Top Five Shitorical Flicks

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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.

Over half of those likes came within the first 10 minutes, indicating that I had accidentally typo’d my way into the zeitgeist of historical nerdery.

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!

 

Philippa Fucking Gregory

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.

The White Princess (2017)

I did actually end up writing a post about how this dress was made entirely of Satan’s shower curtains.

 

The Tudors

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.

The Tudors

As if that smarmy mustache weren’t bad enough.

 

Mel Gibson

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).

THE FUCK IS JOLIE RICHARDSON WEARING???

 

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.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018) - execution gif

Choices were definitely made.

 

Vikings (2013-)

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.

Random pieces of leather stitched together and really weird belts. That’s about all you need to know about the show.

 

What shitorical flicks would you add to the list?

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

87 Responses

  1. Saraquill

    Any flick whose prevailing theme is “Mighty Whitey” who PoCs better than actual PoC. (I’m looking at you, “Last Samurai.”) Likewise, films with whitewashed casting, and ones whose period is best described as BEWBZ.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Mathilde the biopic of the nonexistent love of Tsar Nicholas II and Mathilde Kschessinkaya. She was his mistress period. His heart belonged to Alix.

    Costumes were for the most part B+-A range but this shitorical fell off the mark from a historical viewpoint. Mathilde Kschessinkaya went from Nicky to his being cousins Sergei Michaelovitch and her husband Andrei Vladimirovitch mistresses.

    Reply
    • Lmaris

      Except the concept of “mistress” is a romantic love rather than the diplomatic marriage or it would have just been a one and done.

      There was love, even if his duty was to Alix.

      Reply
      • Terézia Marková

        Actually no? From what I can gather, Mathilda was Nicolas’ long-time mistress, but if there ever was a romantic aspect in this relationship, it was all gone by the time he married Alexandra. It really wasn’t his “duty” to marry her – any German princess would suffice, and any other would probably be less reluctant to convert to Russian orthodoxy, too. In the end, he did marry her for love, previous relationships notwithstanding. As for having to be in love to maintain relationship with her for so long… Not necessarily? At the time, many men of his station had stable mistresses, even if the relationship was purely sexual (not to mention a sort of “friends with benefits” situation where there was an emotional connection between the two, but not romantic love).

        Reply
      • Roxana

        Nicholas loved Alix truly, madly, deeply for years before their marriage and to the bitter end. Mathilde was a convenience, and knew it.

        Reply
        • Aimee

          You’re right about the she ‘knew it’ part, in her letters and diaries she expresses her jealousy towards Alix. “He likes Alix a lot, he told me about this earlier, and I am starting to seriously be jealous of her.” (21st April 1892, after reading one of his diary entries). “This was joined by an awful jealousy towards her…” (May 1892). Nicholas ‘broke up’ with her after he and Alix finally got engaged. Nicholas then told Alix all about the relationship, her response was: “what is past, is past… I want you to be quite sure of my love for you and that I love you even more since you told me that little story, your confidence in me touched me, oh, so deeply”

          Reply
          • Roxana

            Alexandra was not the most mentally stable of women but she knew Nicky was all hers and didn’t waste energy on jealousy of the past. Or even present day women making eyes at Nicholas. She was jealous of her fiend Ania but mainly because she was creating scenes and cutting into Alexandra’s own time with Nicky. She never doubted Nicholas’ fidelity.

            Reply
  3. picasso Manu

    Anything and everything with Marie Antoinette in it. Yes, the Coppola film was very pretty in many ways… In fact, I liked it a lot before I actually watched the film, when the French history buff I am went on a low boil early on in the film and it never got better.
    I never got the fascination she exerts on people, and for christ sake, she wasn’t an 18th century lady Di!
    In general, I’m always suspicious when the English and Americans dabble in French history: There is that thing that Hollywood seems to think that all French are both sex obsessed AND somehow gay at the same time… And that since the middle ages. One wonders how there can be still French people around.
    And not get me started on the French Revolution or Napoleon!

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      “There is that thing that Hollywood seems to think that all French are both sex obsessed AND somehow gay at the same time.”

      Well put. (And it made me laugh, which I needed after the Warriors’ defeat last night. Maybe if they had worn well-designed costumes, the outcome would have been different.)

      Reply
      • Cathy Leekam

        I’m from Toronto and I literally could not resist posting. It was a great battle!

        Reply
        • M.E. Lawrence

          @Cathy: It was a great battle. I like the Raptors, and didn’t much mind their winning.

          Reply
          • MoHub

            I was pleased for the Raptors’ win if only because it meant there was no White House junk-food-fueled victory celebration.

            Reply
    • Sarah

      The Coppola Marie Antoinette was a really long music video. Beautiful, but nothing else.

