February 24th, 2011

Remy and Rogue's first "kiss"

TV Review: Lillie

A few spoilers in this one.

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Lillie is the very accurate biographical series of Lillie Langtry, the British, nineteenth century Paris Hilton. As the Prince of Wales's mistress, she became a famous actress, the lover of many important men, and the first woman to use her celebrity to make money at advertising. She was friends with greats like Oscar Wilde and Frank Miles, and men everywhere fell madly in love with her, which she used to her advantage.

Looking at reviews, people are divided on Lillie based on their opinion of the heroine. Those admiring Lillie’s lust for life, unconquerable spirit, and achievements, like the series. Those disliking Lillie’s snobbery, promiscuity, materialistic values, cruel treatment of lovers, and use of beauty and sex to get what she wanted from life, hated the show.

I didn’t like Lillie, but I praise the show all the more for its honest look at her vacuous nature (and, to be fair, we see her mature as she ages; she publicly supports Oscar Wilde when he's outed as homosexual, for example). It used her to show the shallow values of the Victorian time period, rather than making her into a modern-day feminist ideal. Lillie could hardly have been anything but shallow, as she’s never exposed to different values. Heck, different values don’t even seem to exist. That, in her situation, she's so strong is impressive; she's knocked down many times by financial loss, by domestic violence, by scandal, and always gets back up with a new plan. For love of money, Lillie is the first woman to gamble on horseracing, sell a yacht on the open market, and use her image in advertising. Whether that's admirable--it broke barriers for women--or disgusting--it was mostly greedy--is up to viewers to decide.

Fantastic acting, beautiful costumes and sets, and real portraits and newspaper clippings add to the atmosphere and drama. Anyone interested in history or character stories should love this, if Lillie doesn't ruin it for you. Personally I loved seeing a complex heroine. I didn't like her, but I prefer characters who interest me to dull, "likable" ones. Lillie is entertaining, intelligent, and good TV in every sense.

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