Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

With a Spoon?

I've been happily reading history_spork again (though, alas, they haven't had any new entries for about a year). They're much more awesome than me when it comes to shredding movies, but do I love tearing movies apart while I'm watching them.  Honestly, I like most "historical" movies for what they are (usually a good chance to giggle hysterically between wtf?? moments), but the one real exception is the "We swear what we're telling you is the absolute dead-honest truth, no we mean it" type of movie.

Reading their sporking of King Arthur put me in mind of it. To be sure, all movies based on actual events have a certain element of "stupid people will believe this is the real history of The Armada", but a quick look at any history book will disabuse the interested, and everyone else will happily go about their lives, really no more ignorant of history than they were before. It's a movie, for God's sake, not graduate school.

But when they start slapping the "true, true, twoo, we SWEAR IT" label on movies, then they're going a bit too far. I am not a huge proponent of the idea that every movie should have some sort of socially redeeming value (there go my beloved horror movies), but I think if you're going to claim you have an edge up on all the other movies, then you should actually live up to that promise. Otherwise, just make a movie and call it "based on..." just like everyone else.

Mel Gibson is a major offender in this area; Braveheart was just awful - freedom, droit de signeur and a united Scotland? -  and made worse by the claim that it was "OMG, yes true, every bit of it, we're not lying to you this time".  Then, in The Patriot ("no, no, it's just as it happened in the 1700s, right down to the free and emancipated treatment of slaves, because Americans were so much more enlightened than those mean British"), he slapped a few Nazi atrocities onto the history of the British involvement in the War of Independence*, for no reason except that Mel likes his baddies to be black, black as the blackest pitch in HELL, so that when his character butchers the living daylights out of people and traumatizes his sons, he looks good and noble by comparison. 

*(or, as we call it, "that slightly awkward time in the colonies".)

Playing fast and loose with history is fine if you just come out and say "look, we're making shit up", but a generation of Americans is growing up with a very peculiar version of history, and it's making us look a bit retarded to the rest of the world, especially when we go on holiday to those places.

(Okay, most of that isn't the movies' fault; if people ever, you know, read something other than Perez Hilton, Elle, and tabloid rags, they'd be better informed.  But the movies AREN'T HELPING.)

You probably don't expect this, but I tend to give the costuming a pass, even though I giggle at it madly and make snarky comments while I'm watching, because costume in movies is more about creating an atmosphere rather than dead-on accuracy.

...And to make some of them accurately would delay filming by quite a bit. I do love metaphorically ripping them to shreds during the movie, though - and I remember getting so madly excited the first time Bob snarked something we were watching, because it meant I had totally corrupted him, and he was MINE. 


To be absolutely honest, history the way it's taught, is boring. Most kids have no idea how rich and exciting the past is, and if they really knew how full it was of teh sexx0rs and bloody battles, betrayal, incest, more betrayal, outright thieving, and mad bunny sexx0rs with an extra side of betrayal, they'd be riveted. The movies get the excitement right, they just screw up on the facts.  It doesn't need the extra stuff; it's really quite madly exciting all by itself.  The English sneaking fireboats in among the Armada while it was anchored at Calais?  Pure gold.  The battle of Gravelines?  Genius.  Why mash the two together and leave out all the key players?  Ridiculous.  The Armada itself would make a great film - preparations, poor planning, fireships, bad weather, shipwreck off the coast of Ireland, and being killed by the Irish - pathos, courage, comeuppance, and no need for fact bending.   

The other thing is that history is full of coincidence, not logical connections. Each action has a consequence, but there is no neat and tidy way of explaining how things got their names, and being cute just does people a disservice. I know that people like to classify and sort their knowledge, and being able to trot out a quick, smug explanation for something is very satisfying, but, like the neat tied up endings of plot lines in "historical" movies, you're fooling yourself.  Walsingham wasn't a Ninja spy, William Wallace wasn't a commoner fighting for freedom, and Elizabeth never stood on the cliffs (wtf?) in her nightie (Tilbury has no cliffs).  It makes the movie fun, but people should never mistake a movie for history - especially when it comes to historical figures having all sorts of 21st century ideas about the value of the common man, and people's innate right to freedom.

