HBO's new series "Rome": no thanks.

Comments

12 comments posted
Gladiator on the small screen

...not to mention studio executive fantasies that they are Roman rulers making and breaking careers like gods. Add some T&A, and who needs character?

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 9 September 2005 - 9:11pm
HBO Rome

I have a slightly different take when I watch "Rome." I see how superior the women were to the moronic, barbaric and downright creepy men of the time. The women were pretty much holding that empire together. At least that's my view.

anonymous lurker's picture
Posted by anonymous lurker (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 12:15am
Either Or

I agree the progam lacks any verve. As an admirer of HBO's original programming I felt I had to give it a chance, but cannot get through 15 minutes of it.

However, I think it a bit gratuitous to make the staple feminist argument that men want to return to a time when women knew their place. That is a bit, shall I say, off-base.

I just want parity as Hegel's pendulum promises me after the pendulum has run it's arc. Can we have say, one film where the man is the weak minded and physically inferior portion of the love interest, and another where the female form is less aggressive but silently strong, and does not eclipse the male lead? Just a thought.

semanticleo's picture
Posted by semanticleo (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 12:22am
The whole thing is anti-female

because it plays into the fantasies of how Rome is presented. The latest parts of the Roman Empire were patriarchal, but even in Caligula's time they were still matrilineal and one of the principle deities was Isis. (Yes, she's an Egyptian Goddess, but Romans were fond of importing deities from other cultures.) If they wanted to be realistics, the women wouldn't be skinny unless they were very poor. Also, how are they depicting homosexuality? That was considered a virtue in the Roman army.

I think they chose Rome because we've got our own Caligula now. Either way, I'm sick of patriarchy and I certainly don't need it in my entertainment.

Support the Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements

Morgaine Swann's picture
Posted by Morgaine Swann on 10 September 2005 - 12:51am
The latest parts of the

The latest parts of the Roman Empire were patriarchal, but even in Caligula's time they were still matrilineal

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so all that bit about "patrifamilia" from pre republican times, the fact that in the early republic men could sell their wives and kids into slavery if they wished, and many other things beside was BS and rome was actually a matriarchy?

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and one of the principle deities was Isis. (Yes, she's an Egyptian Goddess, but Romans were fond of importing deities from other cultures.)

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Great, but they still whorshipped jove as the head god...and jove was a man.

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If they wanted to be realistics, the women wouldn't be skinny unless they were very poor.

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they are cartering to modern taste, the women would probably also have unshaven legs and arm pits.

gideon's picture
Posted by gideon (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 8:45am
rome no thanks

The fact is if you are trying to do a realistic portrayal of Rome, there simply are not going be a Livia. Livia was a rarity, a strong women with two weak (at home anyway) husbands. The world (at least as graves tells it) would have been better off had she been subjugated since she killed off numerous good successors to Caesar in favor of her corrupt and perverted son Tiberius.

As for why they choose Rome, well first off I doubt it is because it was such an awesome time for men. If you want to do times where women are powerful you basically have the choice of prehistory…or now. Rome is an interesting time period because it is so far away and exotic and yet we can relate to it.

Gideon's picture
Posted by Gideon (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 8:36am
Wow, I didn't expect so many comments.. Thank you!

Hi - Thank you all for your comments, I found them all interesting and I appreciate that you all chipped in!

I want to point out that I gave myself "a long leash" with this review, in terms of polishing it up and making a wholly convincing argument. My goal was partly to let off some steam and to retain the anger in the piece, rather than distancing myself from it and writing a very cool, detached and "balanced" kind of review. Hence the "rant" category I placed in under (as well as "review").

Morgaine - "I'm sick of patriarchy and I certainly don't need it in my entertainment." Boy, does this strike a chord with me! :)

semanticleo - "However, I think it a bit gratuitous to make the staple feminist argument that men want to return to a time when women knew their place. That is a bit, shall I say, off-base." Point taken. I took pains to be careful with my language in the last paragraph, where I was thinking of some men , not all men. Re-reading the last paragraph, I think it conveys this ("the modern-day male who may dislike the advances women have made..." / "these men..." - I'm talking about some modern-day males, not all males). But I could've probably done a better job with that last para.

