Ave ITV2, morituri te salutant: Bromans Finale
And so Bromans drew to a close on Thursday, with a very loud bang and a few whimpers. The episode began with an anaphoric tricolon once uttered (in Latin) by Julius Caesar, “Without training, they lacked knowledge. Without knowledge, they lacked confidence. Without confidence, they lacked victory.” This was a new way for the show to begin and added a sense of grandeur to what was to come. This historical sophistication was immediately countered by a bathetic counter-quote which also used anaphoric tricolon – this time delivered by Summer (Glenn’s girlfriend). The language used by Summer is not appropriate for reprinting on this family-friendly website, but the rhetorical devices were clearly there, mirroring Caesar, and show how innate these persuasive techniques are - even for someone not trained in the Art of Rhetoric. This high-to-low brow dovetailing was a typical feature of this show. On the one hand, someone had made a lot of effort to ensure that there was some ‘historical accuracies’ and then on the other hand, it undermined itself with toilet humour. Aristophanes anyone? But it does beg the question – why bother?
It would have been very easy to get the same competitors doing the same tasks without the fibreglass statue of Augustus in the background. They didn’t need to have a ‘Dominus’. In fact, they didn’t need to set this in Rome at all. So we are left with 2 questions: why Rome? And why bother with any historical accuracies?
The first question is easy. The idea of Rome is still enchanting, even to those who have not studied it in any depth or detail. Most obviously, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator has formed an idea of Rome in the modern populus. Most people feel that they know what it looked like, what people wore and how they behaved. Therefore, there is definitely a feeling that they were actually us. The tropes of this civilization have stayed with us remarkably well; togas and tunics, being fed grapes whilst reclining, slaves and gladiators to name a few. This ‘easy-access’ is seen in Thor: Ragnarok and the character of Korg. Korg is a gladiator and is dressed as a Roman fighter (despite being on an alien world 2000 years after ‘Rome’ has fallen), and even leads a slave rebellion a la Spartacus. It’s a great short-cut for the viewer; we don’t need to know his life story, we just see what he is wearing and we know who he is, what he has to do and what sort of life he had. Of course, those of have studied Roman history will be to give lots of reasons why they were not the same as us. But this is how an idea stays alive – it becomes a story for the people as opposed to a story told to the people. Is that what ‘history’ should be aiming for though? Essentially if people think they know what Rome was, rather than actually knowing what it was like, what’s the point? They might as well be talking about what life was like on Asgard. Or is a misshapen view of the history preferable to no view at all? A bigger discussion there for those who are interested…
The second question was, ‘Why bother with any attempt at historical accuracy.’ I’m sure that there are many people who could say that there were no historical accuracies, but there was clearly a research team and there were clearly people who took pride in including some Roman references (see previous blogs for examples of these). The show’s content could have been the same without them, but perhaps it would not have been the curio that it has become for those of us that watched it to see if we could spot them. Classicists were not the target audience of this programme, yet I know that many of them did watch it, perhaps ironically, but they watched it nonetheless. Were ITV2 trying to attract a new demographic? This is the only programme that I have ever watched on ITV2. This is not snobbery – it has just never shown a programme that I have wanted to watch. And then I saw an article about Bromans in The Guardian. Of course, the show’s format attracted a lot of hand-wringing and declarations of ‘the end of days’ in the btl comments, but as a teacher, I’m often confronted by the next ‘end of days’ moment (fidget spinners anyone) and I have learnt that it is rarely as bad as all that. In fact I have learnt that the world is a very reactionary place and judgements are fired around far too readily. The ‘Echo chamber’ springs to mind and by watching Bromans I think I made a conscious attempt to step out of that chamber. And I was glad I did. I enjoyed it! So why bother with the historical accuracies? Because they made me watch it!
So, that just leaves me to say how annoyed I was that Dino didn’t win. I had my headline ready to go – In Dino Veritas - and had to struggle to come up with one for Tom (the winner). Dino and Charelle also Liked and Retweeted lots of my posts. This bought my loyalty – but alas their victory it was not to be.
Well done Tom and thanks ITV2 for giving me something to pontificate about.