Posts Tagged ‘Spartacus’

My Dark Secret

Posted in General on May 4th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

You may have suspected it, but you were too disgusted to say anything.  Perhaps you just didn’t want to believe it, and so you ignored the obvious.  But what else could explain my silence on a topic where I am usually less tolerant than Torquemada.  Why haven’t I denounced the historical inaccuracies on “Spartacus”, the cable series purporting to be the early life of the gladiator who led a slave rebellion against Rome.  Am I that grateful for Lucy Lawless’ nude scenes?  Yes…but that is not my only reason.

“Spartacus” does not affront my love of history because the series is not remotely historical.  “Spartacus” is little more than a toga party–and the characters rarely wear that much.  The series is really a black comedy on social climbing: the slaves want to be plebians, the plebians want to be patricians, and the patricians are bored.  As far as the main characters are concerned, the setting could be New Rochelle, and Spartacus is a comedy writer slaving for a tyrannical if droll master.  (One slight difference: in “Spartacus” Mel Cooley would have the right to kill Buddy Sorrell.)

But even allowing for my appreciation of the satire, isn’t the series making a mockery of history?  No, not really.  In “Spartacus” the history is merely a backdrop, an innocent bystander at the gratuitous orgies and histrionic intrigues.  Most of the show’s characters never existed; so history is uninvolved.  Even for those who were real, the plot takes place before history first took note of them.  They are still blank pages for the scriptwriters to indulge their mischief and prurience.  Yes, it is still an intellectual outrage but “no real history was harmed in the making of this program.”

Since “Spartacus” has proved a success, it no doubt will inspire other historical prequels.  I am going to suggest a series on Napoleon, but focused on his sophomore year at the Brienne military academy.  Of course, the dorm chambermaid will be a nymphomaniac, as well as his geometry teacher, music teacher, fencing coach, career counselor and the headmistress.  If HBO produces this series, we can arrange for Napoleon to have an affair with Abigail Adams, too.