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Witless
At the time of writing this post, I haven't really fully decided what I believe yet. But, I have opinions enough to write this post all the same.

It's about how historical films mess around with the facts. A lot of people know these films aren't staying true to life. But a lot of people don't know how fictious some of these films are being.
With the recent trend for films like, Troy, Gladiator, and Braveheart over the last 10 years. I do wonder just how many people think that is the way things were.

More to the point, I wonder if it matters whether or not they believe in some of the things portrayed in them. Take for instance the film called The Patriot, in which Mel Gibson is once again slaying evil english folk. In his portrayal, the noble folks gallop around the countryside saving young damsel americans from the english that lock people in churches and burn them.

Now as far as I'm aware, that war was less about freedom, and more about rich land owners getting tired of paying British taxes, and so stirring up the people into fighting for 'independance'. Yeah, I know that history is often told in a biased fashion even without films. But, well films reach an international audience more than biased history lessons do lately.

I seem to see more and more folks basing their view of the world on silly fictious films, that are vaguelly based on reality, but more based on increasing drama. Since most writers and directors seem to love clear cut good guys and bad guys, it's always this same old retelling of pure as snow good guys, and two dimensional evil 'baddies'.
It's not a very helpful way of portraying the past. I am not going to go deeply to get into the fact that a lot of people still seem to view the world in a "goodies, and baddies" mentality. Though I will say films are not the cause, but seem more like an indication that that is the way people prefer to view things.

I used to think, it doesn't matter because smart people will see through the lies... but well that's how history gets lost. It's when too many people keep telling a a false story, by adding their own bits onto it to make it more interesting. Histories already biased because 'history's written by the winners'.
But do we really want it to turn into, 'History's by the winners, and edited by Steven Speilberg?"

I said I didn't really know what I believed on this matter at the start of this post. What I meant by that was that I don't really know if it even matters or not that so many people treat these historical films like fact. And if it does matter, what would we do about it anyway. I'd certainly be apalled if they decided to take away the creative licenses of film makers. So.. yeah.. what do you guys think?
{Gothic Angel}
Nope, we really are baby-eating, damsel-burning bastards tongue.gif Or hadn't you heard that down in London yet? It's all the rage.

I have the same issues as you with the "goodie vs baddie" mentality, but to be honest, the majority of people who think the films represent history are not interested in history beyond what they see portrayed in films, and as such, aren't going to warp the records, even through oral tradition, because no-one is going to alter a historical record just because "This bloke told me he saw it in a film" (and to be honest, historical records are a lot of guesswork anyway, based on - as you already said - a biased original source). Anyone who is really interested in history and being a historian - and there will always be people like that - is going to look things up, and do real research, and find out if not the facts, than as close to as they can possibly get. Then they will make that information public and available, so even the people who do believe the films could see it if they wanted.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, basically, anyone lazy enough to believe what they're told without looking at several sources and making up their own mind about the facts is not about to make the effort to spread their version of history - they just won't be that interested. And for people like us, who are, the information we have is written down - that's what history is - "things written down". And for the people who don't care- they were never gonn know the truth anyway, and there's always been people like them. Simple as that.

Would you argue that all the facts we know about science will disappear just because the majority of people know nothing about science beyond what they see on TV? tongue.gif
Witless
Well.. I don't know.. the first generation to exist since modern historical films have been introduced isn't dead yet.

Historically.. most people believe what they're told rather than what is recorded. The question is.. what will the majority of the younger generation learn? What they're told? Or what is recorded?

We aren't the first generation to record history. And as much as we like to believe our generation invented record keeping, we've been doing it a while, and even without films we seem to be extremely good at fabricating history based on what we tell our youngsters despite our record keeping. 'Historical' films maybe accelerating the process faster than seems comfortable.

Think how much is taken as fact that we later learn in higher levels of education is false. It's a hell of a lot. Imagine 3 or 4 generations down the line, how much will fade from memory. The majority that will be forgotten will be the stuff that isn't handed down as common knowledge. Or in other words the stuff that people don't take it upon themselves to learn.

