Monday, October 29
The Philip the Second Fan Club Goes to the Movies
I mean, if we really must deal with treating Philip II as Catholic supervillain, is it too much to expect him to have a decent maniacal laugh, or a gigantic map room like the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crucade, and to employ at least an entire legion of Wicked Jesuits rather than a single agent who looked like Tony Blair with a bad dye job? I mean, Philip II, while he is still one of my favorite Catholic monarchs, was a seriously weird dude. About all we see of his personal ticks is a funny mincing walk and a propensity for staring at candle-flames in a way that expects him to start poking at them a la G. Gordon Liddy. Not even one single Velazquez-esque court dwarf.
If we're going to get pegged as the bad guys, can we at least be allowed to look cool? I mean, we're the ones with the albino assassins and the Inquisition, right?
The anti-Catholicism of this film has been much-discussed in the Catholic press, and there's no doubt of that. What astounds the mind is how little the public needs in the way of visual clues to know we're supposed to be the villains. Here's a handy-dandy chart, based entirely on the evidence presented in the film:
GOOD GUYS (ENGLAND)
Wander around bare limestone interiors with lots of light.
Randomly spend time in prayer in front of sort-of-Catholic altars, but with no clergy in sight.
Say repeatedly they all about tolerance, reason and science.
Employ soothsayers to tell the future.
Pitch hissy-fits and imprison close friends when they marry without our permission.
...Despite the fact we were shoving them together and pretty much doing everything but renting out a sleazy motel room by the hour for them.
...Okay, one bout of protracted torture with an iron maiden.
...And a regicide, of Mary, Queen of Scots, but it was really Philip who started it.
...And an innocent man getting hanged.
...And we felt really bad, honest, about cutting off cousin Mary's head. Really.
But we like our ladies-in-waiting to know all the dance steps.
And we throw really great parties.
...But we're English! And tolerant!
And lots of pretty dresses! We like our royal dresses.
I mean, who's Queen?
BAD GUYS (SPAIN)
Mooch around semi-dark church interiors for no good reason while random formations of monks wander around chanting, doing nothing in particular.
Speaking in a weird foreign language.
Have adoring throngs of subjects who seem to like us a lot.
Mincing around in what might be a lugubrious limp or that our tights are just a shade too small.
Praying in another weird foreign lanugage.
Lots of incense and chanting.
Rosaries. Lots of rosaries.
Having really cool galleons with saints' icons painted on the gunport lids.
Um, something about the Inqusition being in the holds of our ships, but they never did get around to actually showing it in the film.
Big scary flags of the Crucifixion flying at our mastheads.
Oh yeah, trying to conquer England, but we never made any secret of it, did we?
And the scary monks. We mentioned the scary monks, right?
The highest body-count in the film is English--and they're still the good guys.
I bet what happened was they blew the entire research budget on martinis and figured the next best thing was to rely on the following sources:
1. Bob Newhart's "Sir Walter Raleigh" monologue.
2. Episodes of Blackadder II with the humor surgically removed.
3. The Monty Python sketch Erizabeth L. Episode Thlee: The Almada.
THINGS I LEARNED WATCHING ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE.
If you walk out the door of Westminster Cathedral (Cathedral! Not Abbey!), you magically appear in the main courtyard of the Escorial in Spain.
Either that, or opulent, gilded 19th century neo-Byzantine architecture looks alot like the Plain Style of severe 16th century Spain.
ENGLAND STANDS ALONE AGAINST THE PERFIDIOUS CATHOLIC SPANIARDS. Dun-dun-duuunnn!!! (Forget the Dutch and Germans!)
All Elizabeth's palaces were built to resemble medieval ecclesiastical architecture.
You can take a luxuriant candle-scented bath in the middle of a Chapter House.
Austrian Archdukes are kind of nerds.
Sir Francis Drake is a sensitive, nineties-type of guy.
Not only did Protestants steal all the monasteries, but they also deprived Catholics of 80% of England's daylight.
The most inconspicuous place to lead a Generic Intimidating Prayer Service for Persecuted Catholics in Latin is in a crypt surrounded by dyers running around plunging cloths into big enormous vats of Ominous-Looking madder.
The entire College of Cardinals lives in Philip II's palace.
The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots was secretly a Spanish plot.
Also, they cut off her head in a very large Romanesque chapel, after imprisoning her in the Castle of Aaaargh.
When you are an Evil Catholic King, random high-ranking churchmen follow you around holding really big crucifixes.
Cate Blanchett is going to look like Julie Andrews does now in about twenty years.
The best way to make a fire-ship is to take your very expensive vessel, leave all the cannons and gunpowder and valuable equipment for which you no doubt paid through the nose from government contractors, smear it with tar, and set it alight.
Before they were in those insurance commercials, the Cave Men worked in the Imperial Spanish foreign service.