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Wisdom tells me it's ridiculous to get worked up over entertainment, and I do realize the silliness of it on its face...if not for a few painful cultural and political implications that motivate me to talk about this.  Basically, there are two premium cable TV shows currently on air about the Borgias - Canal+'s Borgia: Faith and Fear, and Showtime's The Borgias.  One of these shows is a shockingly intense, powerful, deeply-acted, intricately-scripted work of genius giving truly mesmerizing insights into the period, the society, and the individuals depicted, and the other is a standard TV show that relies on formulaic exposition and dumbed-down plotting to make a dizzyingly Byzantine setting more familiar to infantilized audiences.  One is arguably on par with, if not exceeds Game of Thrones in its depiction of feudal skullduggery; the other trivializes its subject to an extent more fitting to a soap opera.  Guess which one is targeted at Americans?

Now, before fans of the Showtime series get offended, let me make it clear that I'm not judging - and can't possibly judge - the series against the standards of normal television programming: Both are lavishly-produced premium cable shows focused on historical events without too horribly mangling their details, so that alone places them both far beyond what is normally put in front of TV audiences.  

But the difference between them is even starker - Borgia, the French/German production on a European cable channel, captures the equally gruesome and intoxicating lust for power among Renaissance church authorities with an infectious potency.  Blood pumps through the veins of the characters, will and fear burns behind their eyes, and by seeing it in action, you understand the siren song of Glory that fills their imaginations and perverts their deeds.  The Borgias on Showtime, meanwhile, seems more like a set of historical facts crammed into convenient screenwriting boxes, chopped into convenient episodic sub-plots, and acted out by characters who exist only to serve the writers' plots rather than their autonomous motivations.

Given the relative star power invested in the Showtime series, with no less than Jeremy Irons portraying Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI), the schism in acting quality is all the more excruciating to realize.  Although you may recognize a few of the actors in the European production on sight - e.g., the actor playing Rodrigo was Rawls in HBO's crime-drama masterpiece The Wire - not many American viewers could call to mind their names.  Many are yeoman actors known far more for their indelible performances than for themselves, and Borgia: Faith and Fear certainly adds to the stature of several.  

There also seems to be a major divergence in the quality of on-set leadership inversely proportional to star power: No less a name than Academy Award-winning writer/director/producer Neil Jordan is behind the Showtime series, while the respected but relatively anonymous Tom Fontana helms the Canal+ program.  I've never personally been a fan of Neil Jordan, and watching The Borgias, I'm reminded of the fact that I actively dislike every film he's ever made, finding them rhythmless and hollow - a pattern I see being repeated.  I know relatively little about Tom Fontana, and yet I'm in awe of this series he's created - in awe of its intensity and the passion on display by the actors bringing it to life.

What's also shocking is the raw carnality of the European production compared to the Showtime series, given the complete absence of legal or corporate obstacles to showing sex and violence on a premium cable channel.  In fact, violence in premium-cable historical dramas is often taken to cartoonish lengths in service to childish aesthetics, but in most cases even when it's graphic it's not actually violent - it's combat choreography and CGI blood-spatter ballet, with the heart-rending chaos and upsetting callousness of real violence surgically removed.  I don't know whether to credit the Showtime series with having less violence than its competitor, or discredit them for trivializing what violence they do show in the same way they trivialize the entire Renaissance world.  

But though violence is frequent in the European series, it's never a joke, a cheap plot device, or a matter of course - it's an unfolding and intensely personal cataclysm based on the choices the characters make: Characters with imperfect knowledge, incomplete self-control, long history behind them, and uncertain future ahead of them.  Genuine monstrousness is uncovered beneath apparent mediocrity, and humanity revealed beneath corruption - but not because a writer finds its useful to play tricks with his characters, but because these qualities are already there in the characters as envisioned (and perhaps as historically occurred).  We are made to realize, disquietingly, that no great malice, greed, or especially evil disposition is needed for one person to destroy the life of another - just mere disregard.

