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Thursday, May 27, 2004 AD
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
I've been watching the 1971 miniseries this week, and am wondering why I'm putting myself through it. Who is there to like in these tales? There are some to be pitied, and a great number to loathe, and quite a few to be subjected to both emotions, but there's no one heroic or truly admirable.

While church politics was not the focus of this series, there's enough of it portrayed to remind me of how very queasy I am regarding the origins of Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. Recent shenanigans are, in a sense, a coming full-circle for this tradition: "How can we fiddle with plain scriptural teaching about marriage to suit ourselves?" And if this portrayal's Cranmer is to be believed, he set the stage for the spinelessness of those who have followed in his wishy-washy footsteps for nearly 500 years. (Were there enough metaphors mixed in that sentence?) (Now before you Anglipiscopal types of orthodox standands start yelling, please be aware that my ignorance of church history is vast indeed, and I will be completely unable to defend these thoughts as aught more than passing fancies. And I'm not putting y'all on my list of damnable heretics or anything.)

Ugh...Henry was the worst kind of theological dabbler -- the kind for whom religion really is a mere set of propositions, devoid of faith in or fear of God. Of course the most exasperating abuse of scripture is that which leaves me yelling at the television, "She's not your brother's wife, she's your brother's widow, you imbecile! Read the rest of the Pentateuch!"

I liked what the commenter at IMDB had to say about the series' portrayal of Anne Boleyn: "what's most admirable here...is that neither the playwright nor the actress...try to gloss over the cruelty and arrogance of the legendary Hussy, and even seem to want to convey the idea that in a sense getting thrown in the Tower and having her head chopped off were the best things that ever happened to her...." Yes, I actually come close to liking Anne in the end. One almost gets the sense that the Anne portrayed here might have truly repented of the evil she did do while maintaining steadfast dignity in the face of accusations of the evil she didn't do.

I think the third classic blunder is "Never get romantically involved with an occupant of or heir to the British throne." I suppose someone will counter with an example of where such an attachment went well for someone, but there are just so many really nasty examples that I don't think it's worth the risk.

And a couple other random thoughts:

+ Whoever did the soundtrack for the Jane Seymour episode should be truly embarrassed. That horrid early '70s...I don't even know what to call it, because Anne of Cleves's tuneless lute playing surpassed it in approaching the definition of music...should be erased from all copies of the film distrubuted henceforth.

+ Three Catherines, two Annes and a Jane (which is really the same name as Anne, anyway)...somebody needs to come up with some more names! We can at least be grateful to Elizabeth I for bringing that heretofore (or would that be theretofore?) relatively rare name (which happens to be my personal favorite) into raging popularity. (There's a line in...Austen?...something about "all their Annes and Janes and Elizabeths." Anybody know where/what I'm thinking of?)
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 5/27/2004 11:42:00 PM • Permalink

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