself very seriously, even as its creators acknowledge that they are playing fast and loose with history. Of course I wish that they would trust the fact that the actual events are often more juicy and dramatic than the fictionalized ones. But if the TV series encourages more people to be curious about the real Tudors, then (just as cinematic Austen adaptations--for better or worse--might develop and increase a wider audience for her books and others set during the Georgian and Regency eras), I suppose it's not such a dreadful thing.

But how do we feel about a television series inspired by a centuries-old series of legends which themselves were rather creative in their use of historical events and personages?

In the course of researching 12th and 13th century royalty for my upcoming nonfiction w-i-p, I decided to vist Netflix for a bit of pure entertainment that wouldn't take my mind too far from the subject. Curious about the most recent celluloid interpretations of the high gothic era, I rented the first season of episodes of the BBC's relatively new Robin Hood series.

It doesn't take more than a minute to realize that the latest screen incarnation of the Robin Hood legends is not your granny's Errol Flynn swashbuckler. Filmed in glorious Technicolor, that 1938 cinematic extravaganza derived its Normans vs. Saxons societal paradigm not from the original 13th century (and later) ballads; but from Sir Walter Scott, who was making a subtle political statement about the English and the Scots in his 1819 masterpiece, Ivanhoe.

In the 1990s, Kevin Costner and Patrick Bergin put their stamp on the role of Robin; the less said about those screen adaptations, the better. Their respective Maid Marians were feminists of the forest. Marian was a late addition (circa 1600) to the ballads via the elements of May Games. She remained surprisingly feisty throughout the Georgian and Victorian retellings, and that characterization has stuck, reflecting each subsequent generation's brand of feminism. The new BBC Marian, played by Lucy Griffiths, doesn't need to say "I'm with the band" to gain street cred. She fights and rides as well as most of the men in the series, and turns out to be a cross-dressing vigilante superhero(ine) in her own right.

Although he is the eternal vigilante who spurs our imaginations to believe that a life in the greenwood surrounded by other outlaws is purer and infinitely less corrupt than the supposed "civilization" he was compelled to abandon, Robin Hood, too, has always been a hero of his particular era, as readers (and now viewers) rediscover him and recognize the social and political parallels between the events of his story and those on our own nightly news. With each generation's retelling of the tales, the politics of the day--then, as now--found their way into the interpretations, with varying degrees of subtlety.

To contemporary readers, the episodic individual ballads seem closer to a boy's action comic, than to the world of classic literature. Robin is forever meeting someone on the road and goading him (or being goaded) into a fight. When he is bested, as is often the case, our hero recruits the better fighter for his band. Absent in the earliest written versions of the tales is the layering of social history. Centuries later, they will be firmly set during the reign of Richard I, against the distant backdrop of the Crusades--an unpopular war being fought in a faraway land while England's economy tanks and her subjects are taxed further and further into poverty, to pay for it.

The BBC's Robin Hood series makes no apology for any parallels the viewer might connect to current events too obvious to mention. And it's no earnest costume drama, nor has it much of an interest in being seen as one, although there are enough historical details that are accurate (not the costumes) to satisfy most costume drama fans. This new Robin Hood owes much to the recent crop of Hong Kong action movies; its fight scenes are enhanced with special effects familiar to fans of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Swords and staffs "whoosh" through the woods in swift concentric spirals that defy gravity. In one episode, which feels like an homage to the James Bond films of the 1960s, a cluster of Saracen female assassins strips down to jersey jumpsuits and ritual tattoos before inflicting their deadly swordplay on Robin and his band of sullen and often argumentative (no merriness here!) men (and one boyish-looking Saracen woman, who, naturally, is smarter and wiser than any of the peasant boy-outlaws).

Speaking of costumes, perhaps in an effort to convey that the series is intended to be a modern take on a classic story, the wardrobe contains an odd mix of attempts to create an on-the-mark silhouette side by side with some wildly inaccurate elements that look like they were purchased last season at Target. In one episode Marian wears a yellow cropped cardigan over her gown. And the Sheriff of Nottingham seems to be fond of a pair of striped skinny pants that made their way from an Edwardian wedding through punkdom.