I've heard of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum but not Hegel's! :D I'll try and look it up at Wikipedia...

Gideon - I understand where you're coming from, but my point is that programs often reinterpret history through their own cultural lenses. I should've mentioned that, yes, "I, Claudius" was filtered through a modern-day cultural lens, but that it seemed less gratuitously hateful towards women. In other words, writers, producers, directors, etc. - they can all use narrative to hang their misogyny upon, and when they're called to task about it (by viewers or more formal bodies) they can duck and dive under the "But that's the way Rome was back then!" excuse.

I guess my main point was that, when portraying topics like women being oppressed by men, it has to be handled very carefully, or the storytellers look like their colluding in the inequitable systems they portray. If I'm to sit through scene after scene of hatred towards women, I'd better get at least a nominal sense that the storyteller disapproves of this, and that there will be a moral payoff at the end to justify these portrayals.

Thank you for all your comments, they expanded the discussion and made me think further on what I wrote about. :)

- Sour Duck

Sour Duck's picture
Posted by Sour Duck on 10 September 2005 - 9:39am
Hegel

Just an FYI--Hegel's dialectic is sometimes referred to as a swinging pendulum. Thanks for the response

Semanticleo's picture
Posted by Semanticleo (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 2:05pm
my problem with rome

my problem with Rome is that all the things media girl describes are all there is to the series. it shows oppression, but without effect. with the exception of one soldiers wife, there is no portrayal of the interior life of women or slaves.

for instance, octavia is torn from the man she loves and forced to become engaged to an asshole who humiliates her in the doggy style scene media girl mentioned. but octavias emotions come off of frivolous and cliche, with lots of flopping around onto beds in fits of melodrama. a perfect 1940s or 1950s rendition of a teenage girl.

atia, the only powerful woman, comes off as soul-less and conniving. she is the hollywood cliche of the manipulative schemer, who sleeps with men in exchange for favors that enhance her status. in other words, the 1940s cliche of a hollywood actress.

the one-dimensional nature of women and slaves is classic mid-century hollywood. the women are either overly emotional teenagers, devoted mothers, or scheming whores.

slaves come off no better. a male slave graciously accepts a beating by atia, then submissively asks "will that be all?" no realism. no cut to the slave returning to his quarters tending to his wounds. no rage or frustration with his lot in life. no hint that he was injured at all by the beating.

moreover, it seems odd that the only old women on the show are "body slaves" to the two whores (atia and ceasar's mistress). they rarely speak and are staged to be visibly invisible.

my guess is that hbo hoped to tap into the audience of recent movies like troy and gladiator. and it is faithful to that legacy. one dimensional, mid century depictiosn of women. grateful slaves. and lots and lots of thrusting swords and penises (often its difficult to tell the difference).

artemisia's picture
Posted by artemisia on 10 September 2005 - 11:15am
It's Sour Duck's review

I actually have not see the show, and I can't say I'm losing any sleep over it.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 10 September 2005 - 1:19pm
my bad

sorry sour duck!

artemisia's picture
Posted by artemisia on 10 September 2005 - 1:37pm
Gideon - I understand where

Gideon - I understand where you're coming from, but my point is that programs often reinterpret history through their own cultural lenses. I should've mentioned that, yes, "I, Claudius" was filtered through a modern-day cultural lens, but that it seemed less gratuitously hateful towards women. In other words, writers, producers, directors, etc. - they can all use narrative to hang their misogyny upon, and when they're called to task about it (by viewers or more formal bodies) they can duck and dive under the "But that's the way Rome was back then!" excuse.

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excpet their right. They advertised the show as "how rome really was" and they show it...how rome really was. My impression is its generally a one deminsional show so its not showing much of anyones deeper feelings. But your rigth your not the target audience

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I guess my main point was that, when portraying topics like women being oppressed by men, it has to be handled very carefully, or the storytellers look like their colluding in the inequitable systems they portray. If I'm to sit through scene after scene of hatred towards women, I'd better get at least a nominal sense that the storyteller disapproves of this, and that there will be a moral payoff at the end to justify these portrayals.

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so it wasn't politically correct enough basicly.

gideon's picture
Posted by gideon (not verified) on 10 September 2005 - 2:07pm