Take Your Elephant to the Brothel Day

Via papersky, I discovered my new favorite blog, Ex Urbe, and thus have been drowning in long, fascinating, witty and densely-illustrated posts about medieval and Renaissance Italy.

I'm particularly fond of this post, which compares the Showtime series The Borgias with a French-German-Czech series Borgia: Faith and Fear (neither of which I have actually seen) in service of broader musings about historical accuracy in fiction. I find that it's also relevant to canonical accuracy in fanfiction if you squint (and doubly relevant to historical fan fiction). Plus, like I said, it's hilarious:

The Borgias, episode 1. We are facing the papal election of 1492. Another Cardinal confronts Rodrigo Borgia in a hallway. It has just come out that Borgia has been committing simony, i.e. taking bribes. Our modern audience is shocked! Shocked, I say! That a candidate for the papacy would be corrupt and take bribes! Our daring Cardinal confronts Borgia, saying he too is shocked! Shocked! This is no longer a matter of politics but principle! He will oppose Borgia with all his power, because Borgia is a bad person and should not sit on the Throne of St. Peter! See, audience! Now is the time to be shocked! No. This is not the Renaissance, this is modern sensibilities about what we think should’ve been shocking in the Renaissance. After the election this same Cardinal will be equally shocked that the Holy Father has a mistress, and bastards. Ooooh. Because that would be shocking in 2001, but in 1492 this had been true of every pope for the past century. In fact, Cardinal Shocked-all-the-time, according to the writers you are supposed to be none other than Giuliano della Rovere. Giuliano “Battle-Pope” della Rovere! You have a mistress! And a daughter! And a brothel! And an elephant! And take your elephant to your brothel! And you’re stalking Michelangelo! And foreign powers lent you 300,000 ducats to spend bribing other people to vote for you in this election! And we’re supposed to believe you are shocked by simony? That is not historicity. It is applying some historical names to some made-up dudes and having them lecture us on why be should be shocked.
Man, I'm sure they didn't have it in their budget, but that elephant was really a missed opportunity.

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