(Remember, before the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, no-one had even thought things like that were worth mentioning.  And it wasn't until Marx started writing about the proles that anyone even considered that worker drones were anything but bodies to be used up, worn out, and replaced with other bodies.  The idea of universal rights for everyone is a concept so new to history that it still has that new-car smell, and the big papery label that reads "this tag not to be removed by anyone but purchaser under penalty of law" is still attached.  Wallace would have stared at you in utter incomprehension if you had started wittering on about freedom, and Elizabeth would have laughed at you.  Rights are for landowners, not the rabble.)

And King Arthur?  Bondage Guinevere, crossbows, and swords from every culture on Earth?  It's just... words fail me.  But take it from me and history_spork , that movie had no truth in it.  I remember when I first started seeing the trailers, and the press releases were talking about how accurate the armour and the weapons were.  I'm no armourer, but I know a 14th century horse rig when I see one.  I just sighed, and waited for it to come on cable.  And it was just as bad as the trailers led me to believe.

I hate it when movies lie to me with a straight face. 


( 78 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
I forget the name of it or if it's supposed to be on TNT, USA, or SciFi, but last night when I was sewing, the TV was saying something about a TV movie about Drake starring the guy who was in the Highland TV series. I... just... cannot... WAIT! Can Elizabeth wear a chicken on her head again? Please please please!
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
It's that bastion of historical accuracy, Sci Fi. ;)
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jan. 15th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strawberrykaren - Jan. 15th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jan. 15th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - virginiadear - Jan. 15th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 18th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
The rest of the world?
Umm ... you ever see a Bollywood treatment of a historical subject? ;)
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
Re: The rest of the world?
I was thinking of history_spork's experience of living in Austria, and having Americans come over and ask about the Trapp family. :) I think the difference is that the Bollywood movies are understood as having a certain amount of camp fantasy in them, like the 1940s "historical" movies like "The Sea Dogs" and "Robin Hood". The modern spate of Hollywood historical movies is trying to pass themselves off as "real" history.
Re: The rest of the world? - thatpotteryguy - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The rest of the world? - reasdream - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The rest of the world? - sarahbellem - Jan. 15th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)
Here is Melisent and I'd favorite...we were busting on it last night in fact..

. So for years we had avoided the movie "Timeline" for two reasons. M liked the book back when she was 16 and I have tried (on the gushing advice of my FiL) to read it on three separate occasions. I was never able to get more than 50 pages in before I just gave up in boredom.

So, I had read all the reviews and M and I decided to skip Timeline. Several years pass. Just before Thanksgiving a co-worker of M's gives her a burned copy saying she knows M is into medieval stuff and will just LOVE this movie.

I'm funny, in that a movie that I will not pay to see, if someone gives me an illegal copy, I will watch in an instant. It's weird. I call it the "Constantine" Rule. Anyway, we watch it, and it is very, very boring.

Then they come to the sieging of the castle at night. Now, as connoisseurs of bad Hollywood medieval movies we know that all arrows HAVE to be lit on fire to be effective, right? Why else would they always light them on fire? What? You mean they had to do it because they had one of those bitchin firesuits around the FX shop, and just HAD to use it? Huh. I thought it was just _the thing to do_, because afterall, that is what they do in all those cool historic movies, right?

Anyway, this seige is taking place at night, and badguys(? I think it was the badguys...I was drunk, er, medicated) say something like "This will surprise them! And they launch a volley of arrows WITHOUT SETTING THEM ON FIRE!!!!!"


The folks outside the castle have the balls to yell out "NIGHT ARROWS!!!!" to warn others of this treachery of you know, an arrow. Not on fire. An arrow used at night. That isn't on fire. A plain arrow. A tricky arrow. A _NIGHT ARROW_.

So, now whenever we see something ridiculous, or just plain wrong we scream out "NIGHT ARROWS!!!!" in a really bad English accent.

Try it some time...it helps....as does Vodka, but I know you don't drink anymore, so yeah. Night Arrows, away!
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)

*laughs uproariously and falls over dead*
(no subject) - isenglass - Jan. 15th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - silk_noir - Jan. 15th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thatpotteryguy - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bdeb - Jan. 16th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - midnightpeapod - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
"Bondage Guinevere"

Srsly WTF?!?! W00t! I *knew* it!

