Monday, January 14, 2013

Downton Abbey vs. Hysteria: How important is accuracy to you?

I've fallen crazy in love with Downton Abbey. Love it. Love it. Love it. It has totally broken down the walls I had keeping me away from period pieces. I adore the costumes and the set and the actors and the dialogue (oh! the dialogue!). I also adore that sometimes as I"m watching I google things like the Battle of Somme or the Battle of Amiens or Spanish flu and it turns out that what they're showing is pretty darn representative.

My walls were so lowered by the fabulousness of Downton Abbey that I decided to watch Hysteria. It was really funny and a tiny bit salacious and I'm hoping that I, at some point, remember to yell out "tallyho!" at an opportune moment. When I looked it up to see how accurate it was, however, I was sorely disappointed. Bits and pieces of it are accurate. Granville invented the vibrator, but not for the purpose that we all think of it being for. "Vulvar massage" was a treatment for hysteria. I don't think Granville ever did it or worked with a Dr. Dalrymple who probably didn't even have two daughters.

The movie was still funny and kind of cute, but it's ruined for me now because it's all made up. Downton Abbey is all made up, but I still love it. I know the difference is that one purports to show actual events and that the other is a story set in another time. My sister, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less about the lack of historical (or hysterical) accuracy in the Hysteria movie. It made her laugh. The story was cute and it didn't bother her one bit that it wasn't the ACTUAL story.

So how about you? How accurate do your need those historical stories to be? Is it enough that the clothing and the speech is right? Or do you need all of it to be correct?


Stephanie Doyle said...

I need it to be pretty accurate - but that's only if I know something of the time period. What I don't know ... usually doesn't hurt me.

But certainly when I'm writing historical fiction/romance - then I can't let anything go. I have to dig and dig and dig.

My next project will be set during WWI and the early 1920s so when I found Downton I was like YES!!! I don't need it for a historical reference, but certainly the costuming will be a huge help in getting ideas.

To me this is such an incredibly untapped area for high drama I imagine we'll start to see it explode.

As for Downton my love knows no bounds. Except that Mary is the biggest "B" in the world... yet somehow I can't turn away.

Miss Lila said...

For me, it depends on the presentation of the facts. If the show/novel/what have you is trying to be very serious and true representations of the time, such as in period piece or a romance, I'm disappointed when the facts are wrong. But on the other hand, I can forgive comedies and less serious media, such as Jack of All Trades, for trading historical accuracy for some good laughs.

The worst inaccuracies, though, are the ones where the true version simply would have been a better story.

At of yet, I haven't watched Downtown Abbey, but I've heard a lot of good things about it! When I find some free time, I'm definitely giving it a watch. :)

Eileen said...

I'm generally not a big stickler. I found one note on a website about Hysteria that said the Maggie Gyllenhaal character was riding a bicycle that wouldn't have been available until 5 years later. That really doesn't bother me. Taking an actual event, using the names of the people and taking huge liberties with the rest of it apparently annoys me. There was another movie like that.

Okay. I looked it up. It's called Murder in the First and it's about what caused the closing of Alcatraz, except it's not.

Eileen said...

Fred, do yourself a favor and watch Downton Abbey. It's marvelous.

Aslo, Steph if you like that time period. My friend Catriona MacPherson writes an adorable mystery series set in that time period in Scotland.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Oooh thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I adore that period. You've got the perils of war, the impact of men returning, mixed with women who are about to get the vote, are entering the work force.

I think any time there is a period of flux in history - it is always ripe for drama.

Which is why I'm surprised historical romance seemed to get stuck for so long in Regency.

But it does seem to be branching out now.

Eileen said...

I'm totally remiss for not having told you about her earlier. They're really delightful and they really do turn on a lot of what you're talking about with the time period being in flux.

Plus there's that whole Scottish thing and since she actually IS Scottish, you know that's accurate!

I should see if Catriona wants to guest blog here for her next release . . . SHe's so incredibly witty.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh thanks. You just ruined Hysteria for me. :(


Historical fiction sometimes drives me to want to look up all the details. I know The Tudors did. But somehow, when I watched Hysteria, it didn't.

Humph. Why use real historical figures if you're going to change the facts so much? Unless it's a complete revisionist thing. That's different.

I did enjoy Hysteria, although not as much as I hoped to when I first heard about it.

Eileen said...

Sorry about that! Sorrow shared is sorrow halved? It really ruined it for me, too. And really, what was the point? The big agenda for the movie seemed to be that men should figure out how to make love to their wives and that we should help poor people. Not exactly earth-shaking.

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