Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tudor Goldmine

They just can't stop making movies about dead English monarchs! Maybe it's the post-colonial Western guilt--a conjoined disgust for and empathy with the burdens of empire-building and a desperate need to believe that once upon a time there were people even more ruthless than we are. If you're a Tudors buff (divorced, beheaded, died--divorced, beheaded, survived!) you can watch episodes 1 and 2 of the new Showtime series here. They've blurred out some nips to be able to put it on the web but you still get bedroom romping and a bloody assassination before the first ten minutes are up, plus a hilariously phallic jousting scene. Really, though, the series has about as much to do with the sixteenth century as LCD Soundsystem and plays like a sexed-up, dumbed-down West Wing in doublets and hose with everybody stalking through corridors and convening in hushed inner sancta. The men are pouty Abercrombie & Fitch models and the women have sweeping bangs and ready access to liquid foundation and eyeliner. Dialogue is sub-Sorkin--the plot being rigidly bifurcated the way it is, you get either, "The treaty also envisages the creation of pan-European institutions!" or "You violated my daughter!" and not much in between. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is just way too young and hunky to be believed. He's Henry the Eighth, he is, but watching him it's harder to recall this guy than it is Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine.

Speaking of which, have a look at this, if Wikipedia is to be believed:

Kimba Kano is a software program that integrates with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox to allow built-in searching of Wikipedia, Amazon.com, eBay, Phoebe and Google...[it is] named after a nonsense phrase stemming from a controversy over the lyrics to David Bowie's song "Velvet Goldmine," which debuted on the album Space Oddity in 1975 and released on the Rykodisc version of Ziggy Stardust in 1990 as a bonus track. The controversy is over the exact words in the song, not helped by the fact that the lyrics sheet in the album is obviously incorrect. The line is interpreted as either "I'll be your kimba kano right for you again and again" or "I'll be your king volcano right for you again and again."

Personally, I think he's singing, "be your king volcano ride/ for you again and again," but any software company that names its programs after lyrics in songs that are probably about two men giving each other blow jobs is fine by me.

1 comment:

PAOLO CRUZ said...

"a conjoined disgust for and empathy with the burdens of empire-building and a desperate need to believe that once upon a time there were people even more ruthless than we are"

Perversely enough, this also neatly explains my personal fascination with depictions of Third World dictators (and their high mainstenance wives) in pop culture.

Thing is, in the case of period biopics about Western royalty (English and otherwise), the "once upon a time" invoked usually spans centuries, at least. In the case of stuff like Last King of Scotland, the relatives of the protagonists' victims may still be alive, well, and resentful.

Thus, beyond the obvious marketing consideration of Western/English history being more, um, "relate-able" (to percieved American tastes, anyway), they allow for quirky stylization (i'm looking at you, Marie Antoinette), or casual "sub-Sorkin" dialogue (as you so wonderfully put it) without stepping on political toes in the "real world". So if they "just can't stop making movies about dead English monarchs", it's probably because it's a 'safe' vehicle for both cheap modernization AND making thinly-veiled commentary about present-day powers-that-be.