The dialogue makes no attempt at recreating what passes for "period" language. It's riddled with blatantly slangy anachronisms, such as "Just shut up--okay!" and "Sorry to burst your bubble, Hood." We're in superheroland now, no matter the costumes or the location (the role of Sherwood Forest seems to be played by a Hungarian wood). With the CGI-enhanced fight choreography and frequent use of modern lingo, this Robin Hood revels in its anachronisms and pop-culture allusions--so much so that once you realize what its creators are doing, you can't possibly "fault" them for an accuracy it had never been their intention to reach.

So how do you feel about these "post-modern" cinematic adaptations of period literature? I'm not referring to the ones that are trying to be accurate and get so much of it wrong (Elizabeth: The Golden Age comes to mind), but to the new series that have clearly been developed for a generation of viewers who cut their teeth not on Howard Pyle but on Hong Kong action films and video games?

Vis-à-vis the BBC Robin Hood series in particular, I'd love to hear the impressions of our medieval authors. But I'm eager for everyone to join the discussion, regardless of the periods you tend to write, or read. Do you watch these series? Avidly, or once in a while? Do you think their success can translate across genres into new audiences for historical novels?


Blogger Mary Blayney said...

I have a remarkably on-again-off-again relationship with Netflix. It looks like it is about to be on-again as I would like to see some of the BBC Robin Hood you talked about Amanda.

I cannot speak to your exact question since I watch so little TV (because of time constraints, not dislike) but I will say that as long as the series or the film does not pretend to be accurate then I can enjoy it -- one that comesto mind right away is Knight's Tale with Heath Ledger. A juvenile entertainment but one that I suggest to young and old alike.

With the music of Queen making an appearance in the opening minutes, the film makers tell us up-front that this movie is a lark and not an historical study. That kind of honesty always works for me.

Now that I think about it, I did watch the first season of Deadwood -- but since I am not a Western writer I have no idea how accurate it was. I watched it because the characters were so fabulously drawn and because I love really bad language (joke).

I would be interested to hear what a writer and historian of the West would have to say about it.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I watch this series for one reason only, Richard Armitage as Sir Guy of Gisbourne. In fact, I fast forward through all the Robin Hood scenes because frankly this actor blows. I much prefer the previous BBC series with Michael Praed (not Jason Connery).

I've always had a fascination with the Robin Hood stories. And I agree that Maid Marian is now seen soley through our more modern feminist eyes. No longer will you see a Maid Marian who sat decorously like Olivia de Haviland with occasional flashes of rebellion. Nowadays Marian is a fighter. The Maid Marian the year I worked at the New York Renaissaisance Festival (the year Robin Hood Prince of Iowa came out) fought in the Living Chess Game.

Since Robin Hood, as far as we know, is a fictional creation, storytellers have been filtering the myths through the prism of their times. I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with series like The Tudors, who are too lazy to tell the story properly, and who feel they are making the story more dramatic, when there is no need. Witness their combining Henry's two sisters and then turning her into a murderess.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Mary, I totally agree with you about Knight's Tale which is worth seeing if only for the performance of the incomparable Paul Bettany. Every time I see one of his performances (and he's opposite Russell Crowe in 2 films), he steals every frame.

I was thinking about Knight's Tale when I wrote this post, and then forgot to slip something in about it, because it's definitely a kissing cousin to this new Robin Hood series.

Elizabeth, we're very much on the same page about The Tudors . And not only did they combine Henry VIII's two sisters into a single character, but they made that character a raving b*tch and a shrew, which seems to be an utter fiction. I researched Mary Rose Tudor and Charles Brandon for ROYAL AFFAIRS and the real people are far more compelling than their cartoonish counterparts in the Showtime series.

