While moseying along the racks at the library, I spied a TV series in the DVD section, one I’d never heard about. History freak that I am, it got snatched before anyone else noticed it sitting there, two seasons worth of what looked like Elizabethan period work. I should have paid more attention to the front cover.
Yeah, yeah, I’m an annoying stickler for historical fact, but this thing caused major jaw-dropping due to the history of Mary Queen of Scots getting twisted into something unrecognizable, a sort of hysterical history. Had the characters been taken over by pod people? Had the writers lost all sense of integrity? About half way through the first season it became clear: Reign, for all the bucks they’ve dumped into a very attractive production, has a target audience of teens, quite simply, a soap opera for the teenage masses.
Costumes for the men are a mish-mash covering a three hundred year span. Let’s face it, teens today would not like to see their heroes in tights, heels and bulbous shorts. And the girls, oye, the female costumes look like prom night on meth. For today’s proms, they’re perfect, but the time period is 1558 with ten layers of clothes and twenty pounds of beads and lace.
Mary Queen of Scots had her ups and downs in history but the real action didn’t start for her until she returned to Scotland after the death of King Francis II, who was probably a foot shorter, sickly and had a speech impediment. He kicked it a year and a half after they married, he fifteen and Mary seventeen at the time. And it was never established if their marriage had been consummated. It was said they liked each other well enough, according to Dad, King Henry II, who had ulterior motives, doncha know. And talk about strangling the facts, pious Francis murdered his father on the jousting field? It boggles the mind that puny Francis donned armor and lanced his father to death. Shame, shame, oh ye purveyors of nonsensical history.
On the positive side, I liked the performances. It takes talent and discipline to walk the fine edge of teen angst and soap opera scenery-chewing. Veteran, Megan Follows, is always a pleasure to watch. She infuses Queen Catherine with a vague, sly humor and this tempers the evil of the woman’s scary-cunning political maneuvers.
Now if the creators of this project wanted to make a twisted tale out of the Valois court, they should’ve written about Francis’s youngest brother, who later became king, the charming—and I must say decidedly prickish—Alexandre Edouard, Henri III. Now we’re talking the dark side of the force. This guy had no problem murdering family members, one of which was the Duke de Guise, Mary’s uncle. Henri Three also massacred Protestants after instigating political unrest, fled Paris like a coward and then later plotted to wage war on the city. Oh but the list goes on and on. One bit of accuracy in Reign is that it shows the real power broker, Mom, Queen Catherine de Medici. She ran the show behind the curtains and continued to do so during the tenures of all of her sons.
So why am I whining and ranting? There’s nothing wrong with fiddling with historical fact when it’s being made obvious that is the case. Heath Ledger in A Knight’s Tale was acceptable because the entire movie was tongue-in-cheek. It didn’t make itself out to be anything but a fun story set in the medieval time period, but Reign has warped the entire time period. My hope is that students will become interested enough to look up the truth, especially since our schools aren’t teaching it longer.
And so ends my rant. In a nutshell, if you don’t care about history and just want to see youngsters in costume playing at court intrigues, you’ll like this production. For a more precise rendition of the period, watch Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I.
As Monty Python was wont to say, and now for something completely different. Critique partner and writing buddy, Judith Post, writing as Judi Lynn, has a cover release for her upcoming digital work from Kensington, Cooking Up Trouble, scheduled to come out next year. Take a look-see:
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML