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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Of Life, Media, and Education

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the things I run into is a statement by one side that "movies are entertainment and not political," and by the other side that "all movies are political." The curious thing is that the sides are not what you would think. The side that you would expect to be championing the idea that movies are just entertainment actually champions the idea that all movies are propaganda and should be designed to educate the masses in right thinking (even if those precise words are not used). One of the reasons that "American Sniper" is reviled because it fails to inculcate the right thinking.

Another is the statement that people should not expect to learn history from movies and thus the maker of a movie has whatever license they chose to take in how the past is presented. This can be somewhat harmless (while the overall message of the movie about how a squire assumes the identity of a knight and finally is claimed as a noble knight by the Black Prince stank to high heaven, the movie's producers and directors bringing modern touches was entertaining, to include "We Will Rock You" being sung as the knights joust).

The problem with the above is that the reality is without strong disclaimers at the start of a "historical film," literally with the director appearing on screen after the credits and before the movie begins to emphatically state that the piece is a "re-imagining of a historic incident, event, or character, or all of the above" too many people leave such films believing they are in fact historically accurate. Sorry, but I majored in history and encounter this effect all to often when I went to movies regularly. (Truth to tell, I do not go to movies much any more.) At least "Captain America" was known by most audiences to be an adaptation of a comic book, so not too many thought "The Red Skull" was a real person and "Hydra" an ally of the Third Reich.

I am trying (and that is the word) to watch the "Agent Carter" TV series. I find it incredibly painful to watch as I have a habit of watching older movies that were actually created in the time period that "Agent Carter" is set. "Agent Carter" has an agenda to make sure it is common knowledge that women were being ruthlessly crushed and held back by a "man's world." There is more than a little truth to that. It was, however, nowhere near as blatant if you watch the background information presented in movies of that era as "Agent Carter" makes it out to be.

As I have noted elsewhere, though, sloppiness is also a factor and seems to be creeping in everywhere. I find more and more typos in formally published books, and sometimes out and out historical inaccuracies (I recently, in the last two years, read a book on U-Boat operations that placed the Operation Torch landings in North Africa in 1943 for example).

I have stopped asking random questions of the college students I run into, because the answers are too often disturbing. The things that these young adults who are all High School Graduates do not know frightens the dickens out of me.