They say we learn history to learn from the mistakes humans have made in the past. Well what good is that if only the small minority of people in the future know about it?

Not everyone in the future will study history.. your average person's historical knowledge will be what the public conciousness absorbs. Surely it would be wise to at least try to make sure the public conciousness absorbs something a little more accurate?
Calantyr
QUOTE (Witless @ Jun 1 2006, 02:29 AM) *
Stuff.


Bah! How dare you continue this discussion when we've just got back from the pub! I shall, no doubt, contribute remarkable insight to this debate in the morning!

Or, y'know, sound like an egotistical twat. As perusual. Onwards!
trunks_girl26
Good vs. Bad sells. It's really just that simple.

The writers, directors, producers, are looking for something that audiences will actually watch, or else risk not making money.

To be frank, audiences don't give a flying monkey part whether it's real or fake. They want a good story, some fighting, possibly some things blowing up, and a happy ending. And I'm just like any other audience member in that when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained. If I want to actually learn about the history (which, for the most part I'll hapily admit I don't, as I don't like most history), I'll look it up online or take a class about it. Or even watch a documentary on it.

I also don't believe that movie makers are really doing anything wrong by making movies that aren't 100% (or even 10% sometimes) historically accurate, as long as they aren't stating that it is. No one claims that they're more than loosely based on the time period, and honestly, anyone that does believe it's true should be left alone to do so. Heck, some people think Starwars is real...I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell them it's not. unsure.gif
pgrmdave
I think that most movies are fine, it's the "documentaries" like Farenheit 9/11 and Supersize Me that I'm more worried about. People take these films as gospel truth, without trying to think critically about them.
Astarael
A lack of critical thinking about things in general is a problem, but it does seem especially pronounced when it concerns documentaries. People know on some level that movies like Troy are only loosely based on something that happened thousands of years ago and thus not too likely to be accurate. However, the little mental equation of "documentary= totally true" tends to go unquestioned until people see conflicting documentaries and look stuff up (if they're not too lazy to forget about the whole affair.) I don't think that the blurring of historical fact for the cause of entertainment is too much of a problem until the creators start claiming that some of the nonsense is true (The Da Vinci Code, anyone?) I would like to see some more perspective in the films, like a good hard look at why the baddies do what they do, but things likely wouldn't be as entertaining that way.
Witless
QUOTE (pgrmdave @ Jun 1 2006, 02:00 PM) *
I think that most movies are fine, it's the "documentaries" like Farenheit 9/11 and Supersize Me that I'm more worried about. People take these films as gospel truth, without trying to think critically about them.


I find that view point odd. The majority of people don't listen to, or care what's said in them. It's not like an overwhelming amount of people's views side with films like that. If anything it's screamingly large minority that even care enough to watch a politically minded film. Let alone think about anything said in them. Even the great supersize me and and fahrenheit 9/11 were only successful with the critics. With the box office they did very poorly. It was just that the films cost so little to make that they didn't need to sell enourmous amounts of tickets to justify their existence. In the UK newspapers started giving away copies of supersize me for free the other week. They really aren't that well watched, or well thought about.

QUOTE (Astarael @ Jun 1 2006, 04:11 PM) *
A lack of critical thinking about things in general is a problem, but it does seem especially pronounced when it concerns documentaries. People know on some level that movies like Troy are only loosely based on something that happened thousands of years ago and thus not too likely to be accurate. However, the little mental equation of "documentary= totally true" tends to go unquestioned until people see conflicting documentaries and look stuff up (if they're not too lazy to forget about the whole affair.) I don't think that the blurring of historical fact for the cause of entertainment is too much of a problem until the creators start claiming that some of the nonsense is true (The Da Vinci Code, anyone?) I would like to see some more perspective in the films, like a good hard look at why the baddies do what they do, but things likely wouldn't be as entertaining that way.