Although I didn't want to make the acting (or lack thereof) in the BBC Robin Hood the focus of my post, I do agree with your comment. Charisma is totally missing and I don't find these guys sexy (except for Richard Armitage, true); except that his Sir Guy, like all the other characters in the series is one-note. No one does anything unexpected (beyond Marian's being a vigilante with a superhero alter ego of her own, but once you've seen it, there aren't any more surprises). But having more fun watching Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood is like having more fun watching Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet . We should be more interested in what the leading man is doing, but the leading man lacks charisma (and looks).

I'm not familiar with the earlier TV series adaptations of the RH legends.

Perhaps Marian is more the mirror of her/our times than Robin Hood is.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Yes, but RA does look mighty fine in his leather!

Because the legend of Robin Hood has been around for so long, and is so well known, it's hard to do anything surprising or new really with the stories. Whereas turning Maid Marian into a badass is sort of new. Although a friend of mine wrote a book called "A Hoboken Hipster in Sherwood Forest" where her conceit was that Robin Hood and his Merry Men were lazy good for nothings who had to be convinced to do good.

And I've always liked the Jewish version that Ken Simon and I came up with, Reuben ben Hood and his Merry Minyon.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

You and Mel Brooks, EKM! Although you and Ken might have come up with your hysterical-sounding version before the film debuted. Robin Hood: Men in Tights still cracks me up. I love Brooks as "Rabbi Tuckman" and when he sees the band of men in tights he makes a poncy gesture with his hand and inquires "Feigeles?"

For those who don't know this Yiddish word, you might guess its meaning.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

That's a movie, that if it were turned into a musical, I might pay money to see.

Even though neither movie is totally historically accurate, both Becket and The Lion in Winter evoke the period so well, and it is a treat to see Peter O'Toole grow in the role of Henry. The same with the recent miniseries on Charles II, which they cut when they showed it on A&E unfortunately.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I love both Becket and The Lion In Winter , both of which I have watched again over the past several weeks. Apart from the intelligent writing and the flawless acting, which are always a treat, especially compared to what passes for period films nowadays, I noticed that the pace was so leisurely, comparatively speaking. There was no compulsion to rush to the next fight or action scene (or sex scene) as contemporary films/TV shows do -- the legacy of what I call "short attention-span theatre". The stories/plots in the two films from the 1960s unfold in their own time. And even though they were made some 40 years ago, these films retain a timeless quality that the current crop of TV/film adaptations tends to lack. One never feels that Becket or The Lion In Winter (the one with Katharine Hepburn and Richard Harris) are "dated" in any way.

I totally missed the recent miniseries on Charles II. Is it rentable yet? I have to say that the Restoration is one of my favorite eras and one that, unfortunately, publishers don't believe sells terribly well, although there have been several novels featuring Nell Gwyn and Barbara Castlemaine. My proposals for novels set then were met with the response "the market is already glutted with that era" and the exhortation to steer my imagination in the direction of the evergreen Tudors instead, as they're still considered highly commercial in the publishing world, no matter how many novels Anne Boleyn appears in.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I attempted the first episode, couldn't make it though (same with The Tudors, when the kings arm shook as he raised his lance I just couldn’t take another minute of it). As for Robin Hood? Blue eye-shadow. Skater-dude as Robin (oh yeah, that kid is a knight who survived the Crusades). Totally unwatchable.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

The Charles II is rentable from Netflix or from the Public Library. Helen McCrory captures Barbara Castlemaine perfectly and Shirley Henderson is wonderful as Catherine of Braganza with her batwing hairdo. Much better than the Ray Winstone Henry VIII as a cockney King of England.

Like you, I adore the Restoration period (must be although those plays we read!). It's a shame that it's such a hard sell although I've seen a few scattered historical romance and fiction novels lately.

It's amazing to me that with the Tudors, no one has so far written a book about Margaret, Henry's sister, among the plethora of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Catherine of Aragon, and Catherine Parr books. There is only the Jean Plaidy book. Ditto with Lettice Knollys. There you go, two redheads right there!

