Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP2


‘Simply Henry’

Welcome back costume and history fiends.

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Thanks for those blank staring eyes, Henners. No nightmares here.

‘Henry and his court look to sign the treaty with France, though tempers of both kings flare up at the summit. Meanwhile, Henry takes on a new mistress named Mary Boleyn, though he soon tires of her and Mary’s sister, Anne, is summoned to the court.’

There’s a lot that takes place in this episode. I mean, the stuff with Mary Boleyn could cover an episode in itself but the pace just rattles on through several really important things.

What The Heckaroonie is a Field of Cloth of Gold Anyway?

The Field of Cloth of Gold was a peace summit between Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England, Ireland, and France that took place between the 7th and 24th of June 1520. The really interesting thing about English foreign policy under Henry and Cardinal Wolsey is their interest in creating England as a peaceful arbiter of Europe – to live out Renaissance Humanist policies in real life political policy. The Field of Cloth of Gold was designed to increase the bond between the French and English monarchs after the 1514 Anglo-French treaty. It was also a chance to show off. Both Henry and Francis were incredibly young, flashy, Renaissance monarchs who wanted to strut their stuff.

There’s a lot about the summit that is actually pretty accurate. Someone did really care about getting some of the finer details right.

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This is a 1545 painting from Hampton Court depicting the Field of Cloth of Gold. You can see the English Palace of Illusion, a wine fountain, and Henry and Francis wrestling.

So, these parts are really quite accurate. What’s not so accurate is Henry turning around and throwing a massive temper tantrum.

You see, he lost a wrestling match. And as a perfectly logical thing for a twenty nine year old man to do, he’s having a temper tantrum that involves destroying all his belongings with an axe. The Tudors has gone for a very strange characterisation of Henry. They proclaim to be a new and interesting look at the young Henry, but this involves making him into a screaming, bawling brat with limited character depth.

Henners is also upset that Charles V of Spain, nephew to his wife, has become Holy Roman Emperor and pretty much the most powerful man in Europe. Only this happened in 1519, not 1520, so he’s having a bit of a delayed reaction.

‘Tis a Pity She’s A Whore

The next big thing in the episode is that Mary and Anne Boleyn are more formally introduced and start making things happen. Also they’re WHOOOOOOOOORRRESSSSS, sexy, sexy whores to add all this amazing sex appeal with their naughty sexy behaviour.

I hope I laid the sarcasm on thick enough. I generally find the portrayal of the Boleyn sisters to be pretty poor in anything, and I think Mary’s depiction is pretty degrading. (FYI, my family is descended from Mary Boleyn. Actually. So I tend to get very personally protective of her.)

Let’s compare the Tudors version of Mary and the real one.

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Mary is introduced in a brothel/bar/some place full of sex workers. Because she’s a WHOOORRRRREEEEEE. She’s some woman that Francis I sleeps with – his ‘English Mare’ – and she’s shown as a stupid, slutty woman that has no idea what she’s doing in life other than looking for dick.

It’s a very nuanced character, you see.

In real life, Mary was an accomplished courtier who had been educated in the usual manner of a Tudor gentry woman. You know, maths, reading and writing, grammar, two or three languages, dancing, embroidery, music, singing, gaming, falconry, riding, and hunting. Maybe she wasn’t an overwhelming genius of science or theology, but she was still a highly educated woman. And her education didn’t involve sucking dick.

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Suck my thumb. Do it. Show me your French wiles.

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Mary, it transpires, has been at the French court for two years. That makes this episode set in 1516, then. Mary Boleyn was sent to the French court in the retinue of Mary, Henry’s sister, when she was sent to marry Louis XII of France in 1514.

In real life, Mary and Henry did not meet until 1520 when she returned to the English court to be married. She may or may not have been a mistress to Francis I, but I would err on not. It’s very convenient for her to sleep around because it makes the family look bad, and I suspect it’s gossip that gets reported as fact. Henry and Mary did have an affair, but we don’t really know when or for how long. There’s actually very little evidence of their affair, other than Henry admitting it later when he needed to marry her sister, Anne.

Anyway, her dick sucking is not as good as advertised, and Henry tires of her.

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So the Howard and Boleyn families decide that Anne should step forward and seduce Henry. Because over the course of fifty minutes, where Mary was in two scenes with Henry in total, they were showered with such preference and wealth and prestige that they’re just going to throw Anne at Henners and see if it sticks.

