the borgias

Analyze this! In the  past year I`ve been hooked on the following mini-series: The Tudors, Pillars of the Earth, and Big Love. I considered each to be a guilty little pleasure. Imagine my excitement at the series premiere of Bravo`s The Borgias! We taped it on Sunday night so I could watch each and every detail on Monday without fear of falling asleep or missing a line. I was not disappointed.

The Borgias, aptly sub-titled The First Crime Family, begins in 1492 with the flagrant bribery and purchase of the papacy by Rodrigo Borgia who became Pope Alexander XV. We are also introduced to his scheming son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia. The casting of Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo is brilliant. Irons has one of the best villain voices in the business. His smooth, rich baritone is an unsettling combination of music to the ears and evil personified. Think of Scar from The Lion King in papal robes. You`d love to have him read you a bed-time story, but know you`ll get nightmares.

Now, back to my list of mini-series…can you spot the common factor? Religion plays a leading role in each of these stories. The Tudors revolves around the violence of the English Reformation and Henry VIII`s break from Rome in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Pillars of the Earth is the first of Ken Follett`s novels that follows the building of a cathedral in medieval England. It has its share of evil bishops and burnings at the stake.  Big Love follows the lives of a modern-day polygamous family and the bizarre wackiness and perversion of the neighbouring fundamentalist Mormon compound. And The Borgias is sumptuously set smack in the middle of the Vatican.

Each of these mini-series shows the dark side to organized religion. Each has both sinners and saints, but the sinners hold the power. And, they hold the scariest power of all – power believed to be divinely held. The rich robes of state mask naked greed and corruption, while preaching the fear of God and hell to the ignorant masses.

Are these mini-series merely dumbing-down history into a soap opera format? Perhaps. But they offer a colorful look into individual personalities and events. They bring history to life.  They can even be educational…yeah, that`s it, educational…and thought provoking. Have I rationalized my guilty pleasure? 🙂

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