In light of the recent cinema-goers’ frenzy around Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots, I am frankly quite frightened and saddened that so many people will leave a theatre over the next few weeks forever believing the events played out on screen as the historical truth.
It’s not just the costumes, the buildings, and, dare I say the ethnically diverse members of the Privy Council, which was simply not the case in reality. It’s the entire storyline. Important periods of history are left out, and perhaps the most blatant inaccuracy of this film is the fact that Mary and her sister Elizabeth never, in fact, met face to face.
Of course, Mary Queen of Scots is most certainly not the first, and won’t be the last horrendously historically inaccurate movie to be screened to the masses (the same thing happened with the Queen biopic, but at least the plot devices and storyline in that particular film does not drastically alter an important period in British history). But in a world where history is, to many young people, just a boring old subject they studied in school and afterwards never have to part the covers of a history book again, film is perhaps the only medium where they will experience and actually show an interest in anything to do with our past.
For this reason, I firmly believe that Hollywood has a responsibility to uphold historical truth in a world of “fake facts”.
Mary Queen of Scots, a film which had so much potential, doesn’t amount to much more than, in the words of the Telegraph’s Shane Watson, “history porn for the Instagram generation”.
Of course, the film rather crudely, in my humble opinion, deals with feminism, homosexuality, and a more than diverse cast, but pushing today’s issues on a film set in Tudor Britain is ultimately destined to fail, and only serves, along with gross inaccuracy in the storyline, to mislead the viewing public, a dangerous, careless, and deeply sad thing in my opinion as a history student.
So, to the many talented directors of Hollywood, please.
Leave the politically correct agenda at the door, do a bit of reading, and go make a good movie — there’s still such a thing, and yes, they are still being made.
Yes, things have to be sensational and Hollywood-ised a little, but please, at least stick to the main historical facts. You are quite possibly the schoolmasters of the modern age, with a duty to entertain, but also to educate.