It's only big budget movies that follow the general film formula, problem is it's big budget movies that people watch. Regardless of whether the smaller ones are good or not. My friend from California was informing me that when Lock stock and two smoking barrels (a british film) was released in the US it did very badly. However when the diretor made a film with the precisely same formula, and about 75% the same cast. But budgeted to include Brad Pitt in the cast, and released Snatch. Suddenly everyone thought it was great. They then went back and watched the first film he made.
Then there's the Italian job.. they took a foreign original and remade it, basing it now in the states, and an all american cast. The will to make films more interesting exists.
The will to make comic book films that stick closer to the comics exists (see x men 3, grrr...)
And, the will to make historical films at least come within a million miles of history exists. The will for people to fund them to be made, does not exist however. It bugs me, because no one's ever tryed on a scale larger than a docu-series like Boudicea. Anyone that's ever seen the two part Boudicea series will know staying accurate does not make things worse by any stretch of the imagination. Histories got some great stories. It would be nice to tell them.

Seems the reason good vs bad sells is because.. people seem so scared of doing things any different. All my favorite films are little to do with plain old good vs bad. And at the least blur the boundries. Where do these films come from? Away from the states film industry. Films catered for, or produced by the major budget givers of the states follow such a pre defined formula that it's a little difficult for them to see any other way to make things anymore.

Fantastic example would be the Day After Tomorrow. They turned it into a good guys, vs the evil sinister environment film. By subtly using music queues, and even ghostly voice sampled sound effects for the weather effects. They make it seem like weather effects are actitively chasing the 'heroes'. Made me shudder a lot.

Back slightly more on track now.. I can't bring myself to call people that take films as truth stupid. Part of me wants, but there's a part niggling at me that says that's not it.
Most people (not all) will treat what is placed in front of them as truth. It's why there are fashion trends. I believe it's to do with our pack mentality. We see something, we accept it.
Most people won't go back to a library and read up and expand their knowledge on something interesting. If they did, we'd need a hell of a lot more libraries. It's nothing to do with people being stupid. People only make it their issue to learn stuff directly that they directly need to know (in general). Outside that sphere, they seem to have some kind of subconcious belief, that as long as someone else somewhere is working on the other issues of the world, everything will be dandy.

So when films are produced with all this colourful imagery, and sound by THX surround systems and all kinds of other big walleted organisations, starring Harrison ford, or some other known face. And the words "based on a true story" are stamped on the title sequence. That's it, they're sold. From that point on they feel no more need to express suspicion about things. I'm sure they think maybe the known facts are a little exgerated. But I doubt they have any idea just how far the known facts are stretched.

I remember being in school, and watching film versions of things we learned. Then our teacher kindly telling us that the film was really really different to the book, and being very annoyed that we watched the film. Since if I based anything on the film rather than the book in my exams through mixing them up, I lose marks. *grr's at that teacher*

Not everyone in the world is a retire away and learn more about the things they've seen in person (though in my opinion the ones that don't should be culled from society! (joking)). I said earlier we're the first generation to really grow up with these types of film, without elaborating with what I meant.

No generation has been bombarded with information about the past in as many ways as ours. We see it on the internet through half told opinions of a million people stating opinion as fact. We have the age old method of books still going. Then we have film, which is a media designed for entertainment trying to occasionally justify itself as educational.
There's no way to know for sure which will be more powerful in the future. It is still the minority of people that ever read up on anything that doesn't benefit their life directly, and even fewer of those people will go on to teach what they'll learn. But we have nothing to base predictions on the future on. We've never encountered such a flood of information about every known subject available in the past.

On a side, but related note. Something that bugged me. The school board in the UK has recently started saying physics maybe taken off the curriculum. Not becase they want to, it's just they don't have enough physics teachers to go around anymore. Most physics teachers here are actually biology and chemistry teachers, or 'other'. Among those they are complaining that they don't understand physics well enough to get students top grades. This is at a time when we know more about physics than any time in history. We have books coming out our ears that people can read up on a subject about. But yet, here in the UK, we have a shortage of people able to teach certain subjects. A good portion of what I know about physics currently is self taught, and I took an A level in physics (English college). So, yeah, I still haven't come to any conclusions on whether it's a bad thing or not.. carry on!

