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March 24 2016

Game of French Thrones: BBC Turns Reign of Louis XIV Into a Sex-and Sadism Soap-apalooza

Charlotte Allen

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

And those who really cannot remember the past are condemned to turn it into a hilarious-sounding TV soap-apalooza  of sex and sadism gussied up in period costumes--that is, on the rare occasions when the actors are actually wearing their costumes instead of romping in their their birthday suits.

Right now in the U.K. there's a huge furore over the BBC's upcoming 21-million-pound series, Versailles, set to air in May and theoretically a biography of "Sun King" Louis XIV of France. The U.K. Daily Mail reports (trigger warning: lotsa very very Daily Mail photos that aren't exactly SFW):

Versailles is described by the Corporation as ‘a delicious treat’ for viewers, but MPs and family rights campaigners are outraged by its nudity and graphic sex scenes, and have described it as ‘porn dressed up in a cravat and tights’.

The lavish French-made series – which depicts the decadent and debauched life of France’s Sun King, Louis XIV – is set to be the most sexually graphic costume drama ever shown on British TV. 

The first episode includes gay sex, a cross-dressing prince, and a queen with a penchant for dwarves. In one scene, the king, played by English actor George Blagden, is seen burying his head between his mistress’s thighs....

Makers Canal Plus have also ramped up the violence. Graphic scenes of torture in the opening episode, seen by The Mail on Sunday, include one of the king’s enforcers bludgeoning a man to death with a hammer. In a later episode a man’s hand is severed at the wrist.

In other words, it's "Game of French Thrones."

And since the BBC is taxpayer-subsidized, there's been a certain amount of political as well as cultural controversy:

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: "There are channels where, if you wish to view this sort of material, you would have to pay for it. BBC viewers don’t have a choice. They have to pay for it whether they approve or not.

"Is this an example of the BBC dumbing down and seeking more sensationalised programming? That’s an arms race to the bottom – quite literally in this case."

Literally a "race to the bottom"! My, my.

Here's more from the Daily Mail:

...Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, which researches the causes and effects of family breakdown, said: "Public service broadcasting is meant to be for the public benefit, but it is very difficult to see whose benefit is being served by showing such highly graphic and explicit scenes on TV."

Sam Burnett, of Mediawatch UK, said: "Dressing up pornography and violence in a cravat and tights doesn’t make it cultural."

Downton Abbey this is obviously not. But what seems even more shocking is that the portrait of Louis XIV (1638-1715) apparently delineated in Versailles bears almost no resemblance to the historical Roi-Soleil. Louis was certainly an autocrat--he firmly believed in the divine right of kings. He had a string of mistresses as long as his sceptre (that was a perk of 17th-century kingship), and more out-of-wedlock offspring than an NBA basketball player--although he straightened out after his queen, Maria Theresa, died in 1683, and he took up with and later quietly married the straightlaced and pious Madame de Maintenon. But he was also a shrewd and farsighted monarch who wrested the then-penniless France out of debt and into budget surplus, promoted French commerce and industry, and patronized such gifted writers as Racine and Moliere. Indeed, Louis presided over a golden age of French literature, art, architecture, and music.

But thanks to a dumbing-down and idelogicization of history as taught in U.K. schools--in a trend that exactly parellels the trajectory of history-teaching in America--most Britons know zilch about the past. In a scathing essay in 2013, when the U.K.'s Conservative government tried to restore some standards to the British history curriculum, the British-born Harvard professor Niall Ferguson wrote:

it's not just the defective content of the old national curriculum that is the problem. It's the way history has been taught in British schools ever since the advent of the schools history project in the 1970s and the rejection of historical knowledge in favour of "source analysis" and "child-centered" learning ("Imagine you are a Roman centurion …")

Only someone living in a dreaming Oxonian spire could be unaware of how badly this has turned out, despite the best efforts of thousands of hard-working teachers. I know because I have watched three of my children go through the English system, because I have regularly visited schools and talked to history teachers...

Surely they can't sincerely think it's acceptable for children to leave school (as mine have all done) knowing nothing whatever about the Norman conquest, the English civil war or the Glorious Revolution, but plenty (well, a bit) about the Third Reich, the New Deal and the civil rights movement?

As Louis XIV himself famously said, "Ah, if I were not king, I should lose my temper."



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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