Getting vestments (and other things liturgical) wrong in TV and Movies

Why won’t tv and movie producers pay for someone to do the minimal
research necessary to know that stoles should not be worn over chasubles (although some hippie-ish priests do so)? Seriously, I see this time and again, even in historical pieces where it looks like producers had some effort put into researching everyone else’s clothes.

What other examples of getting vestments and liturgy wrong in movies and tv can you think of?
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Comments

  • I often see protestant churches depicted with Catholic stuff here and there- immaculate heart of Mary paintings, for instance.

    A lot of screenwriters will try to approximate some kind of archaic liturgical speech and get it all screwed up, e.g. addressing multiple demons as "thou".
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I think I've mentioned before that Call the Midwife supposed to be set in a medical centre run by Anglo Catholic convent in the 1950s and 60s was riddled with them. Two particularly grating ones were that the convent chapel contained a free standing altar, and when a plot featured a wedding, there had to be 'you may now kiss the bride'. Altars didn't move forward until clergy began to go over to westward facing celebration in the 1970s or later, and 'you may now kiss the bride' is an even more recent innovation from seeing it in US films.

    Another wedding error - your typical Jane Austen film or television drama will end with a festive wedding, but that class of people did not go in for big weddings at that date. They were regarded as rather low class, all right perhaps for farmers, but a bit brash, vulgar and not the thing for gentry or those who had aspirations to be thought as such.

    I don't know when the change happened and big weddings came back into fashion, but suspect gradually on from Victoria's wedding in 1840 and the development of the Victoria and Albert portrayal of family life.
  • There are plenty of historical consultants around and if there are errors, it is entirely on the head(s) of the producer(s). A now-deceased clerical friend in Toronto had a really good gig as a consultant on films and television, specializing in colonial and Victorian periods. He regularly kept the clergy in period garments. His real problem was the producer who had a vague memory of seeing the wedding on Father of the Bride or of TV evangelists. His favourite producers were Jewish and Muslim as they knew that they knew nothing, but were aware that there were customs which they had to get right, and let him get on with it.

    He found the vaguely-Christian-origins producers the worst, and disliked working with US firms on Civil and War of Independence projects as producers often had very political or national mythology notions which they did not like challenged. With a decent knowledge of African American music of the ante-bellum period, he had much work in trying to draw producers away from "Sister Act" remakes and was once cut out of a production of an underground railway made-for-TV film for objecting to Gounod's Ave Maria being sung by a clergyman at a lynching (with lovely damages for constructive dismissal, I was given to understand, as my glass of Lagavulin 16-year-old was being topped up for the retelling).

    His triumph was getting a 1810 Presbyterian congregation to line out the hymns rather than use the bright red 1975 Common Praise hymnbook. Sadly, a heart weakened by radiation therapy stopped, and his work is done. Googling will find a few dozen Canadian consultants, and I find it odd that UK producers do not have stables of them at call.

  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    edited August 22
    I used to get very annoyed indeed to hear, in almost every TV wedding in an old-fashioned-ish church, "Till death do us part." Followed by me shouting, "Till death us do part!" But since then I've seen the former in one or another official book; can't remember the denom. But it wasn't just the scriptwriter reading the words out of order and writing it wrong. "You may now kiss the bride" is, of course, unnecessary to say and dumb. But thought essential by many, almost like that's the moment the marriage "takes." (But why not, "You may now kiss your wife"? Picky, I know...)
  • One thing I noticed in bad horror shows is that the satanic cults tend to celebrate versus populum. Novus ordo satanism is deeply inauthentic.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.
  • I think there's a problem of a tradeoff between historical accuracy and intelligibility. Producers want viewers to instantly recognise something as a wedding, satanic ritual, etc., without being distracted from the main thrust of the story, and there are various tropes that signal these.

