Have you heard people talking about something or someone called “the Young Pope?” Have you wondered what they were talking about, but hesitated to ask because people are often rude to others when they don’t know things? Don’t worry about it, because it’s my job to tell you what / who the Young Pope is and I’m not allowed to make you feel stupid.
The Young Pope is actually The Young Pope on HBO.
As the proverbial Young Pope genie, I will grant you 42 answers to 42 questions. No more. No less.
What is The Young Pope?
A television show.
So it’s not just a meme?
Yeah, I mean it’s also the meme. The Young Pope is a show title that inspires comedy. For example, some chuckleheads have been doing this sort of thing:
i'm a bitch / i'm a lover / i'm the pope / only younger— josh androsky (@ShutUpAndrosky) January 4, 2017
Okay, what’s the show about?
A young pope.
Sure, but what’s the central conflict?
The central conflict of a TV show is generally hinted at in the show’s marketing materials, unless it’s one of those very top-secret things like some Netflix shows. You know, the kind where they don’t want you to have any idea what it is ahead of time because the fun is the mystery. I’m not sure if that always works out.
Anyway, the tagline is not for one of those shows. The tagline for The Young Pope, as written on this official HBO promotional poster, is “his religion is revolution.” It’s vague, but tells us the show has something to do with religion and conflict. Feels like we already knew that.
From watching the official trailer for The Young Pope, we get a better idea of the central conflict. The conflict is between a young pope and everyone who doesn’t understand or like him.
The fun is...?
In the trailer he says, “My only sin is that my conscience does not accuse me of anything,” making me feel sort of like I wouldn’t like him either. I guess the fun is he wears extravagant hats and smokes cigarettes because Young Pope doesn’t give AF.
So he’s like the X Games of popes?
Yes, you could say religion is his extreme sport! And you wouldn’t be totally wrong!
The guy who played the Nazi doctor on American Horror Story: Asylum and the evil prison warden in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard also plays someone who really doesn’t like the Young Pope.
In the trailer, he says, and I quote, “The young are always more extreme than the old.” I mean, okay, though it was my actual great aunt who told me President Obama was siphoning money out of her checking account and that’s why she doesn’t “believe” in online banking. He also says “I’m willing to wage a war without end against you.” That also sounds extreme.
What are the themes?
At the end of the trailer, the Young Pope says “I am the most powerful man of all.” So, it seems like the themes are going to be young vs. old, extreme vs. extreme, man vs. man, and powerful men.
Another theme is probably feminism, given that everyone in the trailer is mad about Diane Keaton’s character being close personal friends with the Young Pope, and particularly about her expressing opinions on his pending decisions. No offense, but the Catholic Church notoriously hates it when women hold power. I was baptized Catholic and I’m a girl so I can say it.
What are some juicy rumors about this show?
The Young Pope drops a baby.
How is it that some of my friends on the internet seem to have already watched all of The Young Pope?
They did something illegal. Unless they live in Italy or the UK, in which case they watched the show normally because it already aired there.
What are some spoilers from the plot summaries available on Wikipedia?
No! Don’t read those!
Who plays the Young Pope?
Who is Jude Law?
What are his films?
The Talented Mr. Ripley (he’s not Mr. Ripley), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (he’s Lemony Snicket), Spy (he’s a spy, not the main one though), Dom Hemingway (he’s Dom Hemingway), The Aviator (Leonardo DiCaprio is the aviator).
What are his best films?
The Holiday on DVD and The Holiday on Blu-ray.
Which film has the highest score on Metacritic, for a more objective answer than Kaitlyn’s?
Probably Hugo. I only checked a few. I don’t love how we’re defining the word “objective” as “the aggregate of the opinions of a lot of dudes.”
Is there some reason that Jude Law playing the Pope is funny?
Am I supposed to think Jude Law as the Young Pope is… hot?
Yeah, I think definitely you are.
How old is HBO’s Pope Pius XIII?
How old was the real youngest pope?
There is some debate over this. According to Wikipedia, “the probably youngest popes” were Pope Benedict IX who was either 11 years old, 20 years old, or an age in between 11 and 20 when he started his papacy, and Pope John XII, who was 18 years old. Both of them were popes approximately one thousand years ago.
So the Young Pope is “young” relative to what?
Yeah but some popes have been a lot younger.
Not recently, though. The current pope is 80 and when he became the Pope he was 77.
Is it globally illegal to elect leaders that aren’t old white dudes?
Not yet! Though it is frowned upon.
How old is Jude Law now, and how old was he when he filmed The Young Pope?
Jude Law was born on December 29th, 1972. Right now he’s 44 years old. When he filmed The Young Pope he was two different ages: 42 at the beginning (August 2015) and 43 at the end (February 2016).
Would Jude Law be the youngest person to win an Emmy for portraying a Pope?
Yeah. Kerry Washington (age 39) has been nominated twice for playing Olivia Pope on Scandal, but she hasn’t won.
Is the character of the Young Pope based on a real person?
No. On the show, Jude Law plays Pope Pius XIII (born Lenny Belardo), a former Archbishop of New York. In real life there was a Pope Pius XIII (born Earl Pulvermacher), but he wasn’t really the Pope. He was elected “Pope” in 1998 by a small, conservative group of Catholics who had splintered off from the main church. He lived in Springdale, Washington. The actual Pope at the time was Pope John Paul II.
