Seeing this brief comment about my blog (you have to scroll right down) set me thinking: where does my passion for period drama stem from? The person on this forum rightly asserted that I don't watch very many non-costume drama movies or TV series. That isn't to say that I don't watch any films other than costume dramas - I enjoy a wide variety of movies, from fantasy epics such as The Lord of the Rings (although technically I suppose LOTR itself is a costume movie :P) to animated films like WALL-E, etc. Having so many younger brothers and sisters, I am inevitably subjected to a great many animated movies whether I like it or not!
But the proportion of non-costume drama films I watch is far outweighed by the number of costume films that I see. Why is this so? Why is it that I (and countless other women) have this curious obsession with costume drama? I'll try to sort out my thoughts and give some kind of explanation below.
*I am without a doubt more of a bookworm than a movie buff. I have had a great love for books and, more particularly, the classics, for over ten years - that's over half my lifetime! :P (For non-regular readers, I just turned 17.) Hence it comes as no surprise that almost all of my favourite movies are adaptations of my favourite books. This is perhaps the single most important factor to consider when trying to map out the reasons for my costume drama obsession. My love of Jane Austen books and films go hand in hand. If I had never read any of Jane Austen's books, I might still enjoy Jane Austen movies, but I almost certainly wouldn't appreciate them as fully as I do now.
*I am a conservative Christian - many of my values and morals are "old-fashioned", or would be considered so by many. Thus it makes sense that I should love old-fashioned movies! In modern, contemporary romance novels and chick flicks, I might love some aspects of the story and/or characters, but often there will be one - or several - jarring notes that partly spoil it for me. In books and movies set in the first years of the 20th century or earlier, innocence and purity in relationships was highly valued. Not so today!
*Classics are classics for a reason. They have withstood the test of time - generation after generation of readers have thrilled to these stories. When you're making a movie based on one of the classics, you have one great advantage - the story is pretty much guaranteed to be a good one! Of course there is some work to be done in translating from the book to the screen, but unless the screenwriter has made sweeping changes to the characters and plot, you can rest assured the story will be engaging and entertaining - or profound and challenging, depending upon which author you are working from! (Jane Austen is great, George Eliot is a different kettle of fish altogether! But both authors were brilliant at what they did.)
*Escapism. There's nothing wrong with this - it is partly what movies are for, after all! To entertain us, capturing our imaginations and transporting us to a world different than our own. Some costume movies are brilliant at doing this - P&P 2005 comes to mind. However, most period films are also very relevant to us today - times may change, but people don't. Fashions come and go, but themes of true love triumphing over all, good v. evil, etc. ring as true today as they did hundreds of years ago. It can be something of a revelation to see this - another one of the reasons why I love period drama. It brings different historical periods to life, making us realise that people were just the same "back then" as they are today.
EDIT: a couple of comments left by readers made me realise that escapism was perhaps not the right word to use in this instance! Consistently trying to escape from reality is not a good or healthy thing. However, simply taking a "time out" from our everyday lives to enjoy a good movie - I don't believe there is anything wrong with this. A really good movie can leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired - Amazing Grace is a great example of this. I left the cinema with a big grin on my face, feeling so incredibly inspired by this retelling of Wilberforce's life!
Looking back to the War years and the Great Depression - it may have been a very difficult time in most people's lives, but it was essentially the "Golden Age" of cinema! It will be interesting to see how the current economic crisis affects our movie-watching and cinema-going habits. . . I dare not hope that we'll see a second Golden Age, but I think we'll definitely see a change of trends in the movies being made.
*I'll readily admit that some of my reasons for liking costume drama are comparatively superficial. The costumes, the sweeping landscapes, the grand old castles and stately homes, the gorgeous soundtracks, the good-looking guys in cravats. . . these elements are not necessary for a good costume drama - what really matters is the acting and the script - but they certainly don't hurt, either! ;-)
Those are some of the reasons that I was able to come up with. Why do you love costume drama? Or, conversely, if you're not a fan, why do you not like it?