Roots (2016): Part 3

13

I’ve been reviewing each episode of the new, rebooted Roots — each episode covers one or more eras, so it’s giving me lots of fodder for discussion! And woo boy, did episode three provide the fodder … you’ve got your Jonathan Rhys Meyers perfectly cast as a low-class, rapey slaveowner; plus a serious hottie; plus some INCREDIBLY badly dressed extras (seriously, wtf?). Join me!

Roots: Episode 3

Plot-wise, this was another entertaining and thought-provoking episode. It mostly focuses on all-growed-up Kizzy and her son “Chicken” George (the bulk of this episode is set in the 1820s). George is the result of Kizzy’s repeated rapes by slaveowner Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and it is heart-wrenching to watch Kizzy work through her emotions about his origin/parentage. Tom makes most of his money from chicken fighting (which, pleasepleaseplease tell me all the chicken-fighting scenes were edited/digital to make them seem more realistic, because I was seriously putting my shirt over my head during them), and George becomes a prize chicken trainer/fighter. There’s also a lot of the horrible reality of “slave breeding,” as George falls in love with Matilda. Tom buys Matilda for George so the two can marry and encourages George to have LOTS of children. Ew ew ew. Plus, you get to see more of the realities of how families of enslaved people were split up, and the horror of not just never seeing your loved ones again, but literally not even knowing if they are alive or dead.

Roots (2016)

Oh, JRM. They may have used makeup to give him such gross skin, but in my world this is what he looks like daily. (Sorry, I’m sure he’s a lovely guy!)

Also, Kizzy gets a love interest: Marcellus, a free African American played by Michael James Shaw, who, HELLO YES PLEASE *fans self frantically*

Roots (2016)

WELL HELLO THERE TALL DARK AND HANDSOME. YOU FILL OUT THOSE BREECHES VERY NICELY. (Also, GREAT lapels on that coat!).

Roots (2016)

In my mind, he is 7′ tall. Please don’t tell me otherwise.

Roots (2016)

Standing up to Tom Lea in an affecting scene, but I am a bad person because I was focused on (ahem) other things.

Roots (2016)

OH MY GOD I WANT TO LICK HIM LIKE A POPSICLE (Not JRM. Shaw. Just to be clear.). THAT SKIN. THOSE MUSCLES. *dissolves into a puddle of lust*

Okay, but let’s talk costumes, because we’re not just here to be lecherous (right? right? anyone?)…

Kizzy’s Costumes in Roots

We see the same actress (Emyri Crutchfield) give birth to George, then we jump to grown-up Kizzy played by Anika Noni Rose, in case anyone is confused.

Roots (2016)

1810s, I think. Decently shabby dress, nice headwrap.

Roots (2016)

Now it’s the 1820s, and this is Kizzy’s main dress for a while. I liked that again, it’s a credible hand-me-down and follows the stylistic trends of the 1820s … and those are great sleeves!

Roots (2016) Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

Serving the Leas at a formal picnic, Kizzy is lovely (and clearly meant to represent the family well) in this lace-accented gown.

Roots (2016)

I have SO MUCH LOVE for this head wrap!

Roots (2016)

It’s like a beautiful flower on Kizzy’s head, but at the same time it’s clearly a headwrap. Also, that lace is pretty.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

Giving up Marcellus (nooooooo!) in a serviceable yellow dress.

Roots (2016)

Later in the episode, this dress is once again a plausible hand-me-down — I can’t imagine a slave getting enough fabric for decorative gathers.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

This seems more like a dress that started as being meant for a slave. Note another pinned-on apron.

Roots (2016)

 

George’s Costumes in Roots

Mostly I want to look at adult George. He’s really wonderfully costumed — you can see that he’s enslaved (nothing upscale here), and yet they totally show his weird position as unacknowledged son-of-the-owner through what again appear to be hand me downs … plus they show his character through his jaunty accents, tipped hats, etc.

Roots (2016)

Cutaway coat, cravat, rakishly angled hat…

Roots (2016)

I got weirdly excited about this coat.

Roots (2016)

LOVE how the fabric facing on the collar is clearly silk and splitting, and aged differently from the wool body of the coat.

Roots (2016)

Such a great detail!

Matilda’s Costumes in Roots

Matilda is George’s love interest then wife. She’s the daughter of a preacher, and the two have a cute interaction getting together as she stands up to cocky George … but then she very quickly becomes background. Too bad!

Roots (2016)

Blue printed gown and a very traditional-19th-century headwrap.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

At the fancy picnic serving the Leas, she’s in this super cute outfit of a high-waisted, cream dress that’s accented by a pink and white cap, apron, and bow.

Roots (2016)

Getting married to George, I LOVED that Matilda wears Kizzy’s dress from the fancy picnic. Perfect!

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

On to being background … I couldn’t even screencap this outfit from the front.

Tom Lea’s Costumes in Roots

Tom Lea is a low -status, Irish-descended planter who has aspirations of rising in society. He wore a lot of relatively simple/lower-quality clothes because of this, but when he’s trying to impress people, he gets very flashy.

Roots (2016)

At a fancy picnic, trying to impress his social betters, Lea wears this FAAAAAAABULOUS linen coat with amazing collar and lapels.

Roots (2016)
Roots (2016)

Late in the episode, at a high-stakes cockfight. Looking quite sharp, and note the rakish hat tilt that George copies.

Roots (2016)

 

Patricia Lea’s Costumes in Roots

Tom Lea’s dishwater wife.