There's an equally stark contrast in terms of showing sexuality: Borgia frankly depicts the human body in various states of nudity and pleasure, and does so in a way that actually conveys a human experience taking place.  If actual arousal isn't taking place - and it very likely is - then the actors, makeup artists, and cameraman are true geniuses in the level of detail to which they go.  The version of the series intro currently on Netflix makes this abundantly clear, showing for a few seconds a woman's heaving, perky breasts with erect nipples and writhing mid-section.  You have to actually see it to understand that it's far more realistic and sexualized than most of the empty nudity and mechanical humping shown on American premium cable and R-rated movies.

Which brings me back to the Showtime series.  It's not that there's anything unusual about de-sexualized sexual content - quite the contrary, it's standard for programming targeted at American audiences.  As with many Showtime programs, we are shown sculpted, immobile breasts on bodies posed as if for a photo-shoot or moving according to an instruction manual rather than behaving according to the demands of passion - mere visual information with no emotional or even animal context.  Unfortunately, it's not the raw mechanics or images of sex that awaken puritanical instincts, but passion - the raw, powerful, overwhelming cascade of experiences that sexuality produces - so it is naturally those which are filtered out of content in order to make it more widely palatable.  The sexual experience, and not the empty mechanics, is what threatens to upset the applecart of a passive consumer audience who is far more useful with dulled senses than awakened ones.  It isn't possible to become desensitized to that kind of image - to see passion is to feel passion, or at least to feel its heat.

And for some reason, even on premium cable networks, either Americans don't want to see that or the people who rule over our media don't want us to see it.  Maybe both.  Maybe we have a culture of anesthesia, reflected in our increasingly sense-dulling "music," mindless alpha-wave TV programming, and dopamine-amped food.  Maybe we desire to turn pleasure into a button to push rather than an experience to undergo.  Or maybe that's just what the people who sell us this crap want for us, because robots make a more reliable consumer base, and people whose emotions have been degraded to a handful of basic behavioral triggers without all that messy thought and feeling surrounding them are easier to predict and control.

But I can't, and don't, buy that it's a coincidence that every time similar content is approached in two different ways for Americans and for international audiences, the people designing it for US consumption choose to dumb everything down, rob sex of its sexuality, and turn violence into a cheap visual gag reel because some formula says that you need a fight scene in act so-and-so.  And even if there is some native, self-reinforcing demand to be spared from having to feel anything, I think the vast majority of this phenomenon is just media companies doing what they find most convenient, knowing that most US audiences will never be exposed to alternatives.  Only those who put forth extra effort to find programming that Europeans are surrounded by will even know it exists.  

As far as I know, the Canal+ show - which is in English, BTW - is not available on any US network; there are no clips of it on Hulu; and even on Youtube, there are only a handful of few-minute trailer clips (none of which are very good representations), and most of the written descriptions for them (and miniscule smattering of comments) are not in English.  I've never seen it advertised anywhere, ever, and yet I regularly go to sites where ads for shows like Game of Thrones and The Borgias are normal to see.  How did I even find Borgia?  Luckily I didn't have to move to Europe, subscribe to Canal+, and learn French so I could understand their programming guide.  

Instead I searched on Netflix for The Borgias - a well-advertised program I'd heard about from multiple sources, created by a network with at least some record of delivering quality content (Dexter and Weeds being prime examples) - but instead I was directed to Borgia because Showtime apparently hasn't authorized Netflix to stream its program.  I must say, I am very glad that Showtime hopped on the bandwagon of greedy content-owners withdrawing from Netflix in search of higher profit margins, or I would never have found the alternative.  It hadn't been suggested to me, wasn't in my queue, and (if I recall) didn't even show up under a category-wide search of historical dramas - I only found it because I was looking for its inferior imitator.  And this pisses me off.

It royally pisses me off, because it's part of a much larger pattern: A pattern of "adapting" foreign films and TV shows to American audiences so that our precious consumer hypnosis will not be disturbed by being exposed to other cultures and time periods.  A pattern of refusing to promote and distribute wonderful movies and TV shows in the US simply because they're not about the US, leaving American audiences completely ignorant of the wide world of entertainment opportunities.  A pattern of creating inferior knockoffs of profound works by stripping away all but the most superficial plot points and then cramming them into a cliched formula script.  This is why American audiences know of the Meg Ryan / Nick Cage pile of dogshit City of Angels, but not the sublime German film Der Himmel Uber Berlin that it was based on - and even those of us who've seen the latter know of it under the name "Wings of Desire," because that sounds more appealing to English-speaking audiences than the actual title.