    That said, John Le Carré's occasional descriptions of non-conformist church environments in his novels have always annoyed me - for instance a baptist pastor descibed as having a "parish".
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Father Brown has clearly been transplanted to a C of E Church.
    Fr Jack was clearly neither profane nor drunk enough!
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Father Brown has clearly been transplanted to a C of E Church. ...
    I agree. That's another horror. Father Brown appears to be a CofE vicar who just happens by some odd mistake to be RC in a Gloucestershire village which uniquely got left out of the Reformation and where everyone is habitually RC, upper and lower class alike, in the way in the 1950s those sort of communities were habitually and unthinkingly CofE, with a chapel somewhere around for the Methodists. His church is very obviously a CofE one as well.

    The original Chesterton Father Brown is a very different figure in a very different situation.
  • The Father Brown TV series is an abomination.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Many church interior scenes are bright with many lighted candles, even when no service is happening or imminent. And although coloured stoles for C of E clergy were unknown in the 18th and most of the 19th century, they frequently make an appearance. By contrast, the clergy in the Grantchester series, middle of the road (Westcott House?), set in the 1950s, are invariably shown in scarf and hood.
  • The Father Brown TV series is an abomination.

    But quite fun in its own way.

    In more recent series, I get the impression that Father Brown's little homilies to the murderer (generally on the theme of God's forgiveness) are actually fairly in line with Roman Catholic thinking, but for the first few series I did wonder quite what the church and police advisers did: all I could think of was that they sat in the corner playing drinking games when they spotted an error.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Fawkes Cat that gets two of these 👏👏 and a 🤣.
  • May I include live theatre productions? So many Shakespeare plays involve clergy, and so many get it wrong. My local company could not be bothered to look into the making of proper vestments, and I even donated several books on the subject.
  • ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.

    Right, St. Peter's Cross. Near me a Lutheran St. Peter's Church has upside down crosses along its windows.

  • ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.

    Right, St. Peter's Cross. Near me a Lutheran St. Peter's Church has upside down crosses along its windows.

    I seem to recall an X-files episode exploiting this confusion.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited August 23
    angloid wrote: »
    Many church interior scenes are bright with many lighted candles, even when no service is happening or imminent. And although coloured stoles for C of E clergy were unknown in the 18th and most of the 19th century, they frequently make an appearance. By contrast, the clergy in the Grantchester series, middle of the road (Westcott House?), set in the 1950s, are invariably shown in scarf and hood.

    That one struck me too, but I am not disposed to complain too much as I get rather tired of mistakes being made in the other direction. Lighted candles on the Communion Table before the mid-Victorian period is a pet-peeve of mine. Also votive candle stands in MOTR Anglican churches in the 1950s - I don't think so! Freestanding altars before about 1965 is another one I can be very caustic about.

    When I was a child the Rector of the neighbouring parish to the one I grew up in a Westcott House man (ordained in the early 1960s, IIRC) who tended to wear choir habit for everything except baptisms (surplice and stole) and Communion (chasuble in one church; surplice and stole in the other two.) A lot less 'tatting-up' was done in the 1950s than we have become accustomed to today. The clergy around our way were typically MOTR-leaning-high and trained at Lincoln, Westcott, or King's College London, and that was the usual mode of dress before Parish Communion became all the rage about 45-50 years ago. I knew one or two parishes that had been slow to change and they were still basically doing that in the early 1980s.
  • angloid wrote: »
    Many church interior scenes are bright with many lighted candles, even when no service is happening or imminent.
    No church could afford the candles, or the insurance! I had a word with my son on this, as he works in the theatre/film business, he agreed but said that "no-one would dare to say anything to the Director"! There's also the issue of the Parish Priest spending all their time lurking somewhere in the church - assuming they're not helping the Police solve a murder of course!

    Some of you might just know that I have a passing interest in trains. Film companies come to preserved railways for historical scenes, but often ignore the advice they are given. Very often, in scenes said in (say) the 20s or 30s, the train will be a 1950s British Railways one with livery to match. That's just annoying.

