Accuracy of "historical" filmsDoes it bother anybody when screenwriters take liberties with historical fact? For instance, I've been watching reruns of season 1 of "The Tudors." Henry VIII had two...

Accuracy of "historical" films

Does it bother anybody when screenwriters take liberties with historical fact? For instance, I've been watching reruns of season 1 of "The Tudors." Henry VIII had two sisters: Margaret, who became Queen of Scotland, and Mary, who was briefly Queen of France. However, in the series, there is only one sister, Margaret. She marries the King of Portugal and murders him!

Here's my problem: Will the series end with Henry's death? It's called "The Tudors," not "Henry VIII," so does that mean that they'll go through Elizabeth I? If so, how are they going to explain where Lady Jane Grey (Mary's granddaughter) and Mary Queen of Scots (Margaret's granddaughter) came from?

Does it bother anybody else? Any other examples?

7 Answers | Add Yours

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

My wife says I am no fun to take to some movies.  I'm that guy, who is always going to lean over and whisper "That didn't really happen" to which she will usually reply "Hey, we paid eight bucks for this! Shut up!".  Yes it bothers me, because students see these movies and take what they see as historical fact, and because they are a visual generation, they are more likely to retain what they see in the movies than what they read.  It's like, as history teachers, we have to "undo the damage" before we can teach them.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume that most historical films are not entirely accurate. They are based on real events and even people, but that doesn't mean they completely recreate history. How could they? I admit I do always wonder how much is accurate and where the liberties are taken.
amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I completely agree with you!  I love the series The Tudors and have been watching the seasons with great interest.  I think if we are watching and know the errors the directors are making (or perhaps they are intentionally omitting), then I can see where that irritation comes from.  I noticed many of the errors you speak of in the first season, but my husband who didn't have this knowledge, completely enjoyed every episode.  Likewise, I enjoy films dealing with the military, etc., but my husband can't watch without telling me how that firearm doesn't work that way, or how they didn't follow correct military protocal.

I show the film ELIZABETH in my senior English class, and there are just as many errors in that film.  Most deal with the decor and fashion, but there are just as many historical errors with Mary of Guise, Walshingham, and Norfolk. 

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

It would bother me if documentaries distorted facts or left out important details. I expect that genre to be honest, accurate, and factual. Historical films, however, are another genre, and they have more leeway for creative purposes. Many times movies are simply billed as "based on (or inspired by) a true story, and then they have much greater latitude in the creative process. I don’t expect historical films to be 100% on the mark--historically speaking of course.

drmonica's profile pic

drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

I love The Tudors, as much for Jonathan Rhys-Myers as for the history presented! I do want to see history depicted accurately, however, and I share your curiosity as to how the series will progress. I was thoroughly engrossed by the Anne Boleyn story arc.

lrwilliams's profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I really prefer that if a film is billed as a historical film that it follow tha actual events from history. It seems that most films that are made today are more interested in turning events into something that will play well to the audience as opposed to folloowing historical events.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It does not bother me that much because historical films are still a form of art and are left up to the interpretation of the screenwriter, director, and actors.  I think that most viewers of historical films or dramatic series expect there to be a dramatization of events and characters.  If The Tudors were billed as a documentary, that would be different, but the series is mainly for entertainment purposes.

What frustrates me more than the inaccuracies in historical films are poor interpretations of classic or well-known works of fiction--especially when the author of those works is still alive to consult.  A prime example is the film version of The Kite Runner.  The book is a marvelous, engrossing piece of literature; the film is flat and omits/changes key elements of the novel.  This bothers me more than the historical films because if a work is a bestselling novel or classic piece of literature, then it should be interpreted as such--not cheapened or changed dramatically.

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