When a foreign TV show is a spectacular success among critics internationally, do US channels try to acquire it in order to show it to US audiences?  Hell no.  They buy it so they can eviscerate it, throw the script into their turbo-charged de-soul-inator, churn out some formulaic pablum set in the US - god forbid American audiences know other places exist - and then hire a bunch of American actors to act in it.  I'm glad that occasionally this works out for the best, like with The Office - the British original was brilliant and caustic, and the US show is brilliant and heartwarming, and they're both worthwhile.  I love The Departed a lot more than the Hong Kong film it was based on.  But more often than not the results are an unsurprising abomination - shit flowing out of a "creative" process designed to remove rather than add quality content in search of depraved Marketing Department fantasies of universal appeal.

The way these companies' ideology works, one would think the perfect program would be to simply stream out each individual person's idealized mirror image at them 24/7.  But when that ideology fails - when people prove to be more complex than the cynical calculations used to control them - the entertainment industry does what every corrupt ideologue does: It tries to blot out awareness of the messy realities it has proven itself incapable of adequately handling.  Audiences with mass exposure to high-quality content just get more demanding, which makes the industry have to work harder to meet expectations - so it's far easier to just smash expectations with a wrecking ball of persistently bad and mediocre output, and count on their monopolization of media to reduce the flow of quality programming to a trickle.

And all of that would make perfect sense in this case if Showtime depended on advertising revenue, but it's a premium cable network.  So why did it make that series instead of just buying and promoting Borgia?  I don't know what the respective histories of the two series are - whether their creation had any kind of relationship at all, or is simply coincidental.  Supposedly Neil Jordan had been trying to make a movie about the Borgias starring - LOL, I'm not kidding - Colin Farrell and Scarlett Johansson: Two actors whose presence surely screams "Renaissance Italians."  Yeah, that's Neil Jordan for you - he's Michael Bay with an eye for frivolous melodrama.  

But for some bizarre reason this brilliant idea failed to pick up steam, and he ended up selling it to Showtime as a TV series replacement for their even more embarrassing pseudo-historical drama Tudors.  Maybe it was Canal+ who did the copying, and they just got lucky to hire the right talent to exceed their competitor.  Or maybe it was the other way around, like so many times in the past, and the outcome was indicative of the process by which it came about.  

Whichever the case, the pattern continues: Europeans are exposed to an intense, profound, engrossing, and well-crafted television series that is enlightening, inspiring, and disturbing, and Americans are given another ensemble-cast premium soap opera.  I only hope Canal+ makes another season of Borgia before Showtime ends their version of the series by having the Pope sitting in a diner listening to Journey.  I will say one thing for this country: Tom Fontana is American and Neil Jordan is Irish.  Now if we could just get around to having studios not run by limbically brain-dead sociopaths, we might be able to build an actual culture for this country.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The European version is available (11+ / 0-)

    on Netlflix now? Now I'll have something to watch tonight.

  •  Wonderful (10+ / 0-)

    I thought I'd hit my peak of mad when the wonderful nature show The Frozen Planet was censored and narration by  Sir David Attenborough was replaced! Honestly, they mean to keep us dumb and numb anyway possible.

  •  I watched it on Netflix. I thought it was awesome. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Nonconformist, jayden, Lujane, Chi
  •  Well as a fan of The Borgias and a tv producer (5+ / 0-)

    Ill be sure to check out the canal+ version on Netflix.

    To be fair, European and American audiences differ significantly. Showtime isn't running a charity.*  If no one watches, they don't get paid. In the end, I think quality entertainment can be the starting point for inspiring greater interest. No one can deny that the majority of Americans have less of a grasp of history than similar European counterparts. So you try to intelligently present entertainment that exceeds the standard of that culture or society and hope it inspires greater inquiry and learning.

