There I was, the other morning, all bleary-eyed at my day job, having barely cracked into my second cup of coffee of the hour, composing an email message to someone asking for non-work-related advice on some costuming matter, when I mistyped “historical” as “shitorical” and a new Frock Flicks meme was born.
A quick consult with the other 2/3rds of the Original Broadway Recording Cast ensued, in an effort not to let this opportunity slip by for putting our stamp on a new addition to the Frock Flicks lexicon, and it was decided that “shitorical” is defined as follows:
Shitorical: A historical film or TV show where the history is so shit you can’t even.
Allow me to elaborate: A shitorical flick goes beyond simple bad costuming. It doesn’t just incorporate the classic What The Frock tropes, it fucking defines them. A shitorical flick is so epically bad at representing history at all levels that it will induce a reflexive utterance of expletives and/or an immediate lecture on the offensiveness of its neglect of historical fact or source material that would be worthy of a TED Talk that exactly no one wants to listen to (except us. We get you). Your friends and family will immediately regret having ever brought it up in your presence. THAT is a shitorical flick.
So, without further ado, here are our Top Five Shitorical Flicks of all time!
It certainly seems to be the trendy thing these days to adapt PFG’s shitty historical romance novels into equally shitty historical romance movies and TV shows. Confession time: I tried reading The Other Boleyn Girl once and the only thing that saved it from getting hurled across the room in a fit of “OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS HEROINE IS SO FUCKING ANNOYING AND THE STORY IS INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE” rage was because I was reading it on my iPad and didn’t want to destroy several hundred dollars’ worth of Apple product. Why, for the love of all the old gods, does Hollywood think we need every. single. Philippa. Fucking. Gregory. book. adapted for the screen? And then, to add insult to injury, the costumes always suck. Always. Like it’s in the contract somewhere that we get a shitty flick with shitty costumes, just to piss me off.
Before there was Phillippa Fucking Gregory and her body of sub-par screen adaptations, there was Michael “I hate history” Hirst and his quest to strip the history from historical figures whose lives were already worthy of a supermarket romance novel and yet somehow make everything eleventy million times trashier and less interesting.
He’s up there with Michael Hirst in terms of paying lip service to historical fact only so long as it serves his vanity. We’ve devoted quite a bit of virtual ink and airspace to the shitshow that is Braveheart (1995), and to be fair, we did enjoy Hamlet (1990) (but that was probably more about Zeffirelli’s mitigating influence), but we haven’t really delved too far into his other ego vehicle, Patriot (2000) (or as I like to call it, Braveheart in America).
Mary, Queen of Scots
There’s no cinematic treatment of this poor woman that actually comes close to doing her life justice. Trystan enjoyed Reign (2013-2017) for its soapy ridiculousness (and Kendra and I never let her live it down), but I think we’re all in agreement that the 2018 Oscar-bait film starring Saorsie Ronan as the doomed queen fell way short of the mark. It wasn’t just about the denim gowns and the weird leather saddle bags on the men that were meant to somehow look less stupid than trunkhose. It was just completely misunderstanding the single most interesting part of her life, which was that she managed to hold down the throne in an incredibly hostile period of Scottish history for as long as she did without a hell of a lot of help. Trystan’s overview of previous MQoS flicks is worth a peruse for more details on all the ways Hollywood has failed Mary, but it deserves repeating: COME ON, WE DESERVE BETTER.
I’ve written very briefly about Vikings, mainly because I have just enough knowledge about the era to be dangerous, but some of my best friends have done serious scholarship on the topic of Norse culture in the early middle ages and there is always much rolling of eyes and gritting of teeth every time the show is mentioned. I gather that this show is for serious Norse scholarship like The Tudors is for Elizabethan scholarship. In fact, it’s saying a hell of a lot that Norsemen (2016-2018), the series that is dedicated almost entirely to mocking Vikings, has way better costuming and history.
What shitorical flicks would you add to the list?