When we think of a show about a Victorian-era ax murderess several channels come to mind, such as A&E or FX. Surprisingly, I am talking about the 2015 Lifetime limited-series, the Lizzie Borden Chronicles. A continuation of a 2014 movie and set a year later in 1893 it follows the titular Lizzie Borden after she was acquitted of the murder or her father and stepmother. I was interested to see how a violent story would be adapted for a channel known for its romance and feel good shows. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite reach it’s potential.
While the outfits are not exact replicas of French fashion plates they are accurate and capture the essence of early 1890’s fashion.The s-shape silhouette, black mourning walking dresses, shirtwaists, and hatpins are all present. I liked how clothes were used to visually characterize Lizzie and her sister Emma. Lizzie is a fashionable woman with a taste for fine things while older Emma is frugal and reserved. This is represented visually with their clothes.
L-R: Emma and Lizzie
L-R: Emma and Lizzie
For example, Emma’s shirtwaist is plain with minimal pintucks down the middle. Contrasted with Lizzie who has lace detailing at the yoke and down the middle. Another example is their outing outfits. Lizzie’s is brightly patterned with lace and other details while Emma’s is navy and utilitarian. Even their umbrellas reflect this. The only discrepancy is the limp hairstyles and leg-of-mutton sleeves. These missing finer details could be because it’s on cable tv and not being backed by a channel like HBO.
Needless to say, it was a chore to get through the first episode. Perhaps it was the constant shakey cam that made it difficult to focus on anything (including text close-ups), or the constant angle changes in a single scene, or the inappropriate music choices including a song that mentioned Greyhound buses (shout out for being one of the most inappropriate song choices I’ve endured). These things distracted me far too much to engage me or form any solid opinions on the plot or acting. As much as I enjoy empowered period heroines I’m going to have to sit this one out.
Happy fall solstice everyone! Last week’s premiere of AHS reminded me that the fall season is upon us. After a very dry summer season autumn has come to the rescue with lots of period pieces and some fantasy. Theme for fall: time-travel.
- American Horror Story 6: What is this season about? Nobody knows, not even after watching the first two episodes. Knowing this show period flashbacks are inevitable. (How well I can stomach any inevitable plantation scenes is another story) An inter-racial couple and a single black woman in rural NC, I am prepared to have my inner peace disturbed. I’ll be keeping the lights on for this season.
- Making History: Unpopular Dan from present day has a time-traveling dufflebag. After realising he might have screwed up the American Revolution he goes to his colleague for help, a history prof. Together they try to “set things right”. Looks like a lot of fun and will be funny. Not fond of “white lead black (comedic) sidekick” shows but from the trailer he doesn’t appear to be the standard stereotype and actually wears period clothing similar to everyone else. Reading the extended summary it sounds like Dan’s love interest gets to do things too (besides look pretty). Cautiously optimistic about this.
- Son of Zorn: First thought that this was either an [as] show or Fox. I’m not sure how I feel about this but it looks typical for a (half) animated Fox show. Pass.
- Still Star-Crossed: Diverse period piece and Shonda Rimes, I’m sold. I don’t need to know what it’s about I’m tuning in every week. 😛 Based on a novel this is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and what happens to their families after their deaths.
- Time After Time: A man who invents a time-travel machine believes his friend is Jack the Ripper, so he goes to the future to stop him. Not so sure about this one.
- Timeless: A trio goes throughout time to stop a criminal who keeps trying to alter major events. It appears them being chosen is due to more than mere coincidence. I appreciate the sole black man of the trio acknowledge that American history as a whole would be unsafe for him. He wasn’t featured in many scenes so who knows how much of a role he’ll play. On the fence about this one.
- Westworld: Based on the 1973 movie, people in the future can pay to pretend to be in the wild west. Full of androids and no formal authority, they can act out their desires with no consequence. It’ll explore what’s right and wrong, etc. An HBO series so violence and nudity will be plentiful.
- Midnight, Texas: From the creator of True Blood, this is set in a Texan town populated by supernatural folk (vampires, werewolves, etc) who try to keep outsiders away.
- Emerald City: Dark n edgy Wizard of Oz. Can’t find a trailer for this one so I can’t properly form an option.
I don’t know what inspired all these time travel shows or period pieces (the past couple seasons were light on both) so I am very excited to see these. I see all the major channels are trying to cash in and I just hope they are decent. Better yet, they last more than a season.
Alas, I keep forgetting to write up those reviews. Here are my thoughts on some historical related media I’ve been meaning to talk about.
American Horror Story, season 4: After much pestering from several people I finally caved and watched this season. I came in not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting it to be set in the 40’s, nor was I expecting the accuracy that I saw. I’m used to the half-hearted attempts at grasping at period aesthetics, with gowns that vaguely look Victorian or weak jazz to indicate the 20’s. Not so here, the research put into this show is top notch. Everything was spot on from the flashbacks to attitudes and even the circus performers themselves. Since viewing this I’ve started the third season and will work my way through the other seasons, so expect more on those at a later time. Expect me this fall, FX. 4/5
Game of Thrones, season 5: aka everyone’s Problematic Fave. I am so fed up with this show and yet here I am, waiting for the next season. At this point, I just want to see my girls find happiness. They’re treated so poorly and it’s very upsetting. Before anyone busts out the “b-but that’s how it was back then!!1!” excuse, this is fantasy. You can make your own rules and have these girls not be used as plot devices. If what I heard from book fans is true, a lot of these changes and omissions weren’t necessary. Representation was pitiful as always. In FIVE seasons the only Asian person seen was a former prostitute and seen for all of a couple minutes in one episode. Yikes. Not even going to talk about the black slavers, this show irritates me enough. Just give my girls a good ending and call it a day. 2/5
Penny Dreadful, season 1: A very fun and entertaining show, although culturally inaccurate at parts. Considering the amount of detail that goes into every scene and character (ex. Dr. Frankenstein’s creature being true to the book and not the movies) I feel this is intentional. I heard this anachronistic mix as done on purpose but I haven’t been able to verify since I don’t want to spoil the second season. 3.5/5
HTTYD Race to the Edge: Its set in the Viking era, it counts. Aside from a couple Norse gods being mentioned and some Celtic knots, there is virtually no accuracy here. You don’t watch this show for political warfare and accurate depictions of daily life, you watch for the dragons and action scenes. 😛 In all an entertaining season, although it would be nice to see some the girls interact with each other more. (rolling eyes at each other doesn’t count!) 3.5/5
I need to find another new historical show to enjoy during the summer. I’m watching lots of sci-fi but I need something a little lighter and possibly whimsical.
The Boxtrolls is coming out this Friday! I’m excited, mainly because I am a fan of Laika’s works and alsobecause its a period piece. Aside from Disney, there aren’t many animated period pieces. Even then, their films are vaguely period accurate at best. Stop motion is a hard medium too, so for them to do a stop motion period piece? A lot of respect.
That being said, the outfits portrayed are not very period accurate. The book is set in the early 1800’s and assuming the movie is as well, it is evident that this isn’t very period accurate. The clothing is a mishmash, with males wearing foppish attire and the women in early Victorian. Again, stop motion is hard and the animators have to move every. single. item for just a one second scene and make it look realistic? It cannot be stressed enough how much respect these animators deserve.
Thankfully I can’t see myself being distracted by this or having it lessen any enjoyment from this movie. The book this movie is based off of is full of anachronisms, so it would make sense the movie would as well. Besides, look how cute these two are!
No one warned me how cute Eggs and Winnie would be