    *Unlike my soon-to-be-launched non-profit television studio launching at Netroots Nation!

    •  There's no such thing as "relative intelligence." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotsright, jayden, Terranova0, Chi

      Either one has an inquisitive mind, or not.  Either one appreciates windows into things one doesn't know a lot about, or one resents them and finds them irritating.  And for people who fit the latter bill, they can watch sports and real soap operas - their standards don't need to invade the alleged bastions of quality programming.  

      I personally haven't had anything like the kind of history education an informed European has had, and I love seeing quality history-based programs about eras I'm not well-informed about.  The less I know, the more interesting I find insights - because intelligence abhors a vacuum.  Any intelligence, anywhere.  Anyone who would find the least bit value in The Borgias would be astonished by Borgia.  There is no sane reason why the former would be deemed more suitable for American audiences, unless it is actually the goal to enforce stupidity.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 09:25:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well I can't specifically speak to the differences (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, sebastianguy99, zinger99

        Between the two because I haven't watched the canal+ version.

        But that doesn't matter. The fallacy of your argument is that all intelligence is equal and everyone should find the exact things valuable/intriguing/insightful that you do. That's where your reasoning falters. Inquisitiveness is not the same as intelligence and everyone is going to have varying standards of what is most important to them in what they consider "quality programming".

        True anecdote: one of the reasons I started ppptv is because I believe American public television is failing us. There should be great entertainment on it and there isn't. Now, Showtime is a commercial network. Period. And they create and produce shows they believe will appeal most broadly while, I believe, still trying to deliver something better than what's on 90% of American television. I think they do a fair job of it. That doesn't mean that something different or "better" couldn't be produced. But those are subjective terms and yes, like it or not troubadour, producers do have to take into account their audiences. Intelligence or not, there are a lot of social and cultural differences between our culture and European culture. Hell, an example you mentioned yourself: the office, is a perfect example. Even sense of humor is different. That's just the reality. Good or bad, it is what it is. (btw this is also reflected in the differences in the film industry, which may be more stark).

        As I said, I am not arguing for or against Borgia vs The Borgias. My only point is that yes, 1) audience matters and 2) you are not "everyone".

        •  Canal+ is a commercial entity too. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Chi, zinger99

          And you're not going to convince me they make this stratospheric quality of programming because there's a gigantic market for it in Europe that doesn't exist here.  The fact is they just plain care about the quality of what they make, and the people who run US media companies are fucking zombie sociopaths.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 10:24:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Obviously I won't "convince" you but im (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zinger99

            Trying to explain to you that every society is different, especially as relates to what the consider to be entertaining.

            A good example of this is: why did they redo The office? It's because American and British sense of humor differ. One isn't better than the other, they're just different.

            Canal+, as a commercial entity, is, I assure you, as equally concerned with their show's popularity as ate American commercial entities. If no one was watching, they'd not make the shows. It's not rocket science. Canal's version is suited, I presume, to it's audience. I'm sure they're getting decent ratings. And show times version is also suited to its audience. Both are commercial endeavors. They create to audience. It's just that the audiences are different.

            •  Three words: Game of Thrones. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Chi, zinger99

              I doubt its overwhelming popularity is due to the ten minutes out of ten hours that concerned the supernatural in its first season, nor even necessarily the popularity of the books given that visual media are a much larger market.

              And your arguments become obtuse when you put it as being a dilemma between making money and not making money.  The fact is European media could choose to make the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel dreck in order to squeeze absolutely every last penny out of the marketplace they possibly could, or they could make the best product they could and still make a good deal of money without going balls-to-the-wall sociopath.  American companies, however, do go to the absolute bottom in search of every last penny because they are ruled by stock market gamblers rather than people with any sort of involvement in their field.

              In Europe, capitalism is a means of making things.  In the US, making things is merely one means to capitalism, and not even the most important one.

              Everything in moderation, including moderation.

              by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:12:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Canal+ is commercial, but.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            at least the German and Austrian networks (ZDF and ORF2) involved in the production are public broadcasters of their respective countries.