Kalen, you don't find Richard Armitage hot as Sir Guy? Those of us in the Armitage Army are willing to put up with skater dude to sigh over RA.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Kalen, I concur -- the choice of actor to play Robin is a bizarre one. He seems neither a warrior nor a leader. "Dude" is a pretty apt description, (and for me, not being in my 20s, I find RH and his band members way too young and callow to be sexy, and none of them has a brain).

Every episode is more or less the same, too (although that's pretty true of the original ballads; I've just read the 1923 cycle and a 1984 cycle and many of the ballads have the same general plotline; they just change the profession of RH's opponent).

The new BBC series, with its one-note characterizations, and Pow-Splat-Bam fights reminds me a lot of the 1960s Batman TV show, which was also intended to be comic relief, literally.

Does anyone think the Sheriff of Nottingham looks a lot like Billy Joel does these days -- only with dental issues?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Elizabeth, I proposed Lettice Knollys, since they wanted another Tudor heroine and they decided she wasn't "commercial enough" -- and I also proposed the real Mary Boleyn (same response -- can you imagine!?)

But what do you bet if I'd figured out another way to shoehorn Anne Boleyn into a novel, I'd get skewered by readers who'd yell "enough already!" at me, unaware that so much of what a writer gets a contract for is driven by the publisher's sales and marketing forces and editors are very gunshy to buck what they are being told are the trends, or what's selling. After all, they have a higher authority to answer to as well, some corporate biggies who aren't interested in the content of the books themselves, just that they're moving off the shelves.

With Mary Boleyn and Lettice Knollys, you've got a cool two-book theme: grandmother and granddaughter (although Lettice was born the same year Mary died, so alas they couldn't share any page time unless, Tudors-style, you violated historical fact).

10:04 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

That's pretty funny given the success of The Other Boleyn Girl. Sigh, it was so much easier when Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt was writing. I was introduced to Lettice Knollys through My Enemy, the Queen. I find it bizarre that a woman who was Mary Boleyn's granddaughter, lover of Elizabeth's great love, and the mother of her last love, is not considered "commercial" enough!

10:40 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

If Richard Armitage was Robin Hood I'd forgive the eye shadow and I'd be watching.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Exactly! Lettice is a natural as a subject for an historical novel. I may still (eventually) sell my proposal, who knows, but it won't be easy.

So here's another question: do we think it's possible to change the opinions of the decision makers as to what would really be a viable and exciting subject for a novel -- and how might that be accomplished? I wonder if it won't take a superfamous author (who has a proven track record of huge sales for other titles) nabbing the subject matter to suddenly get it deemed "commercial"? Same goes for the Restoration era. There are a number of talented historical fiction authors out there who are steadily crafting their novels, trying to make a living writing about subjects they enjoy but always with that editorially-constructed Sword of Commercial Damocles over their heads, authors who are not household names and who probably have the same thoughts.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Good point, Kalen!! At least Richard Armitage looks like a grownup!

I have as many issues with the screenwriting in the BBC RH series as I do with the acting. And it's not the modern lingo that bothers me (the first time I heard "okay", I turned to my husband and echoed "Okay?? OKAY?"), since that's part and parcel of the creators' intent. It's that every episode is pretty much the same. I don't have a reason to tune in to the next one.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Philippa Gregory had written several well-regarded historical novels but it wasn't until The Boleyn Girl, and her subsequent Tudor Novels that her career really took off. And Susan Holloway Scott had written many historical romances under her pseudonym of Miranda Jarret before her first historical fiction book was published. Neither of these women were best selling authors. What they did have is an editor who probably pushed for the book.

I think you will eventually sell your Lettice Knollys book, if editors are so desperate for the Tudors, they might give in. I mean seriously what else can you do to Anne Boleyn? Tell the story from Elizabeth's infant point of view? There have been several books lately about Lady Jane Grey, and I wouldn't have thought she was that well known. And she also ends up dead.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

The ending-up-dead thing is evidently a big issue for editors. For years, mine bucked my insistence (and my agent's) that Kathryn Howard had a great story because she ended up very dead very young. Kathryn Howard has always been my favorite of Henry VIII's queens because she was lusty and redheaded, even though, yeah, she seemed not to have the sense she was born with, but it would have been a fun challenge to create her character and personality.