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I think there's a problem of a tradeoff between historical accuracy and intelligibility. Producers want viewers to instantly recognise something as a wedding, satanic ritual, etc., without being distracted from the main thrust of the story, and there are various tropes that signal these.

    That said, John Le Carré's occasional descriptions of non-conformist church environments in his novels have always annoyed me - for instance a baptist pastor descibed as having a "parish".

    I found Whatsername's depiction of an evangelical pastor / missionary in The Poisonwood Bible deeply irritating, however good Whatsername's book might have been (I thought it was a straw-man brain explosion but just saying). I am yet to meet a pastor/ missionary of that type bowing his head reverently / piously / pompously and performing the sign of the cross when saying grace. And that was just the surface level complaint.

    AFAIK it never graced the silver screen, but I know little about film. I saw Mary Poppins once. In about 1967.
  • Seriously though, why do so many people who make movies and TV think that stoles go over chasubles? Although you see it from place to place I think the majority of people who wear chasubles put them over their stoles like they should (am I wrong)? Maybe in a show about a priest they will get it right. But shows that have one-off scenes involving a priest, especially if they are set in the present day or in recent decades, seem to get the stole and chasuble thing wrong more often than they get it right, in my opinion. It drives me crazy. Where are people getting this idea from?
  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.

    Quite possibly in connection with St Peter, who was said to have insisted that his own crucifixion be head-down, as he was not worthy to suffer in the same position as Our Lord?
  • Seriously though, why do so many people who make movies and TV think that stoles go over chasubles? Although you see it from place to place I think the majority of people who wear chasubles put them over their stoles like they should (am I wrong)? Maybe in a show about a priest they will get it right. But shows that have one-off scenes involving a priest, especially if they are set in the present day or in recent decades, seem to get the stole and chasuble thing wrong more often than they get it right, in my opinion. It drives me crazy. Where are people getting this idea from?
    The same place they get the idea that a Catholic priest or a generic Protestant minister should be wearing a cassock and surplice. Though the ones that have surprised me lately have been the historical dramas that have priests or bishops wearing chasubles all the time, even when walking through the streets of medieval Paris at night.
  • ZacchaeusZacchaeus Shipmate
    Not vestments or liturgy, but I do get very frustrated with funeral scenes in film and TV.
    So often there is a burial in a new grave but in a very old part of the churchyard, where there hasn’t been a new grave for 100’s of years. It looks atmospheric though...
  • Zacchaeus wrote: »
    Not vestments or liturgy, but I do get very frustrated with funeral scenes in film and TV.
    So often there is a burial in a new grave but in a very old part of the churchyard, where there hasn’t been a new grave for 100’s of years. It looks atmospheric though...
    And there's already a headstone with the deceased's name on it at the time of burial.

  • Zappa wrote: »
    I found Whatsername's depiction of an evangelical pastor / missionary in The Poisonwood Bible deeply irritating
    So did my wife, it just didn't ring true.

  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Oblatus wrote: »
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.

    Quite possibly in connection with St Peter, who was said to have insisted that his own crucifixion be head-down, as he was not worthy to suffer in the same position as Our Lord?

    Yes, quite. Most people sufficiently Christian know this, but somehow it’s become a standard part of Hollywood “satanic cults.” Really quite strange. I think it’s also most often done with a cross and not a crucifix, which I also find somewhat amusing. If anything, turning a crucifix could be construed as offensive, just because seeing Jesus at that angle could be disconcerting. But a regular old wooden cross?

    (NB that I cannot now name any films to back up my points; mea culpa)
  • ECraigR wrote: »
    Oblatus wrote: »
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.

    Quite possibly in connection with St Peter, who was said to have insisted that his own crucifixion be head-down, as he was not worthy to suffer in the same position as Our Lord?

