• Hello everybody! We have tons of new awards for the new year that can be requested through our Awards System thanks to Antifa Lockhart! Some are limited-time awards so go claim them before they are gone forever...

    CLICK HERE FOR AWARDS

Period Media: Historical Accuracy or Modern Sensibilities?



REGISTER TO REMOVE ADS
Status
Not open for further replies.

ajmrowland

Keyblade Master
Joined
Mar 2, 2010
Messages
3,484
Awards
2
Age
32
Location
Twilight Town
I was just watching Showtime's "The Borgias" a work of historical fiction using real names, locations, and events that I became interested in after playing Assassin's Creed II(which is far more obviously fictional), and I came to wonder a bit about the timeline of things happening.

Typed my inquiry into Bing and I came across a comparison between the the Borgias and the more historically accurate(but also liberty-taking) Borgia:Faith and Fear.

http://exurbe.com/?p=2176

The guy brings up interesting points. A period film or tv show may not possibly be full accurate to said period because, in many cases, details such as item manufacturing may be lost to history, the show in question would be vastly more confusing due to politics and having so many people to deal with, and modern audiences have come to associate some specific visuals with certain tones and behaviors.

I am definitely curious to learn more about these sorts of things, though im not sure how much I'd retain. I certainly agree with him about communicating with the audience being first priority.
 

Hidden

A boy named Crow
Joined
May 4, 2005
Messages
1,615
Awards
6
Age
33
Location
A world that never was
Website
www.freewebs.com
This is a really late reply, but the topic is fascinating and the blog you linked is superb (if you haven't, read some of the other posts she's written, such as the Machiavelli series which, in its third part, digs into the actual history of the Borgias).

The author is a scholar of Renaissance era heterodoxy, which is awesome, and it also means she knows her stuff (see the Machiavelli series above). In comparing "The Borgias" and "Borgia: Faith and Fear," she skips right past which of the two is more historically accurate, in order to examine the much more interesting quality she calls "historicity." Historicity she defines as the judicious use of historical facts to manifest the reality of the period. She gives two examples from the opening episodes of each series. In the opening episode of "The Borgias," we discover that pope-to-be Rodrigo Borgia has been selling favors to garner votes for his papal election. Shocking! The modern audience is shocked and Borgia's rival papal-candidate is also shocked! Except... he shouldn't be. Because he's been doing it too. In fact, everybody who's somebody in the Council of Cardinals is doing it. For the last hundred years. This scenario in "The Borgias" uses historical fact, but betrays historical reality.

In the opening episode of "Borgia: Faith and Fear," we have another shocking scene. A head of the rival Orsini family bursts in upon a younger Borgia having sex with his wife. Borgia evades the older man's attempts to kill him and escapes out a window (after giving the prone Orsini a kick in the gut for good measure). Old man Orsini, unable to kill Borgia, turns instead to his much younger wife and kills her. Shocking! Except... nobody's shocked. Rodrigo Borgia moves to fine Orsini 800 ducats for the act, and when he hears it was because his own (illegitimate) son had been caught in flagrante with her, scolds him "Sleeping with another man's wife must be based on the husband's lack of character, not the woman's lust!" That's it. That's the historical reality.

The point the author draws from this, and I think this is the most interesting aspect, is that historicity does not necessarily "draw the viewer in" to the story--sometimes it repels him or her! It betrays the modern viewer's expectations simply by not being modern. This approach runs the risk of exoticism, of "selling" other times and cultures for their strange and exotic qualities, but it also has the potential to show the viewer a world truly outside of his or her experience... to a degree. The author points out that any show that was 100% accurate to its historical setting would be unwatchable... for a purely technical reason, think of the horrors of lighting a scene before the widespread use of the electric bulb. Beyond this, narrative and history have their own separate demands, and these do not always line up. When in doubt, the author suggests, go with narrative.

Anyway, it's a fascinating article, and I suggest everyone to read it. I have not come close to exhausting the material in even that one blog post, and there's a lot more! Thanks to ajmrowland for sharing it.
 
Last edited:

Epif

The Delicious
Joined
Mar 24, 2008
Messages
1,084
Website
epiphany-delirium.tumblr.com
Genres based in reality (e.g. biography, memoir, historical fiction) are fascinating, though I don't know anything about the Borgias or the period in question. However, I do want to say something about writing about events that occurred in reality. Mainly, there's no way to write without some filter clouding the work's plot from what actually happened. Whether the filter is the author's memories, their biases, or just time pressing on, the main priority is to entertain, which may give leeway to teaching the audience through accurate portrayals.
 

blksabbath74

New member
Joined
Dec 12, 2013
Messages
629
Age
47
Location
Birmingham AL
Godfather author Mario Puzo wrote a historical novel about the Borgia clan entitled The Family, if you are interested.
 

Hidden

A boy named Crow
Joined
May 4, 2005
Messages
1,615
Awards
6
Age
33
Location
A world that never was
Website
www.freewebs.com
Epif said:
However, I do want to say something about writing about events that occurred in reality. Mainly, there's no way to write without some filter clouding the work's plot from what actually happened.
This is an important point, and I want to carry it a bit further, because it’s equally true of historical narratives outside of "historical fiction" and period pieces. In her lecture, From Empire to Republic: China's struggle with modernity (so we're jumping historical period and place here), Isabel Hilton talks about one of the most common and pervasive historical narratives in the modern world--the narrative of "national identity." In 1911, the Qing dynasty, China's last imperial dynasty, was overthrown, and this ushered in a new republic and a series of new questions: "What was the new China? Who would be part of it? Who was Chinese? And who was not?" To answer these questions, the emergent Chinese state has tried on various 'narratives'--racial theory, millenarian socialism, grievance history. The purpose of each of these is to (re)define the relationship between the people and the state and to establish what it means to be “Chinese.” Inevitably, these narratives are also historical filters, emphasizing certain “identities” and suppressing others to create a coherent (and palatable) “national identity.” Perhaps as inevitably, these narratives and definitions of Chineseness benefit some –generally the Han majority- at the expense of others –ethnic minorities, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Of course, narratives of “national identity” extend beyond China—America has just as problematic narratives it identifies itself by, as do most if not all countries. Isabel Hilton restricts herself to Chinese narratives (and it still takes upwards of an hour), but I suggest listening to at least some of her talk if you’re at all interested in “modern China.”

blksabbath74 said:
Godfather author Mario Puzo wrote a historical novel about the Borgia clan entitled The Family, if you are interested.
That sounds very interesting, I'll have to look into it.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top