I don’t especially like the whole ‘the Boleyns and Howards planned and maliciously duped Henry for their own power’ idea which pervades shitty historical fiction, and this makes no sense in time. It’s 1520 – or 1516, or 1518 – and Anne and Henry did not become  involved until 1525/1526. Anne wasn’t even in England until 1522. They’re throwing her at him about six years too early.

Also There’s Some Treason

Yeah, the Duke of Buckingham is still plotting away. But not for too long because he’s going to die.

He’s gathering up people loyal to him and he’s going to… do something. Either just outright murder Henners or launch full, open rebellion. In real life, Edward Stafford did no such thing. There’s accusations of him doing treasonous things, such as talking about the death of the King and his lack of children, but he was never outright going to just stab him.

He’s also dressed just like Henry.

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Literally just the same outfit. If you wanted to hire the guy as Henry, why didn’t you.

Anyway, Buckingham gets caught. Because he wasn’t exactly being subtle.

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How could this happen to me, I made a mistake…..

Then some real bullshit takes place with his execution.

This is a catalogue of wrong. Executions of the nobility were generally private affairs, not open to the common sorts of the public. He’s a peer – and even in death, he’s treated with honour. He would not be dragged to his place of execution and he would not sob and weep on the scaffold. Yes, it’s awful to be dying, but he’s a member of the nobility. He would conduct himself with dignity and grace as to not reflect badly on himself and his family.

And a friend of Henners would not be holding a man’s arms down for an execution. That’s just… good lord, it’s terrible. What a terrible, sensationalised depiction of an execution.

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Buckingham’s execution is secured by the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to Anne and Mary Boleyn. He’s blackmailed into this position by Charles Brandon, close friend to Henners, giving him his father’s ring. You see, the Duke of Norfolk’s father was executed by Henry VII.

There’s a lot of wrong in this short two minute scene.

For a start, Thomas Howard as not the Duke of Norfolk in 1520. His father would not die until 1524. Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, died of old age in his bed. He was not executed by Henry VII. That would certainly be a feat of time travel, seeing as Henners 7 had been dead for twenty five years at that point. You could say that they conflated the third and second dukes, sure. Only the first Duke of Norfolk was not executed by Henners 7 either. He died from an arrow to the face at the Battle of Bosworth. So, there’s nothing really right in this scene. Especially to have Charles Brandon threaten the frigging Duke of Norfolk in the street.

Also, the Duke of Buckingham was arrested and executed in 1521. This was a plotline that could have been allowed to develop for longer; as such, it feels like a rush of hot air that goes nowhere.

God, I Have a Son!

Henry’s mistress, despite finding out that she’s pregnant in the last episode, is already popping it out. Even though it’s Christmas 1520, and Henry Fitzroy was born the 15th of June 1519.

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Tudor women didn’t generally give birth lying in a bed. They used a birthing chair. If they were in a bed, it was the pallet bed that would be underneath the main bed. You don’t want to ruin your nice bed with blood and afterbirth. People have to sleep on that.

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Henners is so overjoyed at this arrival of an illegitimate son that he almost breaks his neck. Good job holding the baby. Guess we know why only one of your children with Katherine survived.

Sashay Shantay

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Collars and high necks are very in this episode. Shame they don’t really become fashionable in Europe until the 1530s. Francis was fashionable, but not this fashion forward. He needs to be wearing a low, square neckline.

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This is better. Square shoulders with undergarments showing. The hair is weird though. Too modern. Even him that nice chinlength bob Tudor men wore.

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Where are your undergarments, Francis??? Your doublet is silk. You know what ruins silk? Water! What is your sweat made of? Water! Keep your clothes fresh and non-stinky with your underwear!

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The collar on Henry’s outfit is far too high, and the doublet looks like it’s from the later half of the sixteenth century. It’s still far better than whatever this get up that Francis has on. Weird Swiss Guard/Fall of the Roman Empire runway look there, Francis. You brought a concept here, but it really doesn’t fit. At all.

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Henry is clearly the architect of the Puritan movement. For some reason. He’s a king. He needs to look it.

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Canadian beaver realness. To be honest, there is not enough fur on these costumes. I know that fur is not looked upon with favour these days, but he should be decked out in the finest of ermine and cheetah. Henry should look more kingly. More money, more power.

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Turns out the greatest hunt is man.

Thomas Boleyn is continuing his fight against bad costumes. His remain the most accurate. Bless you, you evil man. Bless your ongoing stance against high collars.