    Yes, quite. Most people sufficiently Christian know this, but somehow it’s become a standard part of Hollywood “satanic cults.” Really quite strange. I think it’s also most often done with a cross and not a crucifix, which I also find somewhat amusing. If anything, turning a crucifix could be construed as offensive, just because seeing Jesus at that angle could be disconcerting. But a regular old wooden cross?

    (NB that I cannot now name any films to back up my points; mea culpa)

    Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, if memory serves.
  • Weddings that are meant to be in English churches which get it all wrong. Worst example is The Wedding Date which has the bride preceded by "flower girls" walking in on her father's left arm - it should be bride on her father's right arm and in the UK they are called bridesmaids, as any fule no.
  • I have had small flower girls walking ahead of the bridal party, though (and, on one occasions, distributing petals as they went).
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I'm sure there's an original, real, Father Brown story where Father Brown spots that a clergyman is a fake one and really an actor who's somehow wormed his way into a living and a comfortable vicarage by the fact that he has a huge Bible perpetually open on a book stand in his vicarage, from which he declaims fire, brimstone and hell, while surrounding himself with candles and various late C19 Anglo-Catholic tat genuflecting ostentatiously on every possible occasion and wandering around in the most ornate vestments - possibly in the street - as referred to above.

    Father Brown, though RC, is sufficiently cognisant with the CofE of his day (Chesterton having converted to being RC) to recognise that a real clergyman would either be a fire and brimstone Bible basher or a flamboyant Anglo-Catholic, but that anyone who presented himself as both simultaneously could only be an actor and a fake.

    I think it turned out that the entire village was inhabited by actors or former actors, playing the part of squire, his lady, rustics, servants etc for some dodgy purpose, but it's a long time ago, and I can't remember the reason.
  • Blackmail.

    (That was the reason in the Father Brown story, which I reread recently. Enoch, it is indeed very apt for this thread.)
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Robert Armin you don't happen to remember the name of the story do you?
  • I have had small flower girls walking ahead of the bridal party, though (and, on one occasions, distributing petals as they went).

    Well that's a hazard for a start. Mash up the petals and you have people slipping all over the place, especially if you have a floor of encaustic tiles :grimace:
  • I have had small flower girls walking ahead of the bridal party, though (and, on one occasions, distributing petals as they went).

    Well that's a hazard for a start. Mash up the petals and you have people slipping all over the place, especially if you have a floor of encaustic tiles :grimace:

    At a wedding, maybe, but if you chuck the petals around for a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament (say, at Corpus Christi), then Our Lord, and His Blessed Mother (along with the Angels, and Saints) will preserve you from harm.

    Not that you're likely to see such a procession in a Baptist Church.
    :wink:

    Yet.
    :innocent:

  • Enoch, I've checked and it was "The Vampire of the Village".
  • SpikeSpike Admin
    edited August 24
    I remember the Christmas special of The Vicar of Dibley where Geraldine was wearing a green stole at Midnight Mass.

    A few other observations about churches in general in TV drama:

    The vicar/minister/priest is always present in the church.
    The tiniest village church has an organ equivalent to the one in York Minster. Come to think of it, the bells are the same.
    Every single church of any denomination in Wales only ever sings Cwm Rhondda.
  • O, wrong-coloured stoles are commonplace - wasn't there an episode of EastEnders, where the Vicar wore a green stole at a wedding?
    :grimace:
  • O, wrong-coloured stoles are commonplace - wasn't there an episode of EastEnders, where the Vicar wore a green stole at a wedding?
    :grimace:

    At least it wasn’t purple, which I’ve seen before
  • Spike wrote: »
    The tiniest village church has an organ equivalent to the one in York Minster.

    Unless it's a little, out-of-tune instrument, played by a tone-deaf elderly woman.
  • Finally remembered the name of the most error-ridden series ever -- The Book of Daniel. They even spelled the name of the church wrong on the sign out front ("St. Barnabus").