Then, months passed, and she ended up doing a Kathryn Howard book after all. It wasn't one author's writing vs. another's -- it was that more recent sales and marketing reports had indicated that KH was "comercial" and by that time I had moved on to another idea.

Go figure.

But I did get to spotlight Kathryn Howard in ROYAL AFFAIRS at least. There's some really juicy (literally) testimony from her trial!

12:16 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Is there a way to pitch the hook as "The true story of Anne Bolyn's sister" or "The true story of Elizabeth I's aunt"?

2:55 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Great topic! I haven't seen the new Robin Hood. But while series/movies that are trying to be accurate and get things wrong tend to set my teeth on edge, I quite like self-consciosuly post-modern versions of historical stories, which at times can strike a note that rings very true even as it plays off modern elements (I'd put bits of Shakespearte in Love in this category, like the scene with the waiter explaining the daily specials).

"A Lion in Winter" and "Becket" are both brilliant movies, but the portayal of Eleanor of Acquitaine as a woman who no interests beyond embroidery in "Bekcet" always bothers me. And the costumes are off by a couple of centuries.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Bingo, Kalen! (And that's one way we presented the subject). It's all provided a fascinating education about what goes on backstage in the business end of our business. They identify what's selling and then from the "commercial" historical era, they decide that certain personages are "marquee names," (e.g. Anne Boleyn) that will always sell. If the person isn't a household name to the average reader (or perhaps to the editors, or to their sales forces), then a book about them will be a tough sell. Editors of the larger houses may be less inclined to take a chance, even if they love the book, if they're getting numbers on similar books and the numbers are pretty low. Maybe their own jobs are on the line if they don't make money for the publisher, who then has to prove to the conglomerate that owns it, that its business is profitable.

I was lucky enough to have an editor who took a chance on my Emma Hamilton and Mary Robinson novels; but times have definitely changed in the last couple of years. The hoops have gotten a lot smaller and they're definitely ringed with fire. :)

3:39 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

"Skater-dude as Robin (oh yeah, that kid is a knight who survived the Crusades). Totally unwatchable."

Right there with you, Kalen. I just COULD NOT warm up to the series because of that guy!

And I do have a problem with "transitional" costuming, too. Make it historically accurate or don't make it is my motto! ;-)

4:32 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Kathrynn, I'm completely with you on the costume issue. I HATE the sledge hammer "we're trying to show how universal this story is and therefore we'll have a mishmash of costumes and silhouettes from across the centuries" approach. It makes me utterly nuts and it's an approach that the NY Public Theater and Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park) productions have thrown up on their stages for far too many seasons.

I also think that most classics that have been "updated" and set in modern dress (usually for the same or similar reasons as the sledge hammer universal message costume approach) don't work either. You can't have Richard III screaming for a horse when tanks are bearing down on him.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Amanda, the Strafford Theatre in Canada did Romeo and Juliet in 1920's costuming...horrific, too. Romeo in pink seer-sucker and white. Hated it.

When their ticket office called me and asked me how I liked the show, I told them what I thought about the costuming.

They were indignant, and exclaimed I didn't know how much authentic costuming costs...mondernizing the classics on stage seems to be a way to save a buck, in some cases. ;-(

The Romeo and Juliet show closed before schedule...too many empty seats, I noticed.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

"Concept Shakespeare" can be a very ugly thing, can't it?

Hubby and I saw the Midsummer Night's Dream at Oregon Shakespeare Festival last month (Tracy -- where are you; don't you have tix to this production, too?). The costumes have a double-disco theme (the swinging 1960s and the glam rock 1980s and the rude mechanicals are all ex-hippies. And it's the painted VW bus in which they make their entrances and exits, that steals the show). The concept didn't work for me, but the sold-out house (filled with all generations) shouted like groupies at their favorite actors, as if they were rock stars, which had less to do with the production concept as with Ashland Oregon's passion for and appreciation of Shakespeare. THAT brought tears to my eyes. In all my life and all my theatrical experience, I've never seen hundreds of people shrieking their appreciation of a performance of Shakespeare.