      •  Oh and by the way, if you want to be angry about (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, DrTerwilliker

        the lack of great programming, it would be much better directed at our nation's "PUBLIC BROADCASTING SYSTEM", rather than Showtime, a commercial network.

        Presumably, PBS SHOULD be the ones airing shows like "Borgia" and other similar offerings. But they don't. Because they can't get big corporations to pay the millions of dollars necessary for the productions. And god forbid our government actual FUND public television. So you get a series of boring and poorly produced historical documentaries that only a handful of people will ever watch, tons of thinly-veiled infomercials, reruns of shows that aired 30 years ago, and BBC imports for dramatic programming.

        In fact, this is what inspired me to create PPPTV.org. There SHOULD be an outlet for high-quality entertainment programming with social, cultural, artistic or education value. And the production of it shouldn't rely on big corporations who (understandably) will only fund something if there's a commercial benefit to them in doing so.

        Showtime is a commercial network. Their show is popular.  That's the end of it for them. I can't get worked up so much about that. I still think the show is better than 90% of all television.

        If your want to see more quality programming, follow us at ppptv and pressure PBS to pick up the shows that our members/supporters will decide to create.

    •  I have a client that woud make a great (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdmslle, Troubadour

      host for the Lets Eat Fresh
      http://www.alizagreen.com

    •  An interesting chicken and egg question, gentlemen (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdmslle, Troubadour, Chi

      With shows like THE TUDORS (aka 'By Jove His Majesty Has a Big Codpiece') does SHOTIME (and I think they are consistently worse repeat offenders than HBO) craftily try to woo more cultured and intellectually curious American viewers while still throwing a bone, as it were, to  the "Hey its Friday nite, lets see some tits!" crowd? Or are they helping to erode the entire population's brain cells until the latter category is the only one remaining?

      •  Well I think there's a market for programming (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DrTerwilliker

        That exceeds the dreck on most broadcast and cable network (including premium cable).

        But you have to ask yourself: "Where am I along the curve?"

        Because at the end of the day, if you are in the top 10% of intelligence in America, you cannot expect programming that you would find acceptable to be interesting or entertaining to the majority.

        That said, I think much of what's on tv caters to the lowest
        10%. And that's a huge problem.

        I think there needs to be a nice mix of the two. Something maybe tilted toward the "higher end" of the intelligence continuum but not so high brow it bores the crap out of anyone with an IQ under 150 or who, god forbid, watches tv for (gasp) entertainment.

        My contention is this (and it's my personal credo as a producer with aspirations of creating intelligent programming": if it doesn't work as entertainment, it's not going to get much of a chance to work as anything else".

        The best teachers teach by entertaining us. Maybe lectures aren't as dense as they could be, but by employing entertaining tactics, learning happens and curiosity for more information is planted.

        A recent example: how many books, lectures, documentaries were written about the Tuskegee Airmen? A gazillion. But George Lucas' major release brought it into popular culture and exposed it to millions (literally) of people who would never have picked up a book or watched a documentary. Is that wrong? Not to me. Was it as dense and historically accurate as possible? No. Was it "simplistic" and "formulaic"? Um, yeah. But...it works.

        Another example: Avatar. Powerful messages about greed and respect for others.

        Look at transformational television: the Archie bunker show; the Jefferson's; will and grace; maude; glee; the cosby show; even west wing; myth busters.

        All entertainment. But their social impact is undeniable.

        Things don't have to be eggheaded to be important. Good programming, when it actually reached people, has tremendous potential for driving society and culture. The challenge is to find the balance between shows that will find wide audience and exceptional quality. It's hard and many producers just can't be bothered. Just make another reality show or whatever and enjoy the ratings. IMO premium cable channels are trying. And they have found an audience. Realize that they can do this because they derive revenues from the fees people pay for the channels. That gives them
        A bit of wiggle room other networks that rely on ad dollars just don't have. Which is why the "history channel" is full of Nostradamus and aliens and HBO and others can do the Borgias or mad men. But even still, they cant go further than the "mainstream" audience, even while skewed toward a more descerning crowd. They can't "out price" their market.