Curtain Realness

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The exposed shoulders are a bit iffy, as is the single colour for the gowns. Skirts had underskirts of a separate colour. The one colourness is a little cheap for two queens. And there are no trumpet sleeves.

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That nursemaid is straight out of the 1590s. That’s some impressive time travel.

How hard is it to make a bloody hood? Women did not have their hair uncovered in public. Women didn’t have uncovered hair in public until the fricking 1960s, and they certainly wouldn’t in the 1520s. I hate the jewelled headpieces, I hate the stupid headband thing, and I laughed at the strange Nefertiti inspired headpiece worn by the French queen because I have literally no idea what it’s supposed to be. I like her expression though.

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It’s the latest in Tudor maternity wear; pregnancy sack! With added useless shoulder cutouts! Because that’s what you want when you’re pregnant. Not easy access to a toilet, painkillers, and something loose to wear. Cold shoulders is what you really need.

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To prove that Mary Boleyn is a whore, they’ve literally dressed her as a Venetian prostitute.

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Why is your hair loose? Where are your trumpet sleeves? There is an incredibly famous picture of Katherine – use that! Use that as your basis for her clothing and design around that. We know how she dressed, and it was not like this.

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What the fuck is on your head.

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Bessie Blunt is wearing some Restoration gown. Look at those thin sleeves and cuffs – seventeenth century, ish. The hair net is fine, some women did wear them, but look at that woman on the right. That is a 1490s style hood there. Did you get it from your grandmother? That’s thirty years out of fashion, and it’s still not right. The front part of her head is out.

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That waiting woman is wearing a seventeenth century dress. They took that straight off the rack of an English civil war drama and thought ‘eh, it’ll do’. Her hood is Elizabethan as well.

In Other News

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The Pope’s dead. Sorry bout it.

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Unpicking the Tudors; S1 EP1


So, if you’ve had a look at my update post, I’ve not been doing much of anything lately. I’m house-bound currently because my health has been absolutely terrible as of late. My life’s on hold yet again which is very annoying because I’ve felt like it’s been on hold since university. That’s four years ago now where my luck has been terrible. Maybe’s it’s Anita Blake cursing me.

Anyway, if you know me, you’ll know that history is my thing. In fact, it’s Tudor history. I specialised in the politics of the Henrican court and I like to sharpen my brain box from time to time.

And this little show is currently up in its entirety on Netflix.

 

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It’s rated an 8.1 on imDB and was nominated for Golden Globe awards. It was presented as being an intimate sort of revelation of the great secrets of Henry VIII’s court, the great men and great women of his life.

And this show makes me rage as only a historian can rage. This show is a burning bag of garbage that makes me incredibly angry. Not only in terms of really bad writing choices but really terrible clothing. And that there are people who made genuine efforts to try and make this accurate and include incredibly minor details of court – only for it to be absolute rubbish.

And I’m here to pour water on this burning bag of garbage. Or another, better metaphor.

Let’s throw ourselves into ‘In Cold Blood’. Our official synopsis is ‘King Henry VIII, the young and ambitious monarch of England, prepares for war with France but is dissuaded by the diplomatic manipulation of his powerful Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, who proposes that the King sponsor a “Treaty of Universal Peace.” The harmony of the King’s domestic affairs is threatened, however, when he discovers that Elizabeth Blount, the young and beautiful lady-in-waiting to his Queen, Katherine of Aragon, is pregnant with his child.’

That’s a lot of information for one episode and it really rattles through the stuff that people all commonly associate with the Tudors. It is also really badly written. Let’s begin.

A Nonsense Beginning

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The episode doesn’t really start off too well. We’re heading straight to an Italian palace (even though ‘Italy’ as a specific location did not exist in the sixteenth century) and this is not a sixteenth century palace. This is really not. This is neo-classical in the most blatant style.

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This is a sixteenth century Italian palace. Much more ornate and decorative.

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Sean Pertwee gets out of a carriage and his costume is wrong in so many ways. English fashion in the sixteenth century is known for its many layers, the wide silhouette, and the use of slashing to display fabrics. Sean Pertwee’s style is very reminiscent of gentlemen at the court of Elizabeth I; slim and narrow, a style that has become highly feminised. These are not the clothes of a man from the later half of the sixteenth century, not from the beginning.

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The men he’s travelling to meet are much more appropriately dressed – highly decorated doublets with long overgowns. Plus hats. You’d never be out in public without a hat at this point in time. And hello baby Aiden Turner. You’re going to be in one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and then be in Poldark with its really awful rape scene. Ups and downs there.

