20 April 2011

A Rant about "The Borgias"

I caught the fourth episode of Showtime's new costume drama, The Borgias last night.  From a production-values standpoint, it was very nicely done.  Not quite as lavish as their last effort, The Tudors, but still favorably comparable.

One glaring error was their treatment of the Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola.  Fra. Girolamo was a fiery Florentine preacher who railed against the political and moral corruption of the papacy of Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). 

The Good Dominican Friar is introduced preaching in a pulpit wearing something that looks like a Benedictine habit belted with a cord!  Throughout the episode, he is referred to as a member of a mendicant Order but the Order is never named.  He appears a couple of times in the same habit.  One of the pope's enemies visits Savonarola in his cell at the priory and they talk beneath a huge painting of OP saints and blesseds--all wearing historically accurate OP habits. 

Savonarola was sent to Florence in 1482.  He was 30 years old.  He was executed at 48 years old. In the episode, he is portrayed by an actor in his late sixties. 

Another error:  the pope's son dresses a spy in a habit identical to Savonarola's and sends him to watch his father's chief enemy in the College of Cardinals.  The cardinal ends up in a confessional with the spy.  When the spy flubs the rite, the cardinal asks the spy to identify his Order.  He responds, "I am a member of the Mendicant Order of St. Benedict."  Ugh. 

My complaint is less about the specific errors than it is about the general inability/unwillingness of these productions to get Church Stuff right.  How hard could it be to google "Savonarola" and figure out the details of the OP habit, his age, and the name of his Order?

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  1. could be willful ignorance....could be that they thought their "habit" looked better or was more recognizable

  2. You're nit piking. Who but an OP would ever notice? (never mind care)

  3. Anonymous12:43 PM

    You're ABSOLUTELY RIGHT Fr. Philip. Naturally, costuming is only a small part of the problem. Details get chewed up all over the place in most films dealing with the Church, of course. But your point is absolutely right on the money--how much effort would it take to have someone check stuff like this out? If you're going to do costumes for a period-piece movie, it's just as expensive to make them right as to make them wrong. Otto Preminger's movie "The Cardinal" is a perfect case in point. (I'm dating myself, but you can pick it up at Blockbuster if you missed it when it came out the first time)

    Fr. Martin Farrell, op