Roots (2016)

High-waisted, boring gown — clearly we’re not high-class around here. (In fact, in this scene Kizzy is teaching Patricia how to read)

Roots (2016)

Dressed up (comparatively) for church in a printed gown, but no hat/bonnet, which seems wrong.

Roots (2016)

At the fancy picnic, Patricia makes an effort in a sheer, white gown.

Roots (2016)

Although that is totally a prefab, Civil War sutler bonnet (I know, I used to own one). I do like the sheer chemisette.

Roots (2016)

Just an average dress for an average day on the farm.

 

(Almost) Everyone Else’s Costumes in Roots

Most of the upper-class extras were well-dressed, which is surprising when you see what’s coming next!

Roots (2016)

Tom trying to impress higher-status ladies at church. Not too sure about the long gloves for daywear on the left-hand lady.

Roots (2016)

The sheer blue dress is nice, and I liked that the ladies were layering bonnets over caps. Maybe Patricia’s lack-of-hat/bonnet is to show that she isn’t dressed up to snuff?

Roots (2016)

Ugly bonnet and hair, but perfectly period. This can be a really ugly era.

Roots (2016)

THIS GUY. His sideburns were ridiculous! (Perfectly period-appropriate, just, ha!)

 

The Gallery of Shittily Dressed Extras

And now, what happened with this batch of extras? I feel like someone dropped the ball in terms of screening who got to be placed where during shooting, because whoo-boy, some of these ladies should have been shunted to the rear…

Roots (2016)

Okay, so I think she may be a prostitute.

Roots (2016)

But why is far-right wearing her bonnet like that? Neither of these ladies look great, but they’re better than what’s coming…

Roots (2016)

A background observer of an early, small-time chicken fight. I’m sorry, even if she’s a prostitute, she wouldn’t be wearing only a corset … especially with the biddy bonnet.

Roots (2016)

At a middling-stakes chicken fight, this lady clearly escaped from the Edwardian Ball.

Roots (2016)

Why? Again, even if she’s a prostitute, she would be wearing a chemise under that corset…

Roots (2016)

Now we’re at a posh chicken fight. But again, even if she’s a tart, she wouldn’t be wearing a dress that doesn’t stay on her shoulders.

Roots (2016)

Same lady. Note modern tan.

Roots (2016)

This chick! I think that’s one of those elasticized, broomstick pleated, Stevie Nicks-inspired peasant dresses. With acres of corset showing.

Roots (2016)

And the pièce de resistance…

Roots (2016)

Yes, let’s put the Steampunk Con attendee right behind a major (for this scene) character!

Roots (2016)

Who looked at this corset-showing, no-chemise, no-dress/blouse, RED RUFFLED BIB ensemble and thought, “Yep, she’s good to go!” Who put her next to decently-dressed-in-stripes? WHY?????

 

What did you think of Roots episode 3? Did red-bib make you howl with laughter like I did?

Tags

About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

13 Responses

  1. SarahV

    In my head, I’m already working out some time-travel-y crossover piece where a bunch of pretentious Steampunk Cosplayers, who are so in love with the Difference Engine (the ruffles! the corsets! the lack of aspirins and basic antibiotics!) and such end up dropped into the real life nastiness that was the actual period… Like a mean spirited _Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court_, or something…..

    Reply
    • Lady Hermina De Pagan

      oh, that sounds delightful! Imagine some of the Cosplayers delight with chamber pots, lack of sanitation, and no women’s rights. *evil grins*

      Reply
    • Susan Pola

      Sounds perfectly lovely. *grinning and snorts*. But seriously have one of the women have….I’d read it.

      Reply
  2. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    ARGH! visable corsets with no chemise makes my blood boil. I see it all the time in the reenacting community. I want to grab those people and ask them if they would wear their bra over their shirt and visable to world? For a better idea of how the ladies of Hooker’s Army would dress, watch Hell on Wheels. Set after the Civil War but the ladies there are closer to what actual people wore. Also Common and Anson Mount are quite yummy.

    Reply
  3. Susan Pola

    Or carving pumpkins and turkeys with correct etiquette, after all that is one of the things Ms Stewart is known for. But seriously, I’m laughing so much at the horrid costumes that I almost didn’t notice what a hunk the actor playing George is.
    The costumes on this are so uneven, some good like the Kizzie’s cap and George’s frayed collar on his coat to the unmentionable bad Ren faire stuff. I wonder what research went on. Nil, a soupcon, done in a haze…

    Reply
  4. aquitainequeen

    It’s always so annoying when people wear the corset/stays and nothing else, either over or under. You TAKE CARE of your corset; you don’t let it get saturated with sweat OR let it chafe you!

    Reply
  5. LadySlippers

    Okay, my historic dress history is very rusty but when are clothing colours codified? During the Victorian Era (VE), which I know Roots precedes, it was pretty much set in stone that black/greys were either mourning attire or service attire, with black being for the first year of mourning and greys in the second year (service attire had no time constraints). Towards the end of the second year of mourning, muted greys and purples were introduced before leaving the usual two-year mourning period and wearing non-mourning colours. So when was that a well known custom? I ask because here and in a lot of other shows, people are wearing purples and greys without being in mourning and that was not the custom.

    To show how serious they took mourning, women even had mourning jewels that were usually only worn during that two year mourning period.

    (And I do remember there were customs for certain colours to be worn for morning, luncheon, afternoon, and evening attire, in addition to the mourning attire.)

    Thoughts?

    Reply

Feel the love