So how was "Caligula"?
I am posting this in slightly inauspicious circumstances. I just got one of those Twitter threats... "Your house will be blown up at 10.47 tonight....". Others have received these. But even though they have proved empty, it is still rather unsettling. And I suspect that, just to be on the safe side, I will be getting the family in the garden at 10.45. That's how it gets to you.
All the same, I really wanted to blog about the reactions to the Caligula programme before A A Gill got his word in. (My prediction? He'll probably ignore. Or he'll take a few more pot shots at my attire and appearance (possibly comparing me unfavourably to the lovely Michael Scott, one of my mates). Maybe he might make a newsworthy recantation... doubt it!
What I wanted to say was how fascinating -- and sometimes surprising, and sometimes really educational -- it is after spending so long making a TV programme to see how people react.
I am grateful for so many appreciative emails (and also for all the emails that argued fiercely with some things I said .. that was great too). And I am grateful for all the appreciative and thoughtful press notices.
Can I say (without seeming too southern metropolitan) how struck I was by the acute (positive and less so) reviews in papers all over the land. I loved the review in the Scottish Herald which said that I shouldn't have been driving a car at the same time as doing a TV commentary (if you cant use a mobile phone, then...!?). They had a point I thought! And there was a piece in the Western Morning News which saw exactly what we were trying to do at the start of the programme.
Then there were the individual comments, via email, Twitter or websites. Some of these were just great (and I dont mean necessarily favourable, but sometimes with serious objections to make..which we've been arguing about since). But there was also a rather dreary underbelly.
The two comments on Digital Spy made my heart sink.
The first asked: "In whose Temple of Venus would you erect your obelisk? Mary Beard's or Catherine Edwards's?"
The second was even worse for me: "I like to think I'm above judging people on their appearance, but Mary Beard is so horrendous and unkempt that I now switch off anything I see her in. It's not just that awful hair, either. The way she gurns and slumps around the screen is very unappealing, and that's before getting to her Wikipedia-lite level of knowledge."
Ok, it's the usual stuff about the looks (I'm 58 right?). But what's this "wiki-lite" stuff. I feel like saying I have studied Caligula and the Roman empire for 40 years or so, I'm a bloody Prof of Classics at Cambridge... you might not like what I am saying (that's fine...), it might actually be worth debating, but it isn't "wiki-lite".
And there was more of that. One generally positive comment on the Telegraph website today said:
"I like watching Mary Beard on TV especially when she is discussing Roman history. But in all honesty I don't think she is a very good historian, although her take on Roman history is different and at times, interesting."
I thought this was partly very nice. But what did s/he mean by saying "in all honesty I don't think she is a very good historian"?.. is it that people might disagree? Well sure..but who is going to count as a "good historian" (help, am I showing my anxieties here?)
Of course, none of this matters very much. After all, it's all about the long dead Caligula. But (given the trolling of this week) it seems that there is a continuum between the sexist abuse and the way people prefer to say "she's a crap historian" rather than "I dont agree with her, for the following reasons...".
But many thanks to the many who did say "I dont agree". with arguments.
Meanwhile I go to bed wondering what Mr Gill will have done. And -- damn -- I am supposed to be boycotting Twitter tomorrow. Rage....!