Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's Reigning Men!

Teenage girls have terrible taste. That's the one thing I drew from Reign, the CW's new show about Mary Queen of Scots. Just being on the CW should have tipped me off, this being the same network to greenlight The Vampire Diaries - otherwise known as Twilight: The Series.

And yes, I know the books were written long before sparklepires were a thing but it's just like how 300 was written years before the War on Terror but still managed to be a sloppy suck-job to neoconservatism.

Anyway, Reign. It's a dramatic retelling of the rise of Mary Stuart, more commonly known as Mary, Queen of Scotts. In theory. From what I saw, it's the same goddamn teenybopper melodrama that's been cranked out with assembly line regularity since Aaron Spelling descended on the world. Mary is still a teenybopper herself in this telling, living at the French court which you could never tell was French unless the American actors affecting generic English accents said so. Mary is in a perilous poitical situation, being heir to the Scottish throne despite being an American with the most transparent of said accents, and must contend with plots hatched against her by her evil stepmother or something. But mostly she just makes moon eyes at this candyass -

At the time, a bare shirt like this would be the equivalent of walking around with your fly open.

My wife remarked while we were watching, "It's like The Tudors meets Dawson's Creek!" We loved The Tudors and expected this to be the spiritual equal. It even has a few of the many, many decapitated characters from that, like Thomas Culpeper as the other teen heartthrob. Who happens to be a druid.

"Because Pagans are still a thing in 16th century France, right?"

I'd like to talk a moment about The Tudors because it's a textbook example of how they should have done Reign. It took the transition from the Church of Rome to the Church of England and explored just how bloody, serious, and alien it all was to modern sensibilities. Sir Thomas Moore, a paragon of humility and a deep intellectual, demonstrates only the most fleeting remorse at burning one heretic after another. Historic changes in how people practice religion is driven as much by faith as the collisions of ambitious noblemen, who are themselves the puppets or cuckolds of wives who wield power despite the period's entrenched sexism. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII chews so much scenery and mutton, you forget he's physically a third the size of the real king.

The real Henry VIII was around three hundred pounds. And six foot eight.

Reign isn't nearly that ballsy. Or interesting. It has the feel of something concieved by the laziest of committees - "Game of Thrones is big now, right? Castles and knights and all that shit? How do we sell that to chicks?" Because this show ain't interested in the actual Mary, who married her cousin and then had him killed. And married his assassin. No, this Mary wants to return to Scotland to lead and protect her People like some democratic fantasy, when not gazing into the eyes of her twoo wuv Prince Francis.

Then there's the soundtrack - weepy, twee indie-pop. It's like how Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette was full of songs by Wire and Joy Division and it was a shit idea then too. As if the total ignorance of history in this historical drama wasn't readily apparent, you've got some latter-day Jewel wannabe strumming away whenever Mary America is playing patty cake with Prince Francipants. Really makes ya root for the wicked stepmother...

Yet I can see this show running for another season. And another and another, because like I said at the very start, teenage girls have terrible taste. And this trainwreck couldn't be more explicitly marketed to teenage girls if it had Justin Bieber and cutting.

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