Why Do We Expect Historical Movies to be Accurate?

Why Do We Expect Historical Movies to be Accurate?

As I’m settling in to watch the Oscars, I’m finding it funny just how many news articles over the past few days have been writing about the wave of 4 ‘historical’ oscar-nominated films: Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and Django Unchained.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck, but I’m not exactly expecting them to give me a history lesson.

I think it has something to do with this sentence that’s posted on a lot of movie posters: “Based on true events”. This sentence is purposefully camouflaged – it misleads the audience into thinking the film-maker is striving for historical accuracy, when it really means that the movie is fiction.

Jess Coleman summed it up for Huffington Post today very well:

“Watching a movie used to be a way to detach oneself from reality, to enjoy the world through a lens that we otherwise never get to see. Sadly, going to a movie today means exploring an odd extension of reality — we need to be skeptical and critical as if we were watching the news.”

And even more brilliantly:

“Movies are not documentaries. They are intended to entertain and artfully tell a story. No filmmaker is trying to answer all of histories questions, or settle any hotbed political debates. If, in thirty years, our nation’s policy on torture is being dictated by a work of Hollywood, then, well, we have much bigger problems than we thought.”

Mr. Coleman’s bio says he’s an 18-year old student at Bingham University.  Give this man his degree already.

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