I don’t even feel the need to make a case for Cesare/Lurezia as a ship because everyone who watches the show ships them. EVERYONE. OK, probably not everyone, but essentially everyone. I refer to ships like Cesare/Lucrezia as gateway incest ships. Often people who have never shipped incest before, who often find it disgusting, will still ship it. Maybe even super hard. Sometimes these sorts of ships will be created through a lack of other viable options, but more often than not, it’s a positive response and not a matter of lack of other options for those who will ship something no matter what. Gateway incest ships tend to take over the fandom and be the most popular ship. There are people who read books, watch movies and TV, and don’t spend much time shipping. It doesn’t become their life like it does with me. But for a lot of us, particularly those of us on the internet right now reading entries like this, not shipping was never an option.
And so for those people who can’t help but ship, they might find themselves shipping incest in these certain occasions. Of course, the thing about a gateway incest ship is that you sound ridiculous when you say that they’re the only incest ship that you ship, or the only incest ship that you’ll ever ship, because once you cross that line there’s really no going back. I’m speaking from personal experience. THERE’S NO GOING BACK! That’s why I delight in gateway incest ships. Not only because I can ship them open and free without even getting weird looks (or sensing that I’m getting weird looks because actually I’m on my computer and can’t see anyone looking at me and they couldn’t even actually look at me if they wanted to), and because it opens people up to other incest ships.
…and any combination but predominantly Peter/Susan and Edmund/Lucy from The Chronicles Of Narnia.
Oh, just a warning: do NOT do a “wincest” google images search unless you know what you are in for.
…cannot be unseen…
So, stopping there, what I’m saying is that this isn’t a defense of the ship or even a guide as much as just an introduction and recommendation of/to the show and Cesare/Lucrezia.
If you haven’t heard of Neil Jordan, you should feel bad. For he is a talented man with a lovely body of work:
–These are questions that you should only know the answer to because you’ve seen it. And (as if you needed another reason!) this lovely song – Lisa Hannigal-Braille – plays during the credits. I’m sending you over to my friend youtube so you can hear it.
And I just watched High Spirits. Is it zany? Yes. Is it funny? Not as funny as the first scene of Peter O’Toole’s character on the phone with his creditor would lead you to believe it is, but yes. Will you like the ending? Probably.
He also directed Interview With A Vampire. Need I say more? Even if you don’t like that movie, you can’t really fault the directing, can you? It’s a beautiful and lavish production. As someone who tends to like all things vampire, I am probably not the most impartial judge. But that’s a good movie, am I right?
Among his more prestigious works are The Crying Game, Michael Collins, and The End Of The Affair. There are worse ways to spend your time. I’ve only seen the latter, but I’m confident they’re all quite good.
Now, you may or may not have heard of Neil Jordan, but surely you’ve heard of the Borgias? Powerful family of the fifteenth century? Spaniards living in Italy? Rodrigo Borgia, aka Alexander VI, one of the most infamously scandalous popes? His daughter, Lucrezia Borgia, rumored poisoner, rumored to have bore both her brother and her father’s children? His son, Cesare Borgia, inspiration for Machiavelli’s The Prince? Those Borigas?
Perhaps you’ve encountered them in other works of historical fiction? You can, no doubt, imagine my interest in Lucrezia’s story, and it will not surprise you that I am familiar with some of their other manifestations.
First to mind is the book The Borgia Bride, by Jeanne Kalogridis. Believe it or not, I read this book a few years ago with zero idea of what to expect. As much time as I spend hunting out incest stories in books and movies, I am as often surprised to find it in movies and books I invest my time in for other reasons. As you must have surmised, I did not know the story of the Borgias when I picked up the book. It is told from the point of view of Sancha of Aragon, who marries the youngest Borgia son Gioffre. Although her eldest brother marries their aunt Giovanna (if I recall correctly), Sancha rather frowns on her father-in-law sucking grapes out of his daughter’s bosom (if I recall correctly). I enjoyed the book. But, then again, why wouldn’t I?