        •  This attitude promotes false dilemmas. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Chi, zinger99

          A few examples of high-brow entertainment that has built powerful audience loyalty on premium cable in just the past few years:

          The Wire
          Rome
          Game of Thrones

          Notice how HBO doesn't seem to have a problem with promoting intelligent, insightful, passionate programming that people adore, repeatedly.  Why are Showtime and Starz such problem children in this respect?  And why is the entire rest of the US entertainment media even worse?  HBO proves the existence of the market, so the only explanation I can come up with is that the rest of the industry just isn't interested in pursuing it.

          Everything in moderation, including moderation.

          by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:20:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  And for the curious who cant stream (like me) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    A R1 BORGIA DVD set is available, tho I dont see it for rent on NETFLIX.

  •  some comments about episodic TV (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dotsright, jayden, Troubadour

    And TV in general too. And I watch Showtime and used to watch HBO Some comments..

    I just got surveyed by Nielsen ( ratings) on Showtimes Homeland. Some of the questions had to do with what I wanted to see more of. Does that mean if they get lots of people asking to see more of a character or a particular story line, do they writers change things around to reflect what viewers like me want?

    I can't watch the British version of Showtimes Shameless, but I think this show is so unusual on so many different levels. Its writing and characters knock me out every week. I read somewhere that the writers were picked because of their own struggles from their OWN lives ( hunger, poverty,abuse etc) And the acting is unbelievable. With one expression on his face, you understand why the father is alcoholic when his mother is introduced.

  •  It's not just TV (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    crankyinNYC, jayden, Troubadour, zinger99

    Yesterday's Guardian ran an excellent on-line piece on the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam.

    It appeared only in the UK feed. The US feed had the usual dumbed-down, celeb-o-centric stuff. Now, The Guardian is generally good reporting and good reading, and people who seek it out on-line are presumably reasonably literate and world-aware, but even they seem to realize that there's only so much that will sell in the US market.

    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

    by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 09:46:16 AM PDT

    •  I disagree that US audiences are the cause. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi

      I think, at most, they are a secondary effect of a much bigger and more disgusting problem: It isn't that quality entertainment won't sell - it's that the people who would have to sell it refuse because they can make a little more money making crap.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:29:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I believe Tom Fontana created the crime (4+ / 0-)

    drama, Homicide: Life on the Street about a Baltimore homicide detective squad. In a way, it was kind of the forerunner to The Wire.

    I agree on the dumbing down. Frustrating but likely supported by market research. On Netflix I am a big fan of MI-5. On a long visit with cousins, one was in a long, Netflix-delivered jag of watching episodes of 24. I suggested the vastly superior MI-5, but he declined saying he couldn't understand the British accents in the latter. Sheesh.

    I should add that said cousin said, in all seriousness, that the casting of a black president in 24 probably had something to do with getting Barack Obama elected president.

    Luckily, I am back on the right side of the country again and  safe from Da Stoopid.

  •  The Killing is another example. Although the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99, Troubadour, Chi

    american one wasn't bad the original Danish one was superb.

    "I smoke. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your fuckin' mouth." --- Bill Hicks

    by voroki on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 10:27:27 AM PDT

  •  not a fan of graphic violence, sexuality (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Chi

    I have such a viscerally negative reaction to graphic violence that it has only ever ruined for me whatever show or movie it's in.  I imagine it happening to me and all I want to do is change the channel or surf away to something light and fun. A tightly-wound drama with everybody yelling and crying whenever they're not just standing there looking confused is emotionally draining enough.  

    I'm also one of those people who thinks that all sexual content in media is "porn" in the sense that it puts the plot on hold to indulge in spectacle.  We know the sex happens and how good or bad it was since the characters usually can't stop referencing it, so why waste time showing it?  It's worse when they try to make it "real" and throw the actual aesthetic appeal of porn out the window.

    I would probably not enjoy "Borgia" no matter how well written and acted it is.  I just don't want to see stuff like that.  For a nerd like me, the history would stand on its own and the agendas would be hard enough to follow without expecting me to intuit them from some throwaway line or facial expression.

