June 10, 2008

Accuracy Not Included

I would definitely classify myself as a bookworm. I have three different Excel spreadsheets: one that lists every “real” book that I’ve ever read, one that lists the books that I own for my own personal library, and the last lists every book that I want to read in the future at some point… all three said lists are alphabetized by author to ensure good organization so as to not lose a book somewhere in the shuffle. Clearly, I have a book complex. I don’t like to play favorites when it comes to books or their genres because I like to consider myself an equal opportunity reader. But I suppose I fall victim most often to Historical Fiction: typically love stories about English monarchs and their courts during the Tudor dynasty and other such periods.

It’s obvious and easy to recognize that these stories are not exactly historically accurate. There is no way to know the most intimate details of these monarchs’ lives unless they kept a detailed diary, which most never did in case its contents would end up damaging their position. The most recent example of popular historical fiction is the somewhat newly released movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl,” which is based off of the novel written by Philippa Gregory. In it, it depicts Mary Boleyn as having been deeply in love with Henry VIII while her sister, Anne Boleyn, was just simply a scheming social climber. If you watch Showtime’s sexy series “The Tudors,” then it appears as though Anne truly loves him and Mary was nothing more than a few months of Henry taking royal liberties with his wife’s ladies in waiting.

Whichever interpretation you prefer, it is important to keep in mind that they are simply that: interpretations of the past. All of this entertainment media gets criticized constantly for being historically inaccurate about the way in which some people died, or the romances that were experienced between certain characters who have never been documented. Philippa Gregory’s novels are for entertainment purposes. Television series are for entertainment purposes. While they may take a few liberties with the content in which they choose to interpret, they are very honest about being a somewhat imagined account of history. Perhaps this will turn even more people off to accepting this fiction. I, however, will be curled up this Sunday on my couch with my copy of Gregory’s “The Boleyn Inheritance” while I wait for the newest episode of “The Tudors” to come on.

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