This sort of circles back to my initial post where I posited that if these modern concept productions of classics can attract and hold new audiences for them, even if I may not be enamored of the concept -- then I suppose it's a good thing.

4:30 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Is it horrible to admit that my favorite Hamlet ever was Hamlet: A Space Odyssey? Of course I was five . . . and Hamlet was a 6-foot-something blonde god in a silver lame cape. *sigh* I think I'm still a little in love with that guy.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I empathize, Kalen. One should never underestimate the allure of a 6' blonde Adonis, no matter the production. I still recall the crush I had on Paul Nicholas from the original London cast of Cats and the performance of my loincloth-clad former Cornell theatre dept. pal, Christopher Rich as Dionysus in The Bacchae at Circle Im The Square several years ago. Chris also played Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac at Cornell, as well as Mercutio and that's where I was first drawn to his ... talent.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh dear, I knew if I waited too long this would be flooded with comments! Wonderful post and very thought-provoking comments.

As a medievalist by training and an avid reader myself it's always a very, very fine line what I can put up with and what I can't, and I think (as Kalen and others have mentioned) it's all about the purpose of the film/book/tv show, etc. For example, I can't tolerate watching either Braveheart or Gladiator (lots of undergrad work in ancient Rome!) - two films that take themselves very, very seriously and (at least for Braveheart) touted themselves as meticulously researched. *If you're doing an entire fiction based on history, don't tell the medievalists out there that it is accurate.* However, a film like A Knight's Tale (which I didn't love, mostly because I found the lead actress annoying) tells the viewer immediately that this is no "meticulously researched" costume piece, it's a fun film in the Middle Ages. (And yes, Amanda, Paul Bettany steals that film - fantastic!)

As for adaptations I am in no way a strict interpretationalist, so to say. I've had a long and passionate affair over Shakespeare since I was thirteen - one of my favorite books is Hamlet - and one of the facets of his work that always astounds me is to see how adaptable it is. One of the best productions of MacBeth I've ever seen was set in a vague WWII era-ish. And I'm no dummy but I can cheerfully admit that the reason I first gave Jane Austen a try was because of some great film adaptations which were in no possible way true to the book. (The 1999 Mansfield Park with Frances O'Connor and Jonny Lee Miller is a favorite.) I can't help but to feel that if a novel/play is adaptable, even with interpretation or changes, it can reach a whole new audience that may have never been exposed to it before. I can't say that I'd be a big fan of a hippie Midsummer Night's Dream, but I'll bet there were people in that crowd who might have picked up the book for the first time after seeing that VW bus. (Amanda, I've been to Ashland for the fest and it really is wonderful to see the appreciation, isn't it?)

2:02 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Thank you, Kate, for your extremely cogent comments, and also for weighing in as a medievalist. I appreciate your knowledge of that era, and of the Ancient Roman one; when you really know the era, the creators' historical errors can be so frustrating, especially when they've invested so much money into the movie that it wouldn't kill them to get it right (unless of course, as with The Tudors, they actually have researched the facts; they just don't care.

I totally take your point regarding Gladiator and Braveheart . Unfortunately, to most moviegoers, these films are fabulous "historical" blockbusters, and even if they found out that the history is wrong, or the details are off, they probably wouldn't even care, as long as they got their money's worth of a good story (or Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson barechested).

It was indeed amazing to be in Ashland where not just one, but four theatres overflow with patrons (who bother to dress nicely for the occasion, as casual and "crunchy" as the town is) who are all Shakespeare and theatre groupies. People have been saying that the audiences for live theatre are shrinking by the day and the fest at Ashland proved the opposite. I was just blown away by it.

5:27 PM  

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