Friday, May 27, 2011

No Fat Kings

I've been watching the last season of The Tudors. I don't get HBO so I always see these things a long time after they air and there is a long time before I see a new season. From the beginning I was confused by the choice of actors to play Henry and wondered how they would make him fat. I cringe at the idea of a fat suit but they would be using makeup to age him so ... maybe it would be OK. It never happens. Henry never seems to age and he never really gains weight. He gets some grey hair, walks with a bit of a limp and is a bit padded but really it's all pretty token.
I'm hyper aware of how fat people are represented in culture. Henry has always been an icon of gluttony and excess, which seems historically accurate. It would be silly to be offended by that portrayal. But HBO ignores it. I spent sometime this morning listening to interviews with the actor who explains this as HBO trying to make the history more appealing to young people.
I used to get this kind of feedback when I worked on The Sims. One art director said to always make pretty Sims. Pretty? What does that mean? Sims are cartoons. I often heard people refer to a Sim as "hot". Our ideas about beauty are so distorted that cartoons are thought of as "hot". The Sims 3 has great tools to make a real variety of Sims but we needed to make "pretty" Sims. What comes first? Ideas about beauty? Or Media portrayals that teach a narrow idea of beauty?
Henry is not an endearing guy. In this series he is portrayed in a somewhat complicated manner. He is manipulative, paranoid, self centered and cruel but he is also loving, generous and interested in learning. I like all of that. But he is also always young and virile and never fat. This is the kind of thing that usually makes me angry but it's so extreme I find myself somewhere between stunned and bemused. I'm not an expert on the time but it seems that a fair amount of money has been spent on historically accurate costumes and sets. So why not lean toward a more physically accurate Henry?
The acting is pretty good. The writing is pretty good. Anne Boleyn gets more coverage than any of the other wives. It's entertaining. I just wonder why it has to be so ... thin.


Cheryl Czekala said...

I wondered about that, too, but I cottoned on to the imperative to "appeal" to a young audience. Could have happened with a handsome fat actor; they just weren't willing to go there. Perhaps if the show hadn't been cancelled ($$$) before the final season, we'd have seen him bloat up a bit.

(BTW, I watched the whole series and by the end found Henry to be completely unredeemable. Talk about absolute power and corruption! Ugh...)

Anonymous said...

I just saw the last season of The Tudors on Netflix. I had wanted them to make him larger. But then, Henry VIII only had a 54" waist so maybe they did make Mr Meyers "to size" and it just didn't look that big.

What I found amusing was how Mr. Meyers sounded more like a leprechaun than an older King Henry.