PS. I spent my lunch time writing this post... sad.gif
trunks_girl26
QUOTE (Witless @ Jun 2 2006, 07:53 AM) *
QUOTE (pgrmdave @ Jun 1 2006, 02:00 PM) *

I think that most movies are fine, it's the "documentaries" like Farenheit 9/11 and Supersize Me that I'm more worried about. People take these films as gospel truth, without trying to think critically about them.


I find that view point odd. The majority of people don't listen to, or care what's said in them. It's not like an overwhelming amount of people's views side with films like that. If anything it's screamingly large minority that even care enough to watch a politically minded film. Let alone think about anything said in them. Even the great supersize me and and fahrenheit 9/11 were only successful with the critics. With the box office they did very poorly. It was just that the films cost so little to make that they didn't need to sell enourmous amounts of tickets to justify their existence. In the UK newspapers started giving away copies of supersize me for free the other week. They really aren't that well watched, or well thought about.



The majority of adults, no. Teenagers and general young people? Yup.

Even if they've not actually seen the film, the contents of the film tend to be filtered through teens (whether it be because they've seen it, their parents have seen it or, most likely, a friend of theirs has seen it), and because teens are teens and most likely to fall into the pattern of accepting what they hear to be true, they'll take it to be true without even asking how or why it's true.

Take Bush for example. I've heard more teens than I can count saying that they hate Bush, but if I ask them why, they'll just say "because he's an idiot," or somesuch and that's it. They don't know why he's an idiot, just that he is one, because someone else said so.

QUOTE
It's only big budget movies that follow the general film formula, problem is it's big budget movies that people watch. Regardless of whether the smaller ones are good or not. My friend from California was informing me that when Lock stock and two smoking barrels (a british film) was released in the US it did very badly. However when the diretor made a film with the precisely same formula, and about 75% the same cast. But budgeted to include Brad Pitt in the cast, and released Snatch. Suddenly everyone thought it was great. They then went back and watched the first film he made.
Then there's the Italian job.. they took a foreign original and remade it, basing it now in the states, and an all american cast. The will to make films more interesting exists.
The will to make comic book films that stick closer to the comics exists (see x men 3, grrr...)
And, the will to make historical films at least come within a million miles of history exists. The will for people to fund them to be made, does not exist however. It bugs me, because no one's ever tryed on a scale larger than a docu-series like Boudicea. Anyone that's ever seen the two part Boudicea series will know staying accurate does not make things worse by any stretch of the imagination. Histories got some great stories. It would be nice to tell them.

Seems the reason good vs bad sells is because.. people seem so scared of doing things any different. All my favorite films are little to do with plain old good vs bad. And at the least blur the boundries. Where do these films come from? Away from the states film industry. Films catered for, or produced by the major budget givers of the states follow such a pre defined formula that it's a little difficult for them to see any other way to make things anymore.

Actually, very few films now have clear cut good vs bad. It's all shades. However, I tend to see that as more appealing to audiences as a whole, as it's closer to real life, which promotes relatability. Relatability is crucial to any form of media. If audiences can't relate to it, they won't care about it and then it won't sell.

It's the same thing with remaking foreign-made films. When they're remade with American actors or places, the audiences can relate to that actor or place much more easily because they know about it.

As for the films that are closest to real history, I'd say Gettysburg and Of Gods and Generals come pretty close, though there were some compromises made in producing it. That's probably the only way that historical films can be made- with compromises.


QUOTE
Fantastic example would be the Day After Tomorrow. They turned it into a good guys, vs the evil sinister environment film. By subtly using music queues, and even ghostly voice sampled sound effects for the weather effects. They make it seem like weather effects are actitively chasing the 'heroes'. Made me shudder a lot.


Personification of objects is a very human trait. Even the fact that it made you shudder means that you could relate to the film enough to react to what was happening. wink.gif

QUOTE
Back slightly more on track now.. I can't bring myself to call people that take films as truth stupid. Part of me wants, but there's a part niggling at me that says that's not it.
Most people (not all) will treat what is placed in front of them as truth. It's why there are fashion trends. I believe it's to do with our pack mentality. We see something, we accept it.
Most people won't go back to a library and read up and expand their knowledge on something interesting. If they did, we'd need a hell of a lot more libraries. It's nothing to do with people being stupid. People only make it their issue to learn stuff directly that they directly need to know (in general). Outside that sphere, they seem to have some kind of subconcious belief, that as long as someone else somewhere is working on the other issues of the world, everything will be dandy.

