The Original Crime Family

Dear Reader,

If you haven’t already, I encourage watching the new Showtime series, The Borgias. I love two things: the accuracy I can see in some of the historical (esp. liturgical) bits, and the avoidance of anachronism in mindset.

To extrapolate:

First, I am no scholar of the time period, so I am sure there are problems with the portrayal of the clothing and customs, but I was thoroughly impressed by the accuracy of the first episode. To take one example, in the coronation of the Borgia Pope, the other cardinals wore Roman copes but Borgia (being a Spaniard) both had deacons ASSISTING HIM IN SPANISH-STYLE DALMATICS, but also was wearing a SPANISH-styled cope! I don’t know if the styles were anachronistic, but it was interestingly detailed for a Showtime drama. [I don’t know if the damask silk cassocks were appropriate to the period, but their very non-standard quality might indicate what also happens among Dominicans of the same period – they often added gold tassels and “pimped out” their Dominican habit to show their greater social standing and wealth; it’s not unthinkable that the Borgias did similar things]

Second, one of the neatest things was the mindset of the Borgias. They were plotting and scheming murders, but they were not atheists. Atheists were very likely rather unthinkable in this time period, but evil people in medieval Christendom are often portrayed that way in the media. Instead, The Borgias portrays the evil denziens of medieval Christendom as, variously, presumptuous or otherwise dedicated to a bad understanding of the Church. So, the Pope prays for the preservation of the kingdom God has given him; he thinks his assassinations are building up the Church. He also thinks God will forgive him for his sins, because they were necessary for the greater good. This could be anti-Catholicism, but in my naivete I see it as an attempt to be more accurate historically.

There is sexuality quite present and up-front. However, as compared to Rome or even The Tudors, I thought The Borgias did the sex-stuff much better and more consistently than those two. In those, the sex seemed randomly inserted to keep the prime-time audience interested in the historical drama. In The Borgias, the attempt is made to keep the sexuality part of the story and not to cut to random, graphic sex. It’s still probably a bit much, but so was the time period.

Anyway, that’s my endorsement of the best crime family of all time: Alexander VI and his brood of pernicious offspring!

Yours in Christ,

Br. James Dominic, OP

PS – Tune in Palm Sunday for my Lady Gaga sermon!

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