I'm having more fun reading the biographies (from various authors) of some of the people involved in the whole "Colony Independence" thing. ;) It's helping me get a better understanding of what led to the War Between the States, or as most Southerners refer to it, "The War of Northern Agression." And to think I hated taking American History classes in school.
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
Agreed - I wouldn't object to history movies so much if they didn't claim to be Truth and/or people didn't assume "well, that's what the movie said, so it must be true" (full disclosure: I hate Braveheart. The only things I don't hate about it are the soundtrack and the 'irish guy').

History can be taught as interesting. I could tell you all about 3rd grade doing local history and making hoe cakes and corn husk dolls etc etc. Or reading (translated) primary sources in high school relating to the Russian Revolution and the Mexican Revolution. But I'm increasingly aware that I lucked out.
Jan. 15th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
MY Island!

I did love that guy.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 15th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
I couldn't get into that book and I fell asleep during the movie (on TNT or whatever - I didn't pay to see it). I don't get the hype.
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
I think the History Channel's "History vs. Hollywood" show about the movie disappointed me even more in trying to make the movie sound plausible and not poking any holes at it. C'mon! Some depth please? You're supposed to be a history show!

Aye, you're right, it's worse when someone claims to have done the research and then tromps all over history than when they make no bones about making fantasy. Honesty, people.
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
because costume in movies is more about creating an atmosphere rather than dead-on accuracy. It took Ridley Scott spelling this out for me to finally get it. Reluctantly, but getting it. But one look at Jane Merrow's green polyester laced-up bodice in The Lion in Winter sets me right back.

Wallace would have stared at you in utter incomprehension if you had started wittering on about freedom

yes! Yes! *jumping up and down*
Jan. 15th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Timeline lost me almost immediately. They made this huge fricking deal about dude's glasses....oh god....can't wear glasses when you travel back.....but paid no attention to the fact that a) the girl had a plastic hairclip holding her b) lose and uncovered and modern hairstyle back. We're fine with that, apparently. And I was done....
Jan. 15th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Worse, when the "medieval peasants" are walking around with modern hairstyles, no head-coverings, and are those hightlights???

I never saw Timeline (and had managed to completely block the memory of even the preview), but I've seen plenty of time-travel movies and television shows; and everyone always shows up with modern hair. Not only is everyone's hair sparkling clean, and bleached, and carefully cut, but they all have that silky smoothness that I know I can only achieve with a hair-dryer. My husband once said, "Maybe they washed their hair and then ran around in circles, really fast, to dry it."
(no subject) - fallconsmate - Jan. 15th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
modern hair - reasdream - Jan. 16th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bwliadain - Jan. 16th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
"a daring escape from a castle tower in a bloody *blizzard* "

I think people make too much of this. I mean, it's SNOW, people. Not a rain of fire, or a plague of frogs. Really, it's totally possible to walk outside in the snow...particularly when it's cold enough the Thames has frozen. I don't care how much snow it was; if you're properly dressed (and they were, not being totally stupid - it's not like they smuggled her out in her jammies or something), it's just not that big of a deal.

Says someone who grew up in a snowly climate.
(no subject) - snailstichr - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - perilousknits - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chargirlgenius - Jan. 15th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dream_wind - Jan. 16th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - florentinescot - Jan. 16th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
It is sad that Hollywood can't come out with something slightly remotely historical.

Our school history education (well, at least mine and I'm sure I'm not the only one) pretty much stopped after WWII. And the World Wars were really only briefly touched upon in about a week. Sad. That and my world history teacher in HS told us at the beginning of the class that she didn't like non-European history so she wouldn't teach us that. WTF?!?
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
"Our school history education (well, at least mine and I'm sure I'm not the only one) pretty much stopped after WWII. And the World Wars were really only briefly touched upon in about a week."

That's cause the 20th Century isn't history. It's called "current events". If people alive today can remember it, you can't really get historical perspective on it.
(no subject) - luciab - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladyhelwynn - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
You'd weep blood if you knew how ignorant my students are of history. They don't even know the most basic plot. That the (American) Civil War came before WWI, which came before WWII, which came before Korea, and then Vietnam. They aren't sure when the Victorian period was. They aren't sure anyone existed before the Victorian period, except maybe pirates, and they aren't sure the pirates aren't Victorian. Because didn't the Victorians like those frilly blouses?

