Tuesday, 6 September 2016

In defence of Victoria

Image from Wikipedia
I would like to defend Victoria. This is not the railway station, nor the monarch, but the ITV drama of that name. There have been moans about the accuracy of the series. Now some of these are based on historical supposition, where a degree of drama has been added for the sake of being, well, interesting. So, for instance, Victoria certainly hung on Melbourne's every word... but probably didn't have a crush on him (he didn't look a lot like Rufus Sewell). You can take this kind of thing either way - I'm sure even Wolf Hall took the occasional liberty with historical accuracy to make the drama work better.

No, what really gets my goat are the two allegations: Victoria is too tall and she's too pretty. Or to be precise, former Dr Who sidekick Jenna Coleman is. I find these moans both irritating and frankly sexist. At 5 foot 2, she's all of three inches taller than Victoria. Big deal - she's still quite short, and that's enough. She's an actress, not a stand-in. Why sexist? When Michael Sheen played Tony Blair in the film The Queen, I don't remember anyone saying, 'But Michael Sheen is too short' - yet he's more than three inches shorter than Blair.

Similarly with the 'pretty' remark (not that Sheen/Blair are pretty). Some have said that the comparison is unfair, because we're thinking of the old Victoria - at this age (the character was 18/19 in the first two episodes) she was quite pretty. Now it's perfectly true that Coleman is prettier than Victoria was, and specifically it is true that Victoria had a rounded face, where Coleman's is quite pointy. But again, Coleman an actress playing someone, not a look-alike. I mean, good grief, if Robert Redford could play Bill Bryson who I'm sure would agree about himself that he isn't exactly a matinee idol, anything goes. It's a ludicrous complaint.

Victoria isn't great literary drama - it's a Downton Abbey replacement as warm Sunday evening fluff. So it may not always be historically spot-on. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with the casting. And it's far better than the alternative on BBC1.

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