      Reply
  4. Terri Alley

    I was in a chat group called “All My Tudors” for a time and the series was usually referred to as “Hampton Court 90210” or “TTOS” (“That Travesty On Showtime). When I found this page, I added P.F.G. to my mental list of awesome web anagrams/words. New entry “shitorical”. I also keep a mental list of ridiculous sentences read in “historical ” romance novels. Can’t help myself!

    Reply
    • karenbs333

      I’d love to see that mental list become an actual shareable list. It sounds hysterical and it definitely would bring joy to many of us!

      Reply
    • SarahV

      Hampton Court 90210 is just about the funniest this I’ve seen all week.

      Plus, I now really wish that was a thing. Hrm.

      Reply
      • Teresa Alley

        Later, I thought that Reign was even more deserving of the 90210 subtitle.

        Reply
  5. Jennifer Van Haaften

    Oh, yeah, this is the best word to describe films with this offense. I will be using it liberally.

    Reply
  6. Andrew Schroeder

    Same costume designer for Les Too-durrs and the first few seasons of Vikings.

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Earlier this month I saw all four parts (as in seven hours) of the 1965-7 Soviet “W&P” at the local film archive. Just gorgeous, with a sublime Prince Andrei and the best coming-of-age ball ever. I thought the costume design was quite convincing, but I’m not an expert in these matters.

      Reply
      • Aleko

        The costume was very good for the 1960s; they had obviously done shedloads of research. They hadn’t the knowledge of period tailoring, fabrics and corsetry that we have now, but on the whole a great success.

        I just wish Bondarchuk hadn’t taken the role of Pierre himself; he was such an old and ponderous-looking 45-year-old. If the actor playing Pierre can’t convince you that he’s immature and impulsive, the whole character fails.

        Reply
      • Susan Pola Staples

        Trystan are you going to review The Happy Prince, pretty please?

        Another Shitorical period is the our Civil War. Of all the films/series out there Underground Railroad, Glory, and Mercy Street were probably the best. Those from Jezebel (Bette Davis is the best thing about it), Gone With the Wind have happy slaves. Wrong. What I want to see is a Sojourner Truth miniseries produced by with Ava Duvernay and/or Sondra Times and Oprah with maybe Regina as Ms Truth.

        Reply
  7. Frannie Germeshausen

    Now, I love Cate Blanchett, but “Elizabeth” had me so ready to scream in the theater my husband was scared. Once again, a perfectly fascinating and suspenseful course of historical events was fucked with for no good reason. And the dumb floaty costumes to boot.

    Reply
    • Charity

      Michael Hirst wrote both the Elizabeth movies along with The Tudors, so technically you could include them as the same franchise, just in two mediums (television and big screen).

      Reply
      • Lady Hermina De Pagan

        Michael Mother Fracking Hirst also wrote and produced Vikings AKA. As the axes turn.
        FYI…as a well known Feastocrat in the East Kingdom who has been part of the team to cook for no less than 6 different RP’s, I’VE never had anyone need to remove a cup digitally.

        Reply
        • Susan Pola Staples

          I bet the feasts for the Pennsic Wars were a Bitch to organise.

          Michael Mother-fracking Hirst should go back to university and take European History 101, etc. Also Art History 101. Maybe MMFH would learn something?

          Reply
          • Lady Hermina De Pagan

            Luckily, I have been too busy to cook/help with State Dinner at Pennsic. I’m either teaching or up at Thrown Weapons. But I have run the meal plan for camp 5 years.
            As for MMFH, I can give him a list of podcasts and BBC Docs that would fix his history amnesia.

            Reply
    • Elizabeth Chilver

      Oh my, yes yes yes. And you know? if Cate Blanchett had had a script, and costumes and team as good as those for the 1971 Elizabeth R, rather than the craptastic one for the teo Elizabeth films, I really think she would give Glenda Jackson a run for her money as the definitive Queen Elizabeth. She is an amazing actress and has the sheer presence to be Queen Elizabeth I.

      Reply
    • Kathleen Julie Norvell

      I feel ya. The costumes made me want to scream and the real historical events were so much more interesting than the fictional ones.

      Reply
  8. Natalie Ramirez Weyermuller

    The Greatest Showman. People have learned not to mention that movie in my presence 😂.

    Reply
  9. Terézia Marková

    I once tried to binge watch The White Princess. I couldn’t finish the second episode. I didn’t hate the character of “Lizzie”, but pretty much everything else made me scream into the void, and character assassination of Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII. was particullary unbearable. In general, my annoyance with the historical movie/novel/TV series depends on how familiar I am with the history depicted, so I have more patience for the biopic of some less known painter than Napoleon.