Later on, I found my way to a Borgias miniseries that aired in 1981. What can I say about it? Not a lot of good stuff. The guy who played Cesare was not very attractive and too old. (But part of the problem was the hair. So much hair.)There was no charisma.
I find very few miniseries from before the late 90s that are tolerable to watch, and this miniseries was no exception (unlike I, Claudius, which is somehow still great all these years later). However, I will say this: they didn’t pull too many punches. They took those rumors and told that story, and that was what I wanted to see. If I recall correctly, Cesare and Lucrezia don’t actually have sex, but there are a number of scenes in which they kiss or nearly kiss, and their interactions are always tainted with a touch of shame. I’ve included some screenshots. I’ll post some scenes on youtube if someone requests them, just drop the request into the comments section below.
Rodrigo, played by Adolfo Celi, is just plain old creepy. That man never would have been elected pope.
A good movie, with good looking and talented actors (Rodrigo, played by Lluis Homar, in particular, was excellent – not creepy, but not too “good”-seeming either. That whole ruthless but in it for his family thing). The cinematography is gorgeous. This version has a lot in common with the TV show. In fact, they’re companions in many ways.
But…no incest. I kept waiting for it, hopeful, but nothing. There was plenty to ship between Cesare and Lucrezia, and she forgave him for A LOT of things, but the two of them never cross that line. *sniff* What a waste!
Their scenes are sexually charged, and a couple of times they get weird looks, but nothing actually “happens”.
Again, I took some screen shots which I’ll include below. The cast for this film is absolutely gorgeous. Cesare is played by Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Lucrezia by Maria Valverde, and Caterina Sforza by the lovely Paz Vega.
Unlike the other three, the Borgia portion doesn’t actually have any story to it. It’s been almost two years since I saw it, but if I recall correctly, it’s basically just 20 minutes of Lucrezia having sex with Cesare and Rodrigo.
I wouldn’t recommend Contes Immoraux, but I did like one of the stories: Erzebet Bathory. I’m going to tell it to you, so if you don’t want to be spoiled skip the rest of this paragraph: it begins in a village, as all of the young women are being invited to come to the castle of a wealthy countess. They are all very happy to be honored in this way.
When they get there, they all take their clothes off, and for the next 10-15 minutes all you see is a bunch of naked women running around excited, showering and bathing. The Countess is always accompanied by a young man, who then makes sure that all of the young women are doing as they should. And then…are you ready?…all of the young women are slaughtered, and the countess bathes in their blood! Awesome, right? I mean, terrible, but awesome. Hardcore. And then the young man turns out to be a young woman, and she helps to take down the countess with her knight lover. She might even stab the countess herself. I can’t remember. I mean, it came as a surprise, because I was kind of rolling my eyes at all of the gratuitous whatever and whatnot, and then *bam!*, murder and betrayal.
There’s a film from the 40’s with Orson Welles as Cesare called Prince of Foxes. Cesare is very much the bad guy, and it’s told from the point of view of one of his underlings who grows a heart and redeems himself. The movie’s not bad, really, though a little boring. As far as I could tell, Cesare only has one scene with Lucrezia, and I got a screen shot. It’s her husband’s funeral, and Cesare leans over to her and whispers that she should pretend to be sadder. That’s the gist of what he says, anyway.
I haven’t seen any other stuff as of writing this article, although I know there is more out there. What does exist is not easy to get a hold of (curse you, Netflix!!!)
But there is a new miniseries that is going to air in Europe at some point, developed by a man named Tom Fontana. They’re done filming it, I believe, and hopefully we’ll get some dates soon. It should be pretty, whatever happens, because apparently it’s the most expensive series ever made for the respective “studios” involved – one of which is Canal +, if I’m not wrong. The story of the Borgias is always going to be a good one, whether Lucrezia and Cesare get it on or not. I’ve heard rumors of some incest in this one, though it may not be the very nice kind.
