The other day a press release lands in my email inbox and blares:
U.S. TELEVISION PREMIERE OF “POPE JOAN” ON REELZCHANNEL
The Incredible Legend of the Only Female Pope
Two-Part Television Miniseries Event Premieres Sunday and Monday, December 18-19, 2011 at 8pm ET and at 8pm PT
Oh, great. The “Pope Joan” thing again.
REELZCHANNEL? I’ve never heard of that before. And it’s no wonder with a name like REELZCHANNEL. What were their corporate branding people thinking? That Z for S substitution in the middle of two words slammed together is just painful to think about.
But back to the story . . .
(Albuquerque, NM) Tuesday, November 22, 2011—REELZCHANNEL—TV About Movies® today announced the two-part miniseries “Pope Joan” will make its U.S. television premiere on REELZ starting Sunday, December 18, 2011 with part 1 airing at 8pm ET and at 8pm PT. “Pope Joan” is the legend that will not die—a sweeping historical drama about a woman whose existence has been denied for a thousand years.
Uh . . . that would be because she never existed. People tend to deny the existence of things that never existed.
Gotta love the use of breathless, cliched tropes: “legend that will not die,” “sweeping historical drama.”
“Pope Joan” is the story of a controversial figure of historical record who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule the Catholic Church in the 9th century as the first and only woman to sit on the throne of St. Peter.
Okay, Pope Joan is not controversial. Not among people familiar with the historical record. (“A figure of historical record”? That’s just bad writing. It appears, however, to be a claim that she existed, in which case REELZCHANNEL is lying to its readers.)
So who is responsible for this mess?
Based on the international bestselling novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross, “Pope Joan” was produced by Constantin Film. “Pope Joan” is a four hour miniseries that REELZ will air in separate two-hour parts.
And is the network properly ashamed of itself for airing this?
“We’re excited to be the network bringing the ‘Pope Joan’ miniseries to U.S. audiences,” said Stan E. Hubbard REELZCHANNEL CEO.
Translation: This was a European production that we could get on the air for cheap because we don’t have enough money to do better programming.
“Coming on the heels of another epic historical drama in ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ airing in early December on REELZ, ‘Pope Joan’ is the perfect pairing for our viewers and is a great opportunity for them to discover, explore and consider a story few viewers even know exists.”
Okay, here’s the standard TV overhyped mystery weasel word: “consider.” They want their viewers to “consider” this story. They’re not willing to say flat out that it’s true. But they want to create the illusion that it is or might be, so they ask viewers to “consider” it.
There is nothing here to “consider,” Mr. Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of REELZCHANNEL. You are lying to your audience, misleading them into thinking this even might be true.
So you—personally—Mr. Hubbard, are willing to lie to your audience, and paint a false picture of the faith of many of your viewers, in order to make a buck.
That’s how I see it, Mr. Hubbard.
Interestingly, not all media types see things the way you do, Mr. Hubbard.
Some years ago I was contacted by a Hollywood movie producer—one famous enough that I actually knew who he was (which is saying something because, y’know, I’m not Steven Greydanus)—and he wanted some assistance in finding out the history of Pope Joan for a project he wanted to produce on her.
I told him Pope Joan didn’t exist.
I also mentioned that he would face criticism if he presented a Medieval legend as if it were actual history.
He was surprised and alarmed to learn that Pope Joan never existed—a fact of which the people who had approached him with this project had not informed hm.
He thanked me and indicated he would be seriously reconsidering whether to go forward with the project.
The project never happened.
If only all people in the entertainment industry had such ethics—eh, Mr. Hubbard?
What do you think?