    IIRC, he always wore green vestments, no matter the season or holiday. The Diocesan Bishop (who was having an affair with the priest's father, the married retired bishop), was at "St. Barnabus" all the time. It was apparently a diocese of only one parish.

    I can't remember all the other liturgical and ecclesiastical atrocities -- it's been quite a few years.
  • Hmm. Perhaps it was one of those little breakaway 'Continuing' churches?
    :wink:
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited August 24
    O, wrong-coloured stoles are commonplace - wasn't there an episode of EastEnders, where the Vicar wore a green stole at a wedding?
    :grimace:
    Spike wrote: »
    At least it wasn’t purple, which I’ve seen before
    Perhaps the vicar was crypto-Lutheran? In Lutheran churches here, at least, the color of the day—be it green, purple, blue, red or white—is used at weddings.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited August 24
    I have had small flower girls walking ahead of the bridal party, though (and, on one occasions, distributing petals as they went).

    Well that's a hazard for a start. Mash up the petals and you have people slipping all over the place, especially if you have a floor of encaustic tiles :grimace:

    At a wedding, maybe, but if you chuck the petals around for a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament (say, at Corpus Christi), then Our Lord, and His Blessed Mother (along with the Angels, and Saints) will preserve you from harm.

    Not that you're likely to see such a procession in a Baptist Church.
    :wink:

    Yet.
    :innocent:

    There weren't that many petals. And the aisles were carpeted, Nonconformists not going in for the suspiciously Anglican encaustic tiles!
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I think it turned out that the entire village was inhabited by actors or former actors, playing the part of squire, his lady, rustics, servants etc for some dodgy purpose, but it's a long time ago, and I can't remember the reason.
    Midsomer Something, of course!

  • Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    The Diocesan Bishop (who was having an affair with the priest's father, the married retired bishop), was at "St. Barnabus" all the time. It was apparently a diocese of only one parish.

    Reminds me a bit of Rev. Although most of it was pretty accurate, I never understood why the Archdeacon was always hanging around and why he had such a big say in how the parish was run.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Enoch, I've checked and it was "The Vampire of the Village".
    Thank you.

  • Hmm. Perhaps it was one of those little breakaway 'Continuing' churches?
    :wink:

    :lol:

    I doubt it -- the priest was very liberal, and the Bishop (the one having an affair with the priest's father) was a woman.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    In Rev as the credits at the end of the episode rolled there was listed "Liturgical advisor" (or similar term)
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I always particularly like the upside down crosses in horror movies. That’s hardly the most blasphemous thing in Christian Iconography. I mean, I think my cathedral has a representation of an upside down cross in one of the stained glass windows.
    St. Peter's, innit?

  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    edited August 25
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    The same place they get the idea that a Catholic priest or a generic Protestant minister should be wearing a cassock and surplice. Though the ones that have surprised me lately have been the historical dramas that have priests or bishops wearing chasubles all the time, even when walking through the streets of medieval Paris at night.
    This has long driven me nuts, both as a performer and as a critic. As noted by others here, even when expertise is available, too few directors have any interest in exploiting it; they know what they want, and they are not concerned about what would actually have been worn or done in that time, place and circumstance.

    In one production of Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmélites," the Chaplain was still clad in his cassock in the last scene, which would have cost him his head in real life; as the sisters made their procession through the mob on their way to the guillotine, he repeatedly crossed himself, rather than any of them. And I've forgotten how many productions of that one I've seen in which the Chaplain goes scuttling through the streets wearing a chasuble. Seriously? It's the Terror! You're dead meat!

    In one world premiere opera, the RC parish priest was shown coming to the wedding party wearing not just his cassock but his surplice and stole. Fortunately, I was allowed to attend the dress rehearsal, after which I pulled the PR person (another sensible Episcopalian) aside and told her what needed to be fixed and why. She was able to get through to the director and make him realize that he really didn't want that error to be a feature in the review.
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