So when films are produced with all this colourful imagery, and sound by THX surround systems and all kinds of other big walleted organisations, starring Harrison ford, or some other known face. And the words "based on a true story" are stamped on the title sequence. That's it, they're sold. From that point on they feel no more need to express suspicion about things. I'm sure they think maybe the known facts are a little exgerated. But I doubt they have any idea just how far the known facts are stretched.


No, they're not stupipd. They're ignorant about what really happened in history. However, I don't see what exactly is so bad about the ignorance if they get the major points correct. For instance, if there's a film that insists that the south won the American Civil War, that would be pushing it, but I don't see how films not be totally 100% accurate on every single detail really harms anyone in the long run. For most people, history is not present enough in every day life to warrent any sort of real attention or cares to it, so why should filmmakers have to make sure every single insignificant detail be correct?

QUOTE
I remember being in school, and watching film versions of things we learned. Then our teacher kindly telling us that the film was really really different to the book, and being very annoyed that we watched the film. Since if I based anything on the film rather than the book in my exams through mixing them up, I lose marks. *grr's at that teacher*


My personal rule of books-to-movies is that if I've read the book, chances are I won't like the film, simply because the details can't be the same and still run within a reasonable timeframe.

QUOTE
Not everyone in the world is a retire away and learn more about the things they've seen in person (though in my opinion the ones that don't should be culled from society! (joking)). I said earlier we're the first generation to really grow up with these types of film, without elaborating with what I meant.

No generation has been bombarded with information about the past in as many ways as ours. We see it on the internet through half told opinions of a million people stating opinion as fact. We have the age old method of books still going. Then we have film, which is a media designed for entertainment trying to occasionally justify itself as educational.
There's no way to know for sure which will be more powerful in the future. It is still the minority of people that ever read up on anything that doesn't benefit their life directly, and even fewer of those people will go on to teach what they'll learn. But we have nothing to base predictions on the future on. We've never encountered such a flood of information about every known subject available in the past.


As far as I know, most books are still written and read for entertainment purposes, and in fact, I'd be worried if they suddenly stopped making them for entertainment. unsure.gif

And actually, if you take film as a whole (not just mainstream ones) there's quite a lot of educational informaiton coming from it. Of course, most films let audiences learn something, but I'll assume you meant in the traditional sense, because saying films don't teach anything would just be silly. wink.gif

Film will most likely be more powerful in the future, simply because it's easier to market to a wide range of people.

QUOTE
On a side, but related note. Something that bugged me. The school board in the UK has recently started saying physics maybe taken off the curriculum. Not becase they want to, it's just they don't have enough physics teachers to go around anymore. Most physics teachers here are actually biology and chemistry teachers, or 'other'. Among those they are complaining that they don't understand physics well enough to get students top grades. This is at a time when we know more about physics than any time in history. We have books coming out our ears that people can read up on a subject about. But yet, here in the UK, we have a shortage of people able to teach certain subjects. A good portion of what I know about physics currently is self taught, and I took an A level in physics (English college). So, yeah, I still haven't come to any conclusions on whether it's a bad thing or not.. carry on!

PS. I spent my lunch time writing this post... sad.gif


This would be happening because most people who learn just physics become physicists, or they become professors of physics. Both have to do with physics being hard to study in the first place (like the dreaded theoretical physics), and wanting to make the most of all that effort they put into getting the degree they earned.
Witless
Hmm.. seems the only conclusions my brain's able to make from this topic so far is that 'we'll know when the future comes how much films effect common knowledge'.

Sadly I thought that before I even started this topic..

*shakes fist for lack of closure!*
pgrmdave
I think that in general, films give people an idea of the broad picture of something that is accurate, while perhaps being a little weak on the details. I think though that it is better for people to have a good understanding of the general idea of it and be wrong about details than for people to have no understanding of something, or to not even know something occured.
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