Why can't Hollywood ever get it right?
Yesterday I saw The Other Boleyn Girl, the film based on Philippa Gregory's excellent historical novel about Anne and Mary Boleyn. Anne Boleyn has long been a passion of mine; fifteen years ago I wrote what may be SF's only story in which she is the protagonist ("And Wild For To Hold"). Gregory's book focuses on Mary, Anne's older sister, who was also a mistress of Henry VIII but only casually, whereas for Anne he divorced a Spanish princess, wrenched England away from Catholicism, ignited religious wars that would last for centuries, and turned himself into a madman given to beheading wives. The story has enough inherent drama for six movies, and Gregory retells it from an intriguing and psychologically complex viewpoint.
But the movie ignores all that. It substitutes gross historical inaccuracies, one-dimensional characters (Anne bad, Mary good, me Tarzan and you Jane), ridiculous plot twists. It can't get even something as simple as coloring right. Henry VIII was famous for the red-gold hair and blue eyes that Elizabeth I would inherit -- nowhere in California is there a pair of colored contacts for dark-eyed Eric Bana, let alone a box of Miss Clairol?
The reason this bothers me so much is not only that Anne's story has been badly misrepresented. It's also that Hollywood considers me -- you, all of us -- too much of idiots to follow multi-dimensional characters and historically accurate mores. Even worse, that attitude wasn't always there. The 1960's version of the Boleyn story, Anne of a Thousand Days, was far more intelligent. Rent that one instead. It doesn't shit contempt over the viewer.