Presentation on theme: "Hollywood & History What are the dangers of using Hollywood films to study history?Hollywood films."— Presentation transcript:
Hollywood & History What are the dangers of using Hollywood films to study history?Hollywood films
Hollywood & History: the “Woad Warrior” “You have to be incredibly naïve to look at any one movie, and view that as being the gospel anything. I know I don’t. But I also know that--let’s not be naïve--some people do.” Tom Hanks Braveheart... purports to tell the story of the great Scottish patriot, William Wallace, and commits as many historical errors as can be contained in 170 minutes... George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World (1996) THESIS: Braveheart fails to portray accurately either the period or its people. It tells us more about modern times than 13 th century Scotland. Most Hollywood movies distort the past; they do not replace reading history.
Hollywood & History: the “Woad Warrior” A sampling of errors A sampling of errors (small & big): 1) Gibson versus Wallace: Wallace was a giant, Gibson is short 2) Lowland Scots: no kilts, no woad, no way!! 3) Murder of his beloved: pure fiction 4) Wallace & French princess: fictional romance 5) Scots & Irish: anachronistic Celtic solidarity 6) Scottish nationalism: anachronistic medieval “nationalism” 7) The “Noble Savage”: a popular myth from the 18th century 8) William Wallace: not a commoner, hence Sir William Wallace
Hollywood & History: the “Woad Warrior” Mel Gibson becomes Braveheart becomes Mel Gibson (memorial to William Wallace, Stirling, Scotland)
Hollywood & History: the “Woad Warrior” Its cargo of historical nonsense aside, Braveheart is not a very good film... The awful thing is that countless millions, including some Scots even, will accept it as historic truth. Well, this Scot found it embarrassing and vaguely insulting--to history, to Scotland, and to William Wallace. George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World (1996) The difficulty is this. The truths of the movie tend to be clean and pure and powerful and simple. And history never is; history is complex, muddy, difficult. Movies make good guys too good, bad guys too bad. They adopt narrative lines that are too simple, all in an effort to reach a broad audience... You know, this emphasis on simplicity and power and immediately hitting your audience means that the movies are much too simple compared to the past. Mark Carnes, Lehrer News Hour (1998)
Hollywood & History What useful purposes do Hollywood movies serve for the study of history? Well, I hope that the public realizes that you can’t have blockbuster documentaries; that you’re never going to find a film that is absolutely true, and that if you’re going to make it appealing to the general audience, you’ve got to do some compromising... I hope that people use movies as a vehicle to then go and learn more--if they see a movie, they’re fascinated by the subject, they’ll use that as an opportunity to maybe, you know, read a book or maybe look at an actual documentary, rather than just trust what they see on the big screen. Don Lynch, Lehrer News Hour (1998) Television and movies are a major source of information now. It’s not books. It’s not what they learn in the classroom. And I think what happens is our perception of ourselves and our understanding of the past, are being distorted for the purpose of reaching a larger audience. Steve Gillon, University of Oklahoma & The History Channel