The short clip can be seen here on youtube. I don’t know their fully story from the game, but in this scene they share a kiss, and she explains that she misses him. It all seems very entertaining.
Well, all of that is my preamble to talking about the Showtime Borgias, which was renewed for a second season and will hopefully return next April.
The pilot begins quite early on, so even though a lot of what happens is part of history, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I’ll just give you a basic lay out.
Rodrigo Borgia, when the series begins, is a cardinal in the Catholic Church. In fact, he’s vice chancellor. I don’t know what that means, but it does seem to be a position of some authority, even among cardinals, which are just about as high as you get without actually being pope.
He already has a reputation for being corrupt, even ignoring the fact that he has taken a long-term mistress named Vanozza, and she has born him FOUR children: Juan, 19, the eldest, who has a military career in front on him; Cesare, 18?, the second eldest, now a cardinal at his father’s behest, though he longs for a different life, preferably in the military; Lucrezia, 14, daddy and Cesare’s little princess; and little Gioffre, who is around 12-14.
When the current pope dies, the College of Cardinals locks itself up until they vote on a new pope. Rodrigo has Cesare working on the outside to help bribe the other cardinals for their votes. This is basically the plot of the first episode.
We also meet Cardinal Della Rovere, who is disgusted with the impurity of the church and in particular with Rodrigo. After Rodrigo succeeds in getting the papacy, he leaves in protest, and spends most of the first season trying to raise an army to take down Rodrigo. I’m not going to summarize the plot of the first season, but we meet a lot of interesting people, like Machiavelli:
- Cesare/Lucrezia (duh!)
2) The complex and original (if taken from history) characters.
- The French king
3) The random but somehow perfect humor
- Cesare’s eyes
- The rest of Cesare’s face
- Cesare’s back
- Cesare’s tight leather pants
- Cesare’s chemistry with every damn character
The bad things about this show:
1) TMI from time to time : Rodrigo and menstruating Giulia Farnese I’m looking at you
2) The dialogue: I will sing Neil Jordan’s praises always, but sometimes it felt like it was trying too hard. I think it’s a little pretentious but you are free to disagree.
3) The boring. There were times when it really did drag a little. It wasn’t OMG after OMG. And I will warn you, there are entire episodes where Cesare and Lucrezia don’t interact, and if you’re watching the show for them, it will kill you. I’m going to compare it to Boardwalk Empire, a really good show that was frequently boring. The Della Rovere scenes, in particular, made me want to fast forward. Also any scene in between Cesare and Ursula.
Jeremy Irons was in a movie that is of some interest to this blog, called Damage, which I actually just saw this week. He stars as a British politician who begins having an affair with his son’s girlfriend and eventual fiancee, played by Juliette Binoche. That is the entire plot of the movie. You can tell from the very beginning that it’s going to end in some variety of tragedy, and if you laugh once then I owe you money.
I can’t say I really enjoyed this movie. There are lots of sex scenes, but they are totally ridiculous. I don’t know how else to describe them. The end was earned, but it still had me sort of rolling my eyes. I sympathized somewhat with her, but I just wanted to smack Jeremy Irons’ character around the block. There was a daughter in addition to the son, who spent a lot of time frowning and I think I missed the whole point of her.
It’s quintessentially a film about passion, and I suppose it did a pretty good job at that.
Well, the reason I’m bothering to discuss this movie I obviously wasn’t crazy about, is because of Juliette Binoche’s character’s background. Her name is Anna, and she had a brother named Aston. Their family traveled around a lot when she was young, to different countries and such. So they really only had each other. And they were very close, and spent all of their time together, and such. But when she was 15 and he was 16, he saw her kissing another boy and he flipped out. I don’t think anything physical had happened between them, but his jealousy was obviously of a sexual nature here, because Aston yells “You’ll let him f–k you, they’ll all f–k you” or something. Whatever, you get the gist. And she gets a little scared and makes him leave. And then he sits outside her door all night yelling and crying, but she doesn’t let him in. And then he kills himself.
