Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Iuppiter! Not Another Roman Revision!

HBO has filmed their own version of Rome. Every time someone does a "version" of the Roman world my hackles are raised. Invariably the names are semi-correct and the costumes are Greek. Well HBO says, "There was considerable re-shooting on the first three episodes to incorporate all the detail and historical accuracy HBO felt necessary. More than 4,000 costumes were made using materials authentic to the period." Ok, maybe they'll get the clothes right.
That's not really what bothers me. The fact that all these new versions claim they will be plain, unvarnished looks at Roman society. And that society was more open and tolerant than prudish America. "'Romans didn't have our body shame and fear of sexuality,' he says. 'I think that is part of the modern fascination with that world ... there was a lack of shame about those things, that we had to portray with a lack of shame in order to make it work.'"
Really? No body shame? What exactly do they mean by this? Have you seen the complexity of the toga virilis? The body is nearly completely covered. Do you know why the left hand is always hidden? It was the toilet hand. If there was no shame, why was the left hand hidden? Of course what they really mean is on uncensored HBO they plan on showing a little Roman T et A. This fear of sexuality that Americans have wasn't present in Rome they say. Wrong again. Do they plan on showing people dancing naked in the streets? Sorry, Sophocles danced naked in the public square, but he was Greek and it was a religious ceremony. Roman women convicted of adultery were forced to wear the men's toga, it was an insult because the only Roman women who wore togas were prostitutes. Why would you do that if sexuality wasn't censored? The tribune Clodius was well known for debauching women, and he made enemies because of it. Cicero made jokes about his sister being his wife. If sexuality wasn't shameful, why were these things looked down upon?
No, this new production won't be so outrageously wrong in respect to some things, I just think it's going to be an excuse for sex scenes. Real Romans wouldn't have been so open as the producers want you to think.


GUYK said...

Well, if they are GOOD sex scenes.

ACtually, its tough to stereotype Rome. There was a Kingdom of Rome before the Republic of Rome. The Republic lasted over 300 years before Rome became Emperial and ruled by the Caesars. During the epic of Rome there were varying moral standards as well as different standards in different parts of the country. An example is the art on the walls of Pompei which would lead one to believe the whole city was a huge brothel when in fact it was not. There is adequate documentation of the orgies of both the Patrician and the plebian classes as well as of many of the religious rites which patterned the fertility rights of the Greeks.

The left hand is indeed the toilet hand and is considered unclean by the Islamic world today. In Saudi Arabia a thief may be sentanced to have his right hand cut off-which is in fact a death sentance unless the thief can find someone to hand feedhim. heis not allowed to eat with his left hand and if found doing so is subject to lose his head.

But all of that said, I have yet to see any movie about Rome that wasn't farfetched and have no doubt this series will be the same. The best we can hope for is that it will be entertaining fiction.