12 July 2010

History as Cinema

Doesn't really work. Plots are too unbelievable. Matt Yglesias cites Robert Farley who cites ... this guy named Scott [this is similar to the manuscript tradition beloved among medieval historians].
So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Show allSecret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apoplectic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

And this goes on and on, managing to be both hilarious and instructive. Never dismiss an historical story on the grounds of plausibility. There are usually other reasons.

BUT, this brings up a SERIOUS QUESTION for all you Sci-Fi fans out there! In the late 60s or early 70s I remember reading a story in either IF or ANALOG magazines (I think) written as if it were a scholarly paper by an historian completely debunking the 'myth' of Hitler and World War II as entirely too implausible and clearly contrived.

Does anyone remember such a story? Do you remember who wrote it or where I can find it?


ps: who is Amy Pond?

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At 13 July, 2010 10:22, Anonymous The Old Man said...

Amy Pond is a character in "Dr. Who. (Now don't ask "Who is Who?)

At 13 July, 2010 21:10, Anonymous Maire said...

Amy is the current Doctor's "companion." Not great -- I want Donna Noble back.

At 14 July, 2010 20:26, Blogger Clemens said...

OK - now I know who Amy Pond was/is.

But what about the sci-fi story?
Anybody know? Have you ever seen it?

At 15 July, 2010 20:28, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He didn't mention the guy who looked like Elmer Fudd, and was about as competent as Elmer Fudd, although a bit taller, and preferring a grey or black paramilitary rather than Fudd's brown hunter's uniform.

Honestly, a guy like that sitting on the throne of the Caesars? Give me a break!


At 17 July, 2010 23:49, Blogger Clemens said...

The one with the silly 'Il Duce' title, who bragged about rolling over Abyssinia?

Glad to see you are still around JP

At 18 July, 2010 14:31, Blogger Clemens said...

This got me thinking: the only known joke told by Field Marshal Rommel.

A German reporter lauded him for having led so many foreign nationals in his army of North Africa and asked, of all the troops you have commanded, who are the bravest.

Rommel stunned him by saying without hesitation, "The Italians."

"The Italians!!!??,' the reporter gasped, "Why?"

"Because they are willing to attack driving Italian tanks."

At 19 July, 2010 12:09, Blogger Clemens said...

And another thing...
everyone has their favorite "Companion." Alexander's was Hyphestion. Mine was Peri.

She's also the only one I can remember from back in the days when I watched Dr Who. Well, her and the Cro-Magnon babe in the fur bikini.

At 20 July, 2010 20:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've passed on that joke about Italian soldiers to my family & friends, many of whom are Italian. I'm sure it will be much enjoyed. :-)

Yes, I meant "il duce". And yes, I'm still commenting... when I remember to come 'round.



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