Ukip councillor attempts to blast BBC for 'historical inaccuracy', gets destroyed by actual historian

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Monday 16 May 2016 15:00
Celebrities

Actor Sophie Okonedo is currently appearing in the BBC's Shakespearean adaption The Hollow Crown as Margaret of Anjou, who was married to King Henry VI.

Picture: BBC

Okonedo is an Oscar-nominated Shakespearean professional who has so far received great reviews for her performance.

But that's not good enough for Ukip councillor for Hampstead County and Fareham Borough councils, Chris Wood. Oh no.

According to him, "historically" there's no way Okonedo, of Nigerian and Jewish heritage, could possibly play the medieval French queen.

Several people have pointed out to the bewildered councillor that when it comes to fiction, the suspension of disbelief is key:

But none has done it better than Twitter user Chevalier au Canard (who didn't want to give her real name), who until recently was studying none other than medieval narratives and myth-making.

It turns out my half-a-PhD was useful for something and that something is this very specific case of being able to "well, actually" [Chris Wood].

She took it upon herself to history-splain Wood's ~grievance~, pointing out that the picture of Margaret of Anjou he used comes from a manuscript which claims the queen was descended from a swan.

And sent another picture from the manuscript which shows people who turned into swans and vice versa.

Imagination, she points out, is a powerful thing.

And the pièce de résistance?

Apply ice to the affected area.

'Chevalier au Canard' wrote afterwards about how in the 21st century it's representation rather than medieval misappropriation that matters:

If I'd been able to complete my PhD, it would have been about exactly this - myth solidifying into history, then liquefying into myth again. Everywhere you think there is solid 'history' to lean on, it falls out from under you.

She told indy100:

It's wrong to try and dictate what roles black actresses can play, whatever the context - but this guy decided to do it using an image from a manuscript I've written half a PhD on, unluckily for him. I thought it was a great opportunity to show that the sources we rely on to imagine a golden age of pure "historical accuracy" are often anything but.

As ever, the important thing is purpose - it's not misuse of medieval stuff that matters, it's attempting to deny work to a black actress.

Chevalier au Canard added that if anyone is interested, there's a lot of great stuff about race as a topic and work by medievalist scholars of colour around at the moment - some of which you can check out here.

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