December 15, 2018

I am excessively diverted


It will come as no surprise to most that I am currently engrossed in Masterpiece Theater’s “Victoria.”

Like the Emily Blunt movie “The Young Victoria,” but better, it freshens up our image of her as a fat, stuffy queen looking into the black-and-white distance. Its episodic format is more fitting to tell the story of the 18-year-old girl who became the second-longest reigning British monarch. (The current queen surpassed her Sept. 9, 2015.)

It also has Rufus Sewell in it, so that alone pretty much makes it worth watching.

Even before the finale, the show has me eagerly awaiting the second series — yes, I said that right, an American season is a British series — though I’m dreading the time when (spoiler alert) Albert is taken from the picture, if the show goes that far into her life.

I’d be watching “The Crown” too, if I could. Anyone want to share their Netflix account?

So who wants to watch a bunch of stuffy aristocrats? Someone asked me that not long ago — not just watching, but reading about them.

I’m not the one oddball out there who does, as demonstrated by the popularity of shows like “Downton Abbey” and the amount of press the latest Kate Middleton outfit gets. (You have to hand it to her — she has class.)

But we’re Americans. We don’t believe in the tyranny of kings.

So first I have to say, it’s probably due in part to having, during my formative years, an English teacher — rather, a teacher from England. Setting aside personal influences, though, watching or reading about the lives of monarchs and aristocrats has its merits.

There’s the spectacle. Set aside your judgments about how these people acquired their wealth for a minute, and just enjoy the gorgeous art that is their outfits, castles and ceremonies. Pair this with the beautiful music many Masterpiece dramas have had, and it’s quite the feast.

There’s the people. So maybe they are a bunch of spoiled brats, but they’re still people — characters, many of them likable; and if not fully likable then complex. And then there’s the ones you can’t help but love to hate. They are thrown into unique circumstances… Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s all the makings of a great TV/movie drama.

There’s the history. The lives of the monarchs have always been uniquely entwined in the history of the period in which they lived. For many centuries royals also had some of the most documented lives, so what better way to learn about those times?

Why should you care about British history? Their history is largely our history, our heritage.

The English language is also part of our heritage from across the pond. The intellectual and subtle usage of the past, making modern-day speech seem coarse in comparison, is one of the best reasons to curl up in front of a British period drama — or with a 5-pound volume of British literature, for those of us not satisfied with going lite. Where else can you witness a scathing argument in which neither party yells or swears, and which breaks up with a curt “Good day to you, sir” — all in gloriously British accents? Only just now I watched a pregnant Victoria declare, “I am bilious!” (Translation: “I’m gonna throw up.”)

Yes, we are amused, Victoria.


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