Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ecclesiastical bibs and bobs
On Tudor historical dramas if they’re accurate:
The Marian Roman-obedience bishops would be in rochet and chimere, looking like Anglicans and so confusing the viewers.
That’s right; the choir habit (not the liturgical vesture) remained exactly the same; the Anglican priests started wearing it for everything.
Hollywood, IMHO, is in love with Roman Catholicism because of its visual elements, broad public familiarity, and well-known positions on things like marriage and abortion that make for good story plots. “Law & Order” has riffed on that as much as anyone else.
That broad public familiarity of course is part truth and part common knowledge.
The closest real depiction of mainline Protestantism on TV is The Simpsons. Seriously.
Have you noticed that nearly always in Hollywood films where there is a grand church service the choir are singing Allegri’s Miserere?

Angela’s Ashes it was even sung at a First Communion Service.

No British TV fiction I remember ever seeing represents a realistic Protestant (including Anglican) churchgoing character.

Mainstream low-church or evangelical Protestantism is more or less entirely absent from our TV screens or films, other than as a source of oppression the characters need to break away from.

A certain kind of Roman Catholicism does get into British TV drama. But its nearly always hugely cliched. Working class, usually Liverpudlian or Glaswegian, culturally Irish (or occasionally Polish), theologically ignorant, socially conservative, superstitious, authoritarian, tat-ridden... though it probably isn’t the majority of it these days, or maybe even much of it.
Add/substitute ‘Irish-American cops and firemen’ and ‘New Yorker (Noo Yawk)-New Jerseyite Italian-Americans’ for the US version.

A slowly changing reality in the UK: the practising RCs are more and more Polish immigrants; the Irish don’t go any more but the cliché based on something that was true for much of the last century will be slow to go.

Stock anti-Romanism:
The most seriously religious Catholics nearly always get exposed as hypocritical. And the priest almost always turns out to be a secret drunk, or burned-out and harshly cynical, or incompetantly naive, or a criminal, or at least bending over backwards to hush up the crimes of others.
Trouble is that last bit really happened.
I have to say I loved Priest.
It was stupid.
For a slightly less sane Protestant there was the mother from Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.
I remember her on the box in England. Bit like Carrie’s mother in Stephen King.
In a film of a Colin Dexter murder service a priest censed the altar correctly (under the older rules) but then wore a green stole to hear a confession.
I saw the TV version of Service of All the Dead and liked what I saw: a decent re-creation of Oxford’s Anglo-Catholicism. A lot like Mary Mags externally but westward-facing like St Silas, Kentish Town in London.

Somebody else on the Ship mentioned a green stole at Christmas in one sitcom... probably because ‘it’s pretty and green is Christmassy’.
Living, as I do, in the alleged film capital of the world (apologies to Bollywood), I see films and TV shows that use local religous locations. One of the most common “doubling” is for Episcopal churches to be used as [Roman] Catholic churches.
Probably because the Episcopal ones, like traditional RC trappings, are more photogenic.

Of course the Orthodox get mangled on the screen most of the time mostly owing to unfamiliarity on top of lack of real interest. They’re essentially reduced to setups and punchlines in ethnic jokes (The Deer Hunter rises above that).

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