Last semester, I used A Christmas Carol for the final assignment, and I was baffled by how many students told me in their essays that Mr. Dickens had an admirable grasp of Victorian history, because it was all very accurate. The date 1843 was written on the board for the whole lesson. I...drank a lot when grading those papers. I don't by any means know everything about history, but these are kids who don't even watch the movies you mentioned because if they did, they fear they might learn something accurate about history, which would be boring.

Too bad they didn't know when they signed up for my research class that historical and literary research are just about the only kinds I know how to do...and that the final paper topics are assigned. By me.
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)

Two Thumbs Up for YOU

You totally made my morning! I love teachers like you!
(no subject) - etinterrapax - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alphafemale1 - Jan. 15th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - etinterrapax - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alphafemale1 - Jan. 15th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - florentinescot - Jan. 16th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
I must say I think my favorite part of the King Arthur movie was that the director chose to rename the Picts as the Woads, because (and I do quote) "Picts sounded funny."
I dunno about you, but I think changing one funny sounding name for another historically inaccurate one is kinda atrocious. but maybe that's just me.
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
I definitely agree.

I loved movies like A Knight's Tale, but I knew that it was definitely NOT historically accurate and it never claimed to be as such, so it was easy to just have fun watching. Real history is so much more interesting- even my niece (15 years old) liked Passchendaele and most of it takes place on the homefront! It's only been sold as being based on (rather than completely true) stories the director/star was told by his relatives, and from what I've heard through my family, they've done a not too bad job overall, though there's a few bits that really bug me. I'm not a big WW1 and WW2 person, but the movie struck home way more than any other movie I've seen about the period, including Saving Private Ryan.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the HBO ones lately though- my laurel (who has a degree in Roman history) loved Rome and I really liked John Adams. I really liked the feature that allows you to have pop-up info blurbs explaining if they changed the story, or to say that something actually was true- at least they're admitting that a few things were changed to help the story. I know they aren't perfect, but they are much better than most of the movies that are trying to pass themselves off as history.

Jan. 15th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
See, the thing I love about Knights Tale is that while so much of the detail is wrong, so much of the overall feel is right. The "war and jousting", the grubbiness, "Jesus was English". It's all just translated for modern minds.

I realize that sounds strange, but I admit my perspective was heavily influenced by the episode of "This American Life" called Simulated Worlds, where they took a distinguished professor of Medieval History to Medeval Times and he loved it. It is totally worth paying the $1 to download and listen.
(no subject) - _medb_ - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pinkleader - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eggies_red_dres - Jan. 15th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - midnightpeapod - Jan. 15th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 15th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
I believe it was JFK who first said "History is Gossip" or something to that effect.

That has been my major complaint with most movies lately- I got 30 minutes into "The Other Boleyn Girl" before I turned it off as being boring. And then turned to my Eric and said "The real story is fascinating- why would they make stuff up?!!!" I've never understood it.

My favorite "totally not even close" moment comes from the movie "Elizabeth" (which I do love in a guilty way- Cate Blanchett is awesome!) At the end, they put up the blurb about how "She never saw Dudley in private again." Sure. I don't even know how to begin telling what's wrong with that.

On a side note, most teachers in the US need more schooling. And I AM a certified elementary teacher. This means I am "qualified" teach every subject in grades K-5 in NJ. Now, I do happen to have a very unique and fairly extensive background in Science and History, so I have a lot more knowledge than my colleagues. But it is SHAMEFUL what people don't know, and yet are considered good teacher. SHAMEFUL. A year ago I took the test to get an additional endorsement on my certificate, one for Middle School Social Studies (History, Geography, Sociology, etc). And all I heard while in the room waiting for the test was about how hard it was, and how people were taking it for the second and third time, etc. I passed with above a 90%.

I could go on, with many more examples like this. But the short version is that teachers are not respected as academics- and are not asked to be academics, especially at the elementary level. This leads to a whole group of teachers whose only reason for becoming teachers is a love of children, not a love of learning. And when major universities allow "communications" and "psychology" to be co-requisite majors for educators, instead of requiring specific academic disciplines, that compounds the problem.

One more thing, and then I'm done, I promise: I took a US History II course in college, and the professor handed the first paper back to me with the statement "I gues you're our ringer". And then later in the class made the statement that he guessed that I "had had this material before". I'm in college- which means I had to have had US History II at least twice before, at the Middle School and High School levels. It shouldn't have been new material for ANYBODY.

Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
( 78 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

Latest Month

April 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com