1.5.14 – Teenage Historians.

“How many teenage girls do you know who are obsessed with history — I wasn’t at that age”  – Adelaide Kane, star of the CW’s Reign.

I came across this quote today. It’s from a Deadline article about the CW show Reign. Reign is supposedly a historical drama about Mary Queen of Scots. I have to say that if any time period in our history is ripe for a teen drama, it’s certainly this one. For the most part, these people were teenagers/early 20-somethings when they were battling for the throne. Gossip and intrigue were legitimate life or death matters.

The main cast of Reign

The main cast of Reign

But the writers of Reign don’t find history fascinating enough. They need to do more to craft a history that, they believe, will appeal to teenagers – a history of love triangles and prom dresses (really, the girls wear prom dresses  and not period costumes in many scenes).

The show, although widely popular, has come under a lot of fire for being historically inaccurate. However, the show has made no apologies about its inaccuracies. The costuming errors have been attributed to budgetary issues (can’t find that article right now, sorry!), which I could accept… but I’ve also read commentary that the showrunners didn’t want period clothing. They wanted to create a romantic and sexy modernesque fantasy.

Kane, who plays Mary, seems to agree with her quote from Deadline. The people involved in the show don’t believe that teenagers are interested in history. Kane outed herself as a bit of simpleton with the above quote. Perhaps she was interested in lipgloss and lovers when she was 16 – I wasn’t. Okay – I was, but I was also interested in Renaissance Festivals, Elizabeth I and any other kind of history I could get my little hands on.

Why is Kane, and the rest of the people involved with Reign, celebrating and fostering teenage shallowness? Even if every teenage girl is as shallow as Kane suggests, shouldn’t we be finding ways to make them love history and critical thinking? Shouldn’t we want teenagers to love the power of the mind more than they love the power of the body?

Whatever you think of Mary Queen of Scots’ place in history (I’m on Team Elizabeth I, btw), you can’t disregard her strength of character and complicated existence. Yet on the show she is sniveling, the beta (not alpha) among her group of friends – who are her handmaidens, and she is focused far too much on love triangles, rather than staying alive and doing what is best for her country.

The CW had a chance to do something great here. They had the chance to create a rich historical world that appealed to teens. They had a chance to create budding teenage historians. Instead, they did what nearly every other teen drama does – glorify shallow living.

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Comments

  1. What a pity. If they’d spent five minutes watching Game of Thrones with teenage girls they’d know that there’s an audience that loves complex, well-written courtly intrigues. Write and cast it well and they don’t need to be fed a shallow, bowdlerised version of history – they’ll love the real thing.

    • The CW could have avoided all of this by setting the story in a fictional fantasy land. Then they could have all of the prom dresses and love triangles they wanted!

      I love the first Elizabeth movie, even though it wasn’t necessarily historically accurate, it captured her spirit. Reign could have done something like that with MQoS. Such a waste 😦

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