    Reply
    • SarahV

      Unfortunately, because of Killing Eve, I can’t shake the suspicion that Lizzie is just another extensive alter for Villanelle, who is ultimately going to slaughter that entire fictional horrible Tudor family.

      (man, that would make a great alt-history novel, come to think. Yorkist revenge porn)

      Reply
  10. SarahV

    That animated gif Mary QoS having her gown ripped off to reveal her scarlet martyr’s dress just amazes me every time I see it. I actually was with a bunch of gals in the theater who erupted in gales of laughter when that happened and we had great difficulty explaining why to those who didn’t get it!

    Strangely enough, I kept thinking the moviemakers were trying do something similar to that scene in Flashdance when Jennifer Beals drapes over a chair and pulls the chain resulting in that big splash. You know which one I mean.

    Reply
    • karenbs333

      I love the way the witnesses (spectators?) are so unsurprised when she does this, and kind of look bored. One guy is reaching down to pick up his nonfat latte. Looks like a typical corporate meeting but with an unnecessary fashion reveal.

      Reply
  11. Roxana

    Why does everybody make Margaret Beaufort a villain? She was a fascinating woman who took a lifetime full of lemons and made lemonade. At age twelve she’s married, at thirteen she’s a widow with a child both of them rich heirs and extremely vulnerable. At eighteen she’s married again and her son is given in wardship to somebody else, but it could be worse. Her second marriage is a happy and conpanionable and she can visit her son whenever she can squeeze in a trip. The the Readaption of Henry VI messses you everything. Henry Tudor is force to flee abroad and Margaret, again widowed is married off again. As usual she sets to work converting those lemons. Her new husband proves amenable to a marriage in name only and Margaret establishes herself as a good Yorkist. At this point her goal is to get Henry’s land and titles restored. She doesn’t see him as a Lancastrian claiment. The Lancastrian cause is effectively dead at this point and would have stayed in it’s grave if not for Richard III who stirred up all kinds of opposition. Queen Elizabeth, who was not a witch, and Margaret conspire to put their children on the throne and succeed. Margaret spends the rest of her life supporting her son and enjoying a close relationship with him, his wife and her grandchildren.

    Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      Why does everybody make Margaret Beaufort a villain?

      My hunch is that it’s because she was a powerful woman who took no shit from anybody in her long life. Granddaughter of one of the most powerful princes in Western European history, mother of a king, grandmother to another king, and a couple of queens, absolutely capable of handling herself during the Wars of the Roses and NOT get trampled…?

      She definitely deserves better, but Hollywood loves to take female figures like her and mislabel her survival skills and intellect for ruthless ambition.

      Reply
      • Terézia Marková

        Uh, no? There were other powerful women at the time, and much stronger; none of them were villainized the way Margaret Beaufort was. I don’t know the actual history of Margaret Beaufort hatedom, so I could be wrong, but I’d like to put forward a few theories.
        1.) Henry VII. was never the most popular guy, and Margaret’s influence on him was well-known; thus some people were quick to blame her on stuff he was responsible for. In short, still sexism.
        2.) Margaret Beaufort hate is actually a rather recent phenomenon mostly caused by jumping on the bandwagon headlined by PFG. PFG herself is mostly just prejudiced against Tudors and everyone associated with them.
        3.) Ageism and recent association of medieval piety with fanaticism (not saying religious fanaticism wasn’t widespread at the time – Isabela I. or Girolamo Savaranola come to mind – but it’s starting to become a stereotype), conjuring up the image of an unpleasant old hag making our young, brave and “feminist” heroine’s (Elizabeth Of York) life a living hell. People who do little research into the subject (a.k.a. PFG) can end up seeing her that way, because stereotypes are easier than actually learning about the subject you are writing novels about.
        4.) Unlike Isabela Of Castille, she hasn’t done much that would be known to general public; you have to do your research to get to know her better. So most people not interested in this part of history haven’t heard of her unless they’ve read PFG or some such hack who has no appreciation for her work and probably doesn’t know much about her either, since they couldn’t be bothered to read a fucking history book.
        5. Combination of the above.

        Reply
      • M.E. Lawrence

        “survival skills and intellect…ruthless ambition”; Trump would have labeled/libeled her a nasty woman. Although Beaufort was not been the most lovable soul in medieval England, her political acumen was unsurpassed. I think the dreaded P.G. was trying to convey this, but she’s such a lazy hack these days.

        Reply
      • shellieeyre

        I think that the Anyone But Richard (killed the princes in the Tower) cult is partly responsible. She was alive, in the general vicinity and supported the man who killed RIII; she must therefore be, if not an actual child killer (though often that), a conniving, brutal and unfeeling piece of work.

        Reply
        • Roxana

          An interesting example of displacing a man’s crimes onto a woman to make him more sympathetic.

          Reply
      • Roxana

        When I think of Margaret Beaufort I don’t see the King’s Mother full of years and power, but an undersized thirteen years old girl, rocking a cradle in a dreary castle, knowing she has no control at all over what happens to her or her son and trying to make contingency plans.

        Reply
  12. Liz

    Kevin Costner leaps to mind, both for Dances With a White Boy and for Robin Hood Prince of Travesties.

    Reply
  13. John Stephan Edwards, PhD

    For the Shitorical Flicks List, I would like to nominate “Lady Jane,” written by the ardent socialist David Edgar, directed by Trevor Nunn, and released by Paramount in 1986. The film follows the traditional narrative up to the point of a formal meeting between Jane and Guildford Dudley. But it goes well and truly off the rails after that, becoming a paean of New-Age-y philosophy. The film is really nothing more than an anti-Thatcher propaganda piece situated in a Tudor context. (Recall that Thatcher was in the last years of her long premiership and her government would fall in 1990 in the wake of the imposition of the Poll Tax.) and the costuming is, of course, rubbish. Helena Bonham Carter prancing around as a Drag King in Guildford’s leather hip boots is just more than I can handle!

    Reply
    • Sarah Lorraine

      I mean, I can see where you’re coming from, because the film definitely was highly reductive and blatantly agendist, but I balk at including it on this list because it doesn’t quite have the egregious level of fuck-your-history brazenness that the others I listed do.

      But if we’re going to snark that film’s costumes, let’s bring up the poorly fitted wedding gown made of gold lamé and Cary Elwes’ god-awful feathered hairdo.

      Reply
      • John Stephan Edwards

        Perhaps we must agree to disagree on the extent to which the film was “fuck-your-history” brazen (I wrote my PhD thesis on Jane Grey and I appear in a BBC documentary about her now available on Amazon). But we agree that the costumes are appalling, and Guildford’s hair fairly screams 1980s!

        Reply
  14. Rori

    While we are on the topic of shitorical flicks, there should also be a list of “Top 5 writers that needs to stay away from history”, with Philippa Gregory, Mel Gibson, and Michael Hirst being up there.

    Reply
  15. Jenno

    Knowing that “shitorical” was a bleary-eyed typo automatically makes me hear it in my head with a drunken slur. Which is perfect.

    Reply
  16. Nonnymous

    In addition to Philippa Fucking Gregory, I’d also like to add Emma Fucking Frost, the show-runner/writer/producer/whatever they want to call it, because both The White Princess and The Spanish Princess have significantly departed from any PFG book, as shitty as they already are, to the point that PFG herself has refused to acknowledge the last two shows as being based off of her writing. Not that her books aren’t truly horrible…but most of the terrible misogynistic (sorry ‘feminist’) choices being made on these shows have been thanks to Emma Frost, and she could use lots of shitting on!!

    Sorry, I am salty. ;)

    Reply
    • SarahV

      Shush, you. I will brook no criticism of the Jennifer Ehle P&P! It is one of the finest exemplars of human civilization.

      Reply
      • MoHub

        The worst thing is that Knightfall and Vikings were broadcast on the History Channel, as if they had anything to do with actual history.

        Reply
  17. Brandy Loutherback

    You forgot to mention the writing of Shiitorical films and TV shows! Shitorical : Where the writing is so shit you can’t even! Pictured the Spanish Princess Also The White Princess!

    Reply
  18. Justme

    That last pic—I think i owned that exact same belt in 2003, only in black.

    Reply
  19. Diana

    The History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” series. Much like the rest of the channel’s broadcasts, it has virtually nothing to do with the period. We can start with Samuel Adams cast thirty years younger than he was and shooting historically impossible weapons off rooftops, and proceed to Joseph Warren’s totally fictional affair with Margaret Gage, and conclude with her fictionally abusive husband’s equally fictional revenge killing of Warren at Bunker Hill. I have no energy left to discuss all the leather coats and weird trims; it’s not worth it.

    Reply
  20. Susan Pola Staples

    Do we need another Little Women movie? Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan are in it and it’s directed by Greta Gerwig of Lady Bird.

    Reply
  21. Lily Lotus Rose

    I say “amen” to all complaints about The Greatest Showman, Sons of Liberty, and Knightfall. As far as Philippa Gregory goes, I actually paid money to see The Other Boleyn Girl at the movie theater. I think I was in some sort of Eric Bana-induced thrall…! That is one of the movies that suffers on so many levels including the phenomenon of EVERYONE being miscast! Please tell me, how does that happen? I see it more and more these days!

    Reply

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