    Never attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice; stupid people couldn't hurt us so effectively.

    by Visceral on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 11:03:50 AM PDT

    •  Valid preferences. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi

      As to intuiting agendas, the great thing about a historically-based show is that even if you miss the clues, their meaning is eventually revealed by later events.  You don't even really have to go back and think about what you've seen, it all just kind of falls into place - sort of the way people in real life gain wisdom.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:32:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, at least the Jeremy Irons show (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99, Troubadour

    gets the costuming right--which is an enormous relief after watching 20 minutes (all I could stand) of The Tudors, where the characters wear 21st century eye makeup and are definitely NOT wearing the tight fitted canvas underbodice, often boned, that were worn by Italian women beneath their high-waisted gowns  A brief look at portraits from the period. ANd they used enough fabric int he skirts.  I know, that's a silly thing to be concerned about but I've made and worn gowns from the period and if the there isn't a semi-corset bodice underneath, the line are completely wrong and you don't get the proper "Clams on the half shell" cleavage.

    I DO like Neil Jordan,. however, and I adore Jeremy Irons. The weakest link for me is the actor playing Rodrigo who reminds me at times of Flynn Rider is Tangles, doing his best smoulder, which tends to come off more like adolescent pouting.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 02:48:24 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, Tudors is embarrassing on many levels. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi

      I can tolerate artistic license if it actually serves to provide greater illumination to the past, or if it breaks so completely with it that there's no pretense of being representative - e.g., pure fantasy alternate history - but when they're just lazy, ignorant, and insulting about their subject and just use it as a skin-mask for soap opera scripts, they should just not even make a show.

      Do you mean the actor playing Cesare?  Jeremy Irons plays Rodrigo.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:37:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I meant Cesare. I actuallyt know the period (0+ / 0-)

        history well because I researched in depth for my SCA persona, an Irish woman living in Genoa--and Mom loved the Tudors so some of my bedtime stories were about Anne Boleyn (to whom I am distantly related) and Elizabeth and the whole family. Also I have a trunk novel set in 1530s Ireland and Henry  is the ENglish king agaisnt whom my hero rebeleld.  

        As for the Borgias--it's pleasant to see Lucretia NOT written as an evil bitch. Poor woman seems to have been more sinned against than sinning, a pawn in her fathers's and brother's political games. I did a fair amount of research in high school because it was fun to embarrass the priest by bringing them up! Amazinghow much hsitory a girl learns that way. Plus I love the time period for the richness of the clothing, the food, and Italians actually liked bathing (as did the Irish; it seems to ahve been the French and the English who didn't--there's a funny letter from an Italian sent to Paris with Catherine de Medici complaining  that however beautiful French women were, the lack of cleanliness and the overuse of perfume made them  undesirable).

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 08:07:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I love The Borgias and don't apologize for it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    I find the show to be well acted and entertaining. I find that watching an episode, every episode, I am not left with the feeling of wasted time.

    One of the great things about the arts is the freedom to bring our own unique interpretation to the material. I find it disturbing that some people, usually on the Right, are not satisfied with the fact that others do not have the same tastes and then go on an turn artistic differences into something more personal.

    "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.".. Buddha

    by sebastianguy99 on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 04:45:03 PM PDT

    •  My opinion of The Borgias would probably be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi

      better if it hadn't seen Borgia first.  Sorry, it's just trying to see a light bulb with the glare of the Sun behind it.  I'd be interested to know what Borgia seems like after having seen The Borgias first - and I do recommend watching the entire first season of the former to get the full glory of it.

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:42:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  America is PG-13 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Chi, zinger99

    Which means we probably get better fart jokes than sex scenes  in our entertainment than other countries.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 05:31:30 PM PDT

    •  The industry that monopolizes our entertainment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, Chi, zinger99

      is PG-13 - that's their profit-maximizing point, throwing bones to every possible demographic rather than a complete meal to any - not our country.  

      Everything in moderation, including moderation.

      by Troubadour on Sat Mar 31, 2012 at 07:39:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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