Anyway, Sean Pertwee gets brutally taken out by the French.

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This confuses me greatly. It makes for an incredibly dramatic opening, that’s for sure, and sets up that England hates the French and that is mutual. There’s animosity between the two countries which is only news if you are not European. However, early modern politics was not a brutal affair. Well, all the time. There was that time that the Dutch cannibalised someone and people were thrown out of windows in Prague, but an English ambassador would not be stabbed to death by the French in public this way. It would be incredibly stupid because it would only cause war.

This also throws up many questions to me in terms of history. When is this meant to be set? There were varying times of war and peace between England and France, and a specific year is never given in this episode. This episode swings between 1514 and 1520, and six years is a long time in politics.

And there’s the issue that Sean Pertwee is supposed to be Henry VIII’s uncle.

Right. Okay. There’s a writing choice I can simply not get my head around. Henry VIII didn’t have any uncles, and giving him one doesn’t inform his fictional character or explain what happens. It makes no logical sense – his father was an only child and if Henry VIII’s mother had surviving brothers… then they would be king. Because her father, Edward IV would have passed the throne to them.

The Poor Choices of Henry VIII

The big selling point of this show was that it’s YOUNG Henry VIII. It’s Henry as you’ve never seen him before! He’s young, he’s sexy, he’s active, and not fat and gross. In pursuit of this, the writers made a huge mistake. They made him brash, rude, and frankly abusive to Katherine. He’s a slobbering mess in this first episode, and his characterisation is all over the place.

And his clothing is fucking terrible.

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Our first introduction to Henry is that he’s dressed like an acrobat. There is nothing right with his clothing. Compare him to this image of a English man from the early part of the sixteenth century (it’s later than VAGUE 1514 TO 1520 VAGUE YEAR but at least it’s English).

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English fashion is bulky and layered. There’s no way Henry would not have an overgown and his clothes are just too slim. And that crown looks like ass.

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I like that Henry has the most Catholic underclothes it is possible to get. I don’t like the metallic popper buttons. Buttons were not especially widespread in clothing, with most items being tied or fitted to the body. Henry VIII did not have child-friendly popper boxer shorts with Catholic detailing.

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Henry is wearing only the most fashionable in cheap and common leathers! This looks like foot soldier armour. It is not anything a nobleman in Tudor England would wear. Also Katherine’s dress is terrible, but I’ll be going into the women’s fashion in a bit.

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Henry VIII is FLORAL SOFA MAN!

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Who doesn’t want to do physical exercise in a full suit of leather?

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Love that fisherman jumper, Henners.

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Throughout this episode, Jonathan Rhys Meyer makes just the weirdest choices for his performance. Ignoring the fact that he is blatantly wrong for this role, he just does weird stuff. He’s loud and obnoxious and plays Henry as a complete idiot. And the episode ends on this image. Just Henry, his pathetic little beard, staring madly at you. Thanks, director. I needed that.

A Decorated Skirt Does Not A Period Costume Make.

I get it. Tudor women’s fashion does not appear sexy to modern audiences. You have to balance out the ‘sexy’ lead and make the women appear sexy. They do this by making the worst attempt at Tudor costumes for women I’ve ever seen.

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The first female character we see is in The Corridor (c) that we see consistently over the first season. They show the vast wealth and grandness of the palace of White Hall with the same terrible brick background over and over.

For a start, her waist is too high. English fashions are conical at this time, with hemlines square and farthingales round like an ice cream cone. Her hair is also loose under what appears to be a piece of lace.

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‘I have a necklace in my hair for no apparent reason. Also my hair is loose, which no grown woman at the English court would ever have. Because my hair would be really fucking long and I don’t want lice.’

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Katherine of Aragon, an incredibly proud and proper queen, is just lazing around with her hair loose and a nightgown. For the record, here’s Katherine at this time –

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Gable hoods and trumpet sleeves. They may not be sexy but they were at the time.

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I don’t know I don’t even. This screams 17th Dutch more than anything else with the huge white collar and huge great big stomacher. This is especially egregious as this is Thomas More’s wife and there’s an incredibly famous portrait of her. She should have a hood on, great big trumpet sleeves, and no huge white weird collar that is attached to her dress and not the shirt underneath which appears to also be a dress.

