Are you watching Troy: Fall of a City (2018) on Netflix? This recent BBC TV miniseries takes another stab at the Trojan War, relying to some degree on Homer’s Illiad — yes, there are gods and goddesses playing their roles in the story.
I made it about 10 minutes into the first episode and got annoyed at all the patriarchy, as the focus was on Paris, the son of the King and Queen of Troy, but who’s been raised by a herder and doesn’t know his own origins. But since there’s NOTHING ELSE TO WATCH (FLAIL), I went back to the show and am now plugging away at it — and I’m decently entertained! There’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s solid.
It turns out they’re actually trying to make it somewhat feminist, in that one of the reasons Helen runs off with Paris (and she does choose to run off, she’s not kidnapped) is because in Sparta, she’s subservient to her husband King Menelaus, but in Troy, Queen Hecuba rules alongside King Priam. It’s nice to see the female characters given some agency, although on the other hand it would be interesting to see the dynamic if Helen were actually kidnapped. I will say, I get being upset that your wife has been kidnapped. However, since in this version Helen wanted to run off, it seems like a ludicrous thing to go to war over. But, men.
The main thing a lot of people are noticing is the diverse casting. Achilles, Zeus, Athena, and Hera, and multiple other characters are all played by people of color. According to Variety,
Classical historian Bettany Hughes was an adviser on the series, and Farr noted that genuine historical accuracy was not a viable option. “No one knows if Homer’s version of [around 1200 B.C.E.], which was written 500 years later, is truthful to anything specific, anything particular, or whether it wasn’t an entirely mythic thing.
“You can’t cast Hittites as Trojans; I’d love to do it but sadly there are none available!” said Farr, adding: “We are not claiming that Achilles was actually Ethiopian any more than if a black actor played [King] Arthur. It is simply a casting decision. Whoever came and inhabited the spirit of the characters best we decided to cast” (‘Troy: Fall of a City’ Team Talk Casting and Diversity in the BBC and Netflix Epic).
The costumes were designed by Diana Cilliers (Crusoe, Women in Love, the rebooted Roots, Tutankhamun, Knightfall). Sadly the show doesn’t seem to be doing well enough to have warranted any interviews with Cilliers, although there’s a few bits in interviews with cast members:
Bella Dayne (Helen): The costumes we have on the show are absolutely incredible, and fed into my character right from the very start. I talked to Diana Cilliers, the costume designer, and I got really excited. At the first fitting I was bouncing around because I felt like every different costume fed so much into each scene, whether it’s this colour reflecting how she feels in a moment, or a particular set of jewellery feeling like it’s restricting her. Every detail informs the scene and makes me, and, in turn, Helen feel a certain way. It’s been a privilege collaborating with Diana and talking about different scenes and what works with what (Troy: Fall of a City | Interview with Bella Dayne).
David Gyasi (Achilles): The amazing work of the design team really helps you get into character, too. There was something about how powerful the costume makes you feel. It just makes you stand tall. There was just fantastic communication between all the departments, so that if we’ve choreographed something that is then impossible to do in a particular costume because of the way it holds you then they’d adapt it or make it out of other material. There’s one costume I have that’s a leather armour, which is great for one on one battles. You wouldn’t go into a massive war scene with it, but where Achilles meets someone one on one – which without giving too much away happens a few times in the series – it’s fantastic for movement and it helps Achilles’ speed and agility (BBC).
Let’s look at some of the major characters and how they’re costumed:
Are you watching Troy: Fall of a City? What are your thoughts?