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Author Topic: The Truth, with Fixins  (Read 649 times)


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The Truth, with Fixins
« on: October 30, 2006, 04:09:19 PM »
Ok, so it just might be possible that I did not in fact kill the little old lady who lived next door to me, I may in fact have only driven her away.
And yes, there is a slight possibility that it wasn't so much my own obnoxious presence as much as it was old age and a desire to live with her grandkids.
But it still made for a good story, and by the Magic Deer that's what matters!
Hell, that's the basis of telling any good story, is telling the absolute truth, but with all the "fixins", so that you tell it from a fantastic perspective, and it becomes larger than life.
For example, there is no doubt that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in my opinion the greatest english language novel of the last half of the twentieth century, was an absolutely true story, in the sense that it detailed absolutely true events, written with from the perpective and the memories of a drug-addled genius.  The power to turn the mundane into the fantastical is a mighty power indeed.
And the truth, real events, are almost always better than stories borne of lies. Nothing is as sexy as the true story, the real events. Nothing has as much possibility to create varied responses, to create intrigue and controversy.
Which is why I was so disappointed with yesterday's premiere of the Hallmark miniseries "Empire": they chose the cheap whore path of historical revisionism, when the truth would have been so much more satisfying.
Besides being badly written, and badly acted for the most part (though Colm Feore did make a very good Julius Caeser), it also turns the events around the death of Julius into a simplistic fairy tale, rather than the much juicier sexier real events.

Brutus and Cassius were presented in the miniseries as self-serving murderers who had nothing but wicked motives.  Cassius was practically a mustache-twirling villain, while Brutus had twinges of guilt from knowing what he did was Pure Evil.
Meanwhile Julius Caeser was a brilliant benign man of the people, who wanted to give all Rome's wealth to the plebieans and free all the slaves.
This is so very disturbing, on so many levels. First of all, what a sad condemnation of democracy, the idea that the senators are all wicked corrupt exploiters and the totalitarian dictator was the only man who would care.
I can't imagine that most of the people involved in the production of this series would really want to give, say, George W. Bush the kind of dictatorial powers that Julius Caeser took, so why did these stupid fucks think it such a good idea to sanctify the concept of the "strong benign dictator" as being so much better and more desireable than a democracy, however flawed?
Not that I think they should have cast Julius as the villain of the piece either, mind you. He was a great man, no doubt about it. He did much of what he did to try to reform a system that was falling apart and to save Rome, which he loved, from endless civil war.  There's also no doubt that he saw himself as another Alexander the Great, that he was enchanted by the power of eastern potentates, and that he wanted to create a dynastic system and finish off Roman democracy, and that he was hardly the "man of the people" the miniseries makes him out to be.
In other words, he was more complex than he's made out to be.
So were the conspirators.  Brutus and Cassius almost certainly believed they were killing Caeser to save the Republic. They were killing a would-be tyrant. In that sense, they were heroic.  But there's no doubt also that the Republic they wanted to save was one where they benefited from the corruption inherent in the system, and so their motives were also self-serving.
And don't even get me started on the needless addition of the fictional "gladiator hero" to the story. Why was that needed? Especially if it was to turn Octavius (who would become the emperor Augustus) into an idiot man-child who needed saving?
In reality, it would have been so easy to make Octavius the hero of the story. Far from the reckless youth, the lackadaisical jackanape they make him out to be in the mini-series, Octavius was a quiet, unknown, almost invisible figure while Julius lived, carefully avoiding the limelight.
In turn, once Julius was murdered, Octavius didn't act like the total idiot they turned him into in the miniseries. He acted, he took the initiative immediately, fleeing to where all of Julius' old veterans had retired to and rallying them into what amounted to a militia legion of old soldiers and peasants brought together by his brilliant rhetoric and the power of his family name; and marched them to Rome where he forced the Senate to recognize him and repudiate Brutus (who's own legions defected to Octavius).
He was, in other words, the man of the hour. That's what they should have made him out to be, not the idiot boy who needed a fictional gladiator to keep him alive and show him how to rule. He knew exactly what to do.
I think my own Roman campaign was successful, and the current Roman Immortals campaign is being successful, because it shows things as they really were, with the moral uncertainty and all the fascinating personalities as they truly were.

RPGPundit October 8th 2005
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