Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saddam/Henry VIII

We have been watching two television series with strikingly similar themes. One is 'The Tudors' and the other 'House of Saddam'. The former takes great liberties with history and has far too many bedroom scenes for my taste; the latter has scenes of gruesome violence that are difficult to watch. What they have in common is a ruthlessness in pursuit of power. Because they are deeply rooted in a sense of family, critics have drawn attention to their resemblance to Mafia movies like 'Godfather' and 'The Sopranos' and this is apt. Another resemblance is the importance of religion to the central character.

Both series have good acting and high production values, but need to be watched carefully because these devices easily take-in the viewer. The writers and directors are not simply telling a story; they are putting over an opinion. Both Henry and Saddam were undeniable monsters, but their personal motives are just being guessed at. Henry, in particular, is a complex character. Athlete, musician, intellectual, theologian; Henry bestrode his world in a way that seems improbable. England was a small country on the periphery of the then world that had just come through a debilitating civil war. It should have been no match for Spain, France or the Holy Roman Empire. Both Wolsey and Sir Thomas More were smart cookies, yet they were no match for Henry. I don't think this Henry shows us hoe accomplished all that he did.

Saddam's faults are all to obvious. Ruthlessness and Hubris will get you so far, but they aren't going to work against shock and awe; you need a bit of guile as well.

No comments: