A rant about the UK press and their Versailles reviews….

So with Versailles about to hit the British screens in a few hours, Twitter has been inundated with articles, reviews and think pieces about the show…. and as you can imagine, they have pretty much been focusing on the sex aspect.

So I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and give my 2c worth. Because unlike most of these journalists, it appears I have actually picked up a book (or many dozen books!) and done some research into the life and times of 17th Century France and King Louis XIV.

The main issue I have is the labelling of Philippe d’Orleans (Louis’ younger brother) as ‘bisexual’ or even worse, ‘bi-curious’.

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Oh, where do I start….? *deeeeep breath* Okay. The word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ is never mentioned in the show, not once (in fact, ‘gay’ was not synonymous with homosexuality at that time). Moreover, Alexander Vlahos, the actor playing Philippe, has always referred to his character as gay or homosexual. Yes, he does have a wife, but as with all nobles of the time, you needed one to produce an heir. And as a prince of France, it was detrimental essential (pardon, could not English due to rage) to continue the bloodline, should the rightful king not be up to the task.

The relationships Philippe does have with women are – looking at them with a 21st century eye – either abusive, controlling or manipulative. He uses women to get back at either his brother or his boyfriend. He never seeks them out romantically, or willingly. His romance is always and foremost with the Chevalier, and they share a push/pull dynamic that develops throughout the series, with massive lows and highs. Alex himself has said:

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Read the full interview here.

But what enrages me…. ENRAGES ME!!!….. is the modern labels people insist on slapping onto historical figures. Like if they don’t have one, they are confused and scared. They fail to realise that the past is a foreign country – they act, talk and think completely different to us. Trying to impose modern morals and expectations (or my personal bugbear – psychoanalysing!) on historical figures is pointless and clouds the issue.  Men shared beds and were openly affectionate with each other, but that does not necessarily mean they were gay. Or could totally be a cover for the fact they were ragingly gay….. who knows?

Many history books have said Philippe d’Orleans was homosexual. He had an aversion to women, would barely touch them. He dressed as a female, and liked all the female pursuits of the time – gossip, jewels, fashion. He wore make up (even to battle, but that was because he was worried his complexion would burn). He wore high heels…. in 17th Century France, men were the ones wearing the heels, even into battle, so they could sit on their horse, high in the stirrups. And he had sex with men. He had boyfriends. He most certainly identified as gay, and all the court accounts at the time detail his conquests, his favourites – his mignons – and his long-standing love affair with the Chevalier. Even through two marriages and subsequent children. In the show, we are first introduced to Philippe performing an intimate sexual act on his boyfriend, the Chevalier de Lorraine. HIS BOYFRIEND.

Bisexual is a sexual preference/attraction for both men and women. This is something Philippe certainly did not have. In the show, he does not seek out women for sex…. only for revenge, and only in a highly agitated, emotional state. You can see he treats them with a certain amount of distain or contempt. This is not ‘an attraction’. Not at all. Christ, the actor himself – not to mention the writers and producers – have all said Philippe IS GAY.  (If anyone is bisexual, it was the Chevalier: after fighting with Philippe, he would stomp off and go shag a female. In fact, he sired a few children this way.)  Seriously, screaming BISEXUAL! and pointing to Philippe’s  unacceptable treatment of women as proof, is not only wrong, it is insulting. That’s NOT WHAT BISEXUAL IS.

Bi curious….? Oh, the ridiculousness of it all. That’s the stupid, brain dead British tabloids for you (The Sun, The Mirror, I am TOTALLY looking at you with my judgey face). Do they even have ANY idea what bi curious means????? Here, it took me all of half a second to google it: “(of a heterosexual person) interested in having a sexual experience with a person of the same sex.” Philippe is NOT hetero, and NOT bi curious – he’s more than freaking ‘interested’ in boys… he hasn’t just dipped his toe in the water, he’s bloody wallowing in the deep end and has no intentions of ever leaving.

Just stop with the dumbness, okay? Do some research. Once upon a time, that’s what writers and journalists did. Otherwise I’m just assuming you’re all a) stupid dicks; b) can’t be arsed DOING YOUR FREAKING JOB, or c) writing shit just to get a reaction. And any of these choices just makes you look like a bunch of intolerant, snide, sniggering children who are being hateful to gay and bisexual people for the sake of a sensational soundbite.

13 thoughts on “A rant about the UK press and their Versailles reviews….

  1. “And as a prince of France, it was detrimental to continue the bloodline, should the rightful king not be up to the task.”

    Not to nit pick but…did you perhaps mean to write “essential” here rather than “detrimental”?

  2. Didn’t really enjoy Versailles until I chanced upon your reviews which encouraged me to re-watch the first two episodes and continue.

    It wasn’t a period of history I was previously interested in ( I’m more of a Tudor person) but your reviews have provided such insight. Had Versailles and your reviews come before my trip to Paris last May I would have appreciated the Palace more now that I’m better informed.

    You have such an interesting and fun way of composing your reviews, I enjoy them as much as the drama itself.

    Keep writing.

  3. Dear Jules,

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your posts and reviews. You are wonderful and always interesting and detailed. I have enjoyed Versailles enormously (DVD arriving tomorrow from Amazon) and your reviews have been fantastic, I can’t wait for series 2 and for your future reviews. Great to find someone like you! It’s made me want to read up on this period of history and visit Versailles and the other locations again, not to mention brush up on my French! Well done and thanks for all the additional info.

    Lulu

  4. I really enjoyed reading your reviews. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this series but I did, and coming from a teen, your posts are very entertaining ;’D I hope you do season 2 too!!

  5. Ah, the U.K. Reviews. You haven’t read the Guardian’s running series filled with very bad faux français. In order to be funny. I was so dégouté that I googled the show and found you.

  6. I think people think that just because a man has children with a woman (out of duty) he’s bisexual. Phillipe/Monsieur didn’t have a choice. If he’d had one, he wouldn’t have married a woman or procreated with one. The man did what he wanted. Openly flaunted and lived with his male loves and wives in the same household despite his Catholic brother’s constant misgivings. I also think people can’t wrap their head around the fact that a gay man can be macho and good in battle.

    I will add that Monsieur was used by his male lovers. I believe M. Chevalier loved Monsieur but he also wanted power which the show is portraying with the greedy cousins and his always talking about being king.

    1. Hi Koko! I have read and done extensive research on Monsieur and the Chevalier, so I can agree with you on le Chevalier wanting power. he had it being Monsieur’s favourite, and to all those who say there was no love there, I doubt that. There were much easier ways of gaining glory and power – Lorraine was a decorated warrior and his family were rich and had influence. Why keep up a 50 year ruse with someone you didn’t love, or at least had a strong affection for? We know Monsieur’s thoughts – Lorraine was his dearest friend whom he loved.

  7. I discovered your recaps while watching Versailles for the first time over the public holidays (hence this comment six months after you posted this). I am really enjoying the series and your posts – the historical insights are fascinating.

    And yes, I am in heated agreement with you about the way the MSM frequently reports on films or TV featuring non-het characters. As a bisexual person, the sort of reporting you’re talking about drives me bonkers. Even though the spectrum of bisexuality contemplates a scenario where someone is say 90 percent attracted to people of one gender but not exclusively, and it’s impossible to know how someone would identify unless you ask them (especially when talking about people who lived at a time when the labels didn’t even exist), it’s obvious that the majority of the media doesn’t grasp that level of nuance. The overwhelming impression is that for them, bisexual = shags anything that moves and/or threesomes; moreover, labelling a man whose primary – if not exclusive – sexual and emotional attachments are with other men as “bi-curious” smacks almost of an attempt at straight-washing, or at least juvenile “ooh er missus!” prurient squeamishness (you would think that surely they’ve grown out of sniggering at “bi-curious couple seeks same for fun times” ads at the back of the local paper by now, but obviously not). Earlier this year, a preview piece about an Australian miniseries – featuring a teenage male protagonist who was desperately in love with his male best friend, and whose only attempts at sex with girls were to distract others from where his real affections lay or to try to prove a point, and who is expressly identified as gay in the novel the show was based on – described that character as “a little bi-curious”. I mean, what …? I absolutely detest the term with a passion.

    And with historical figures who would simply look at you blankly if you used terms like “heterosexual” or “homosexual” in their presence, why bother with the label at all? A friend of mine is an expert on Edward II of England – who I think, if he can be labelled as all, is more likely to have been bisexual or at least biromantic – and got me interested in him and his life, and the number of people who bang on about “the homosexual king who had homosexual relationships with his male homosexual lovers” is mindboggling. No one talks about his “heterosexual relationship with his heterosexual female wife” or another king’s “heterosexual affair with a heterosexual female lover”. I really don’t understand why people can’t talk about how “X’s primary romantic and intimate relationship was with Y” or “X was the love of Y’s life”, when X and Y were of the same gender, without slapping a modern label on it. They loved each other, simple as that.

    TL;DR – thank you for articulating my frustrations so well, I’m glad I’m not alone!

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