Author Archives: Deense

Historifiction: Pitfalls and Peaks

Following on Becca’s most recent article, Deense has a few thoughts on historical fiction to share.

For those of us with a passion for history, fiction and cinema can be both a joy and a horror. We watch in frustration as facts are thrown by the wayside in order to provide us with what the writers or directors think is a good story. We are caught squealing with glee at small yet perfectly-realised details. There are often highs and lows in each piece and no one is more critical of anything set in the past than those who’ve studied the era.

Historically based novels and movies has seen something of a renaissance in the past half-dozen years. As with any such genre explosion, a good portion of what gets produced can no more claim to be historical than some of Shakespeare’s histories. “Are they set in the past?” Yes. “Do they use the names of once famous and powerful persons? Yes. Do they adhere to the facts?” That’s where things get interesting.

For the purpose of this ramble, I thought it best to make a distinction between period and historical. I define them thus:

Period: Based in a historical setting (though it may have been contemporary when written), these works focus on fictional characters and events, the historical setting merely acting as a backdrop to their lives. Sarah Waters’ or Jane Austen’s works are excellent examples of period pieces.

Historical: Inspired by and focused upon the lives of actual people and/or actual events, but the interpretation of these people and events may be loose. The purpose of these works is to tell the story of someone who once lived and of whom there exists extant factual record.

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Perception of an Ice Queen

After seeing The September Issue, Deense has a few things to say about fashion and the perception of Anna Wintour

I have a secret.  Not a particularly  juicy one along the lines of an illicit love child, it is simply that I love fashion.  To set the record straight, I am not what most would call a fashionista.  My style is functional, heavy on the black.  Comfort trumps couture, and the size of my paycheque means that there is no Prada living in my closet.  That’s not to say that I haven’t scrimped and saved to purchase that bag or a pair of designer shoes.  Sadly, like so many, these items then tend to collect dust in my closet, as I find myself afraid to actually wear these rare treasures. 

Like millions of women, my interest in fashion is purely aspirational.  It was fostered at a young age by the Toronto Star’s weekly fashion pages, magazines like Jane and Seventeen, and Canada’s own weekly half hour tv segment Fashion Television brought to us by Jeanne Beker.  An older sister certainly helped, and my taste grew and changed as I would start reading her copies of Glamour and Vogue.  To be honest, my size 16 form won’t fit into most designer lines.  But I can dream, and I do.  Gorgeous shoots, edgy clothes, the excitement of finding runway pictures online.  There’s a mix of horror and awe as the pictures are trawled through for both inspiration and admiration.

Fashion has changed drastically over the past two decades.  Couture has been written off by more and more to be impractical and unnecessary, with ready to wear collections becoming ever more popular.  The cult of celebrity has emerged, its impact on the cult of fashion not to be understated.  While once we would dream of wearing gorgeous dresses, we now dream of being movie stars who just happen to wear those gorgeous dresses.  Designers are creating collections for brands like target and top shop; affordable and yet still representing their runway vision.  Shows like Project Runway and Top Model make us feel that every person could somehow have a chance to be involved in the industry; whether as a model or someone who shows at Bryant Park.  Suddenly, more than ever, everyone has an opinion on fashion.

At the forefront of the fashion world is Vogue.  The bible for many, it bridges the gap between designer and consumer and has become the voice in fashion for so many.  Boasting a circulation of 1.65 million per issue (figures per month 2008) it has long been the magazine to read and to be seen in.  Advertising costs are astronomical, but designers and retailers take multi-page spreads without fail.   Designers featured in Vogue know that they have done something right.  To be shunned by Vogue is never a good thing, and the power that one magazine has on designers might surprise many.

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