The main similarities are the names (duh!) and the fact that the Young Pope is very conservative. You might have thought a show called The Young Pope would be about a Pope who shakes things up in a hippie liberal kind of way, but it’s the opposite. Another theme: irony.
Not that he’s the basis for HBO’s Young Pope, but how old was Pope Pius XIII in real life?
Pope Pius XIII was a lot of different ages, but when he was elected unofficial pope of the state of Washington he was 80.
Were there other Pope Pius-es?
Yeah. St. Pius I was the Pope from the years 140 to 155. Pius II was the Pope from 1458 to 1464. There was a very large gap between Pius I and Pius II, as you can see. The most recent Pius was Pope Pius XII, who was the Pope from 1939 to 1958. He was the original “cool pope,” IMO, as he worked with the German resistance against the Nazis.
Okay. Who will play the Young Pope’s narrative foil?
What is a narrative foil?
A narrative foil is a character who is sort of the opposite of the main character in a lot of ways, creating a contrast that makes qualities of the main character’s arc and personality easier to identify.
Oh. Diane Keaton.
What’s her character?
Her name is Sister Mary, and she’s a nun who helped raise the Young Pope in an orphanage. They’re both American, which I forgot to mention earlier but that’s supposed to be at least as weird as the fact that the Pope is young. The show could have been titled American Pope. And it could have had its theme song be Lenny Kravitz’s cover of “American Women” from the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I can’t imagine the rights cost that much.
Fun trivia: in real life there has never been a US-born Pope.
Sister Mary is the Young Pope’s personal secretary and she wears a shirt with a virgin joke on it. This is in contrast with the behavior of the Young Pope, who in his own words “does not sin.” But he smokes! And probably unfiltereds!
Is this the first time Diane Keaton has played a character named Sister Mary?
No, she played another character named Sister Mary in the 2001 television movie Sister Mary Explains It All. It’s a dark comedy written by the playwright Christopher Durang, based on his own 1979 play of a similar name. It debuted on Showtime and was poorly received by the Catholic League, which took out a full-page ad in Variety encouraging Viacom’s then-executive-chairman Sumner Redstone to “condemn” the film.
What was the last thing I saw Diane Keaton in?
Most recently she voiced a character in Finding Dory. I think the last movie I saw her in was the 2007 romantic comedy Because I Said So, which is pretty good. She’s famous for The Godfather and Annie Hall.
Which Diane Keaton movie is the best?
The First Wives Club.
I also have some basic Catholicism background questions.
How would a Pope everyone hates get elected?
What a stimulating question. Election systems are often flawed.
Yeah, but specifically?
According to this website about Catholicism, this is how a new Pope gets elected:
15 to 20 days after a papal vacancy, the cardinals gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for a Mass invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in electing a new pope. Only cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote in a conclave. They are known as the cardinal electors, and their number is limited to 120. For the conclave itself, the cardinal electors process to the Sistine Chapel and take an oath of absolute secrecy before sealing the doors. The cardinals vote by secret ballot.
Since only 120 people get to vote for the new Pope, it stands to reason that many of the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world will be unhappy about their choice. I mean, this is just what happens when a small group of people select a leader on behalf of a very large group of people.
I also have some basic Italy background questions.
Where is Italy?
How is Italy’s democracy looking?
Not great. But then again, glass houses.
Was The Young Pope filmed in Italy?
Yes, though the Pope lives in the Vatican, which is technically a separate sovereign state within Italy. The Young Pope was filmed in Italy — Rome, specifically. Most of The Young Pope was filmed using a re-creation of the Vatican built by Cinecittà, the biggest film studio in the country. Unfortunately this film studio was founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini for the purpose of churning out fascist propaganda. Fortunately it is now being used to make The Young Pope.
I also have some basic premium cable background questions.
In Italy, was The Young Pope more popular than the initial release of Game of Thrones?
Is The Young Pope going to be good like a lot of famous HBO shows or real messed up like True Detective’s second season?
I’m hoping it’s both. According to someone who watched it illegally, “it’s very good.”
I also have some basic questions about whether this is appropriate.
Is this appropriate?
Are the clothes important?
The Young Pope rocks the flyest snuggies pic.twitter.com/23SBgBCuWd— Kwame Opam (@kwameopam) November 28, 2016
"of course you don't like my hat. not everyone 'gets' what vetements is doing. but i do. i'm very young." pic.twitter.com/i0pdtYVzbF— Pope (A Young One) (@soalexgoes) January 4, 2017
Diane keaton em "The Young Pope" (foto por Isa Menk) pic.twitter.com/zXUBj8Fki4— Edu Oliveira (@edumagatsu) December 21, 2016
What other things are important?
I laughed when I read this production detail on Wikipedia: “The main character is almost always seen only from the waist up, to give the impression that he might be soaring. [Paolo] Sorrentino said he inherited this technique from Spike Lee.” What would be the point of this? We’ll have to watch and find out.
Also: the Young Pope drinks cherry Coke.
Should I watch The Young Pope?
That’s between you and your god and your cable subscription package.