And she never really got over it.
She has a great line, something like: “You should be careful of the damaged ones. Because they know they can survive anything.”
And Anna’s mom creates quite the awkward situation at lunch when she declares that Anna’s new fiance (the son of Jeremy Irons’ character) looks like Aston. I guess we know why Anna can’t choose between father and son.
I’m not familiar with Francois Arnaud (Cesare), a Quebecois actor who does English like a native speaker, or Holliday Grainger, who has a magically lyrical accent/voice that makes some of her questionable dialogue pleasant to listen to.
She’s one of my most favorite actresses.
Before I delve into the Cesare/Lucrezia goodness, I will take some time to mention a few other storylines that I liked.
First is Sancha. Juan goes to Naples to check her out as a bride for his younger brother Gioffre, and we meet Sancha, and she’s just badass. A sharp, clever tongue, and she’s promiscuous but just doesn’t give a f—k and I admire that. Sancha’s half-brother (in the TV show, though historically that’s inaccurate) is Alfonso. There’s just something about Alfonso. He’s funny, and he’s got this squeaky voice that would be so annoying if I just didn’t love every single thing he was saying.
Their father is practically catatonic, and Alfonso is constantly saying insulting things to him, but he’s also the one that feeds him and there’s a pretty tender moment later on that I don’t want to spoil for you. Their father is also batsh-t crazy, but I don’t want to spoil that for you either. However, the place where Sancha takes Juan to have sex totally plays into how fearless she is.
Juan’s feelings for Sancha probably go further than the feelings he’s ever had for any other woman romantically, but the marriage goes at planned. I don’t know how old Sancha is supposed to be. 17, 19? And like I mentioned, Gioffre is practically pre-pubescent.
But they get married anyway. And the next day Sancha is in Juan’s bed having loud sex, Sancha was really sweet with Gioffre, and Juan was sweet and asked her to be. It was great. And Lucrezia, for no reason whatsoever, took an instant dislike to her, which I can’t wait to see explored. And I want Cesare (who was rumored to be involved with her as well, and that was certainly the case in The Borgia Bride) to bang her too. So much to look forward to.
Lastly is Cardinal Sforza. I just like him. And Rodrigo catches him having sex with his “distant” (or so he claims) cousin and that was even after I was like “there’s just something about this guy”. Peter Sullivan is the actor in question, but I didn’t recognize anything from his filmography.His scene with the cousin (her name is Gabriella, different last name) was just so great. They were chasing each other around the room, and it was just perfect. It looked like fun. They were having fun.
This is the same character that is played by Paz Vega in the Spanish film.
In the first episode, Lucrezia is about 14 or so, and Cesare is about 18, I believe. The first season spans at least a complete year, and probably a few months or more than that. But this was a different time, of course, and 14 was marrying and mothering age.
The Lucrezia we meet at the beginning is in many ways like a girl, but she wises up pretty quickly. Cesare is having sex in one of his first scenes, and has none of his sister’s ignorance or innocence when it comes to other matters (such as political) either. In that way there’s a large gap between them, but she manages to bring out the best in him in pretty much every way.
It’s hard to reconcile the Cesare we see when he’s with Lucrezia, with the one that he is when he’s with his assassin Micheletto, for example, and yet at the same time you just absorb that he’s this incredibly complex person. And maybe the only pure thing about him is the love he has for his sister. He’s so gentle with her, and kind. In fact, the contrast is what makes those moments all the more sweet and rich and squee-worthy.