This dress has some huge great big puffy sleeves are are hideous. They also don’t come into English fashion for another fifteen years. The attempt at a French hood is also… weird. For a start, they’re not around at the English court from this point for about ten or so years (depending on whatever vague year this is), and what the hell? What is with all this loose hair? She’s got beautiful flowing locks that do not work with a French hood.

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That’s how a French hood works. Your hair is covered because all women pretty much had their hair covered in public at this point in time and you don’t want nits. Long loose flowing hair? THAT’S HOW YOU GET NITS.

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I don’t even with this. Not only is her dress terrible, with an overgown that wouldn’t be introduced to the 1550s, but what is even with that headdress? What is it meant to be? You can’t just glue fake pearls to something and call it a headdress.

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So, left dress: fine, I guess, as a common gown for when you’re at home not seeing anyone. I don’t like the bustle thing at the back. It could be a bumroll, but her skirtline would be much higher and if you’re relaxed at home without a farthingale, why would you have a bumroll?

Right dress; whaaaaaattttt. That’s very Italian. The lose, low sleeves are continental and the bust line, shoulders, and curled hair make me think of Stuart/Restoration fashion, not 1510s/1520s. And that’s not even getting into whatever the bodice is. It’s a bodice for a dress, not a front-opening bra.

Everyone’s Evil Henny

Fashion aside, the point of this episode is that Henry is stupid and everyone around him is evil. No matter where he goes, from fucking (there are far more sex scenes in this episode than necessary), to playing tennis, or to the daily joust, there is someone being evil and making use of how lazy and stupid Henry is to get across their evil doing. FYI, Henry VIII was an incredibly intelligent and busy man. He did not just spend his time at the apparently daily joust.

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The Duke of Buckingham is evil and planning a rebellion. He also actually looks like Henry VIII and did not launch open rebellion in real life. He wears all black throughout the show so we know he’s definitely evil.

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Cardinal Wolsey is also evil because he wants peace (boo!) and is pro-French (boo!). He’s conducting what appears to be the Treaty of London, but that was 1518 and there’s stuff that takes place in varying years. Pick a date, guys. Pick a date and stick to it. He beats a guy up. It’s weird.

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Thomas Boleyn is introduced and because he’s actually wearing the right clothing out of all the characters, you can tell he’s evil. Because, yeah, I love that cheap idea that terrible fiction authors peddle that the Boleyns were evil schemers working their way to the top that flies in the face of just about all knowledge of political power in the period.

Random Oddness

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Why is there straw just thrown around this floor? I saw extras struggling and just kicking it into the air. It’s weird. This is the grandest palace in England. I have no idea why there’s straw everywhere.

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Look at Henry mangle this pomegranate. For symbolism. And because he’s a big gross child.

Dottie Recommends: Life Is Strange


It’s been a while since I’ve enlightened you all with something I truly love, and this time round, it’s a video game. I think this is the first video game I’ve recommended – I wouldn’t really classify myself as a gamer, but I do love me some immersive story telling and the chance to run around destroying things.

Life Is Strange does not allow you to run around destroying things, but it is one of the finest and most interesting games I have ever played. You play as Max, a girl in a private high school in Oregon, who suddenly discovers that she has the power to rewind through time. Her town is a hub of mysteries and eerie feeling – not unlike the Maine found in Stephen King’s works – with missing girls, dying animals, and visions of tornadoes ripping through town…

The choices you make as Max have drastic in-game consequences, making this one of the most interesting and sometimes incredibly stressful (when you have to save lives) games I have ever had the pleasure to play. How you interact with the people around you impacts on the game play itself in a way I have rarely seen anywhere else. The game is laden with meaning and second guessing and tiny clues, making it a fascinating world that is both beautiful and really creepy. It’s also one of the greatest games I have ever seen for women – most of the characters are young women, and they all have great, fully developed personalities, and are not exploited or presented in the usual way I’ve come to expect from any mainstream video game.

The first three episodes are out, and the next two are due to be out sometime soon. You need to check this game out – it’s utterly fantastic.

SURPRISE!


I don’t want to sound too gushy but you all know what’s happening with me lately and… well, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to everyone who listens to my ranting and supports what I love to do. You help me in so many ways, it’s unreal.

I wanted to make a little surprise as a weird means of thanks, so please enjoy this video I cobbled together today. Hopefully you’ll find it funny and informative (if you really like it I might make more!)

MADE WITH LOVE, SO THAT MEANS YOU SHOULD IGNORE THE MISTAKES. AND THE BUDGIE NOISES. EDGAR LOVES TO TALK.