Well, historically, I don’t believe there’s any proof of incest. That’s what I’ve read. The Borgias were a close-knit family, a little introverted, and Lucrezia and Cesare were close, but it wasn’t a case of everyone knowing what was going on behind closed doors. Lucrezia’s first husband, Giovanni Sforza, made an accusation of incest. He was an aggrieved party in a number of ways, however, so he’s probably not very reliable. (Of course, on the show, he deserved just about everything he got. Ass.) I think his accusation pertained to Rodrigo as well. If you can’t tell, I’m not in the mood to research this myself. If you really want to go know, google it. I’m just going to go by what I remember. He was probably just trying to besmirch the family after they put him on trial for impotence to get an annulment for his marriage to Lulu.
I’m not sure what else there is. I’d always considered it near fact that there was incest, but apparently that’s not the case. This is hardly conclusive, but Cesare, I believe, killed Lulu’s second husband, whom she apparently loved very much. Some attribute his motive to jealousy, but I’m sure there was something political in it for him as well.
Of course, I choose to believe there was incest. Because that’s more fun for me. In fact, I’d take incest with both Rodrigo and Cesare over no incest at all.
In the miniseries from the 80s, Lucrezia is sort of in love with Cesare, and whatever happened with Rodrigo was more like her doing what she thought was her daughterly duty.
Jeremy Irons’ Borgia still has some sense of decorum. He would never have sex with his own daughter, even if he wanted to. He’s more misguided than lecherous or evil, even naïve at times. He has a shrewd political mind, but he considers himself to be a man of God. He’s a true believer.
Well, I don’t have a direct quote for you, but what Neil Jordan has said about Cesare and Lucrezia is that they are ideals to each other – he’s her idea husband, she’s his idea wife. They’ll never meet someone they love more or whom is more perfect for them. But they are sort of unaware of the rareness of this sentiment, and certainly of the implied sexual element. He has said, I believe, that they won’t be “going there” despite the fact that in many ways they already have.
Cesare and Lucrezia are already emotionally incestuous. (Where Sam and Dean Winchester will be for the rest of their lives: erotically codependent.) This is something that exists. It’s not necessarily a stage in the development of a “regular” incestuous relationship, although it can be. But I say, if you’re going to go there, you had might as well go all the way!
I took a very long, detailed survey for Showtime in which I repeated many times that they should turn Cesare and Lucrezia’s relationship sexual because everyone would enjoy it. And with so many people watching the show just for them – well, give a frakkin’ dog a frakkin’ bone, won’t ya?
Despite the fact that Lucrezia and Cesare spend many of their scenes exchanging longing looks, talking about how much they love each other, touching each other whenever possible, talking about their love lives, etc., there usually is a chastity to their scenes.
Even when, on Lucrezia’s WEDDING NIGHT, he carries her away from her husband and into her bedroom and lays her down on her bed, the sexual element is barely detectable. But the marital and sexual imagery of that scene are there to compensate for the lack of actual visible lust. And then in other scenes, like my favorite (below), they look like they want to lick each other from head to foot.
One thing I will mention, something which is perhaps or perhaps not obvious to the casual viewer, is that the lovers that Cesare and Lucrezia do eventually take seem more like substitutes than anything else. You’ll notice that Paolo is dark like Cesare, and Ursula is blond like Lucrezia, and Lucrezia becomes involved with Paolo immediately after leaving Rome and Cesare, and Cesare gets involved with Ursula basically seconds after Lucrezia tells him not to make fun of her husband because she must accept her new life.
Well, I think I’m done. I actually don’t ship Cesare/Lucrezia all that hard right now. But they deserved a post. I do ship them, though, to make that clear. And when the show returns, I can’t wait to see them get darker and angstier and look at each other like they want to lick each other from head to foot.
Francois Arnaud – he’s a magnetic man. And he has mastered the right way to stare at Lucrezia that just makes you melt. Like he loves her soooooooooooooooooooo bad, and wants her soooooooooooooooooooooooo bad, but there’s too much goodness in her that he feels like he can’t touch it.