Saturday, 9 August 2008

Movies vs History 2: Electric Boogaloo

Alternative Title - Seriously Mel Gibson, what the fuck is your problem with the English?

The Patriot is a big move about the war of independence. Or as it is more accurately know, British Civil War 2.

Now I am going to give this one a little leeway, because it does rename the bulk of its characters so it can use the "based on" proviso. So even though Mel Gibson's protagonist is based on a serial rapist who loved to murder Indians for fun, its ok, because they changed the name a bit so now hes a noble hero. And the English commander they railed against displayed commiting atrocities worse than ever actually occured from either side, well thats ok, because his name is Tavington in the movie, who nobody would ever connect with Tarlington.

Im instead going to point out some of the weird ways the director decided to portray the whole period and the war, and why this is slightly crazy.

American Forces

The thing is, there wasnt any Americans at this time. Everyone was British, you know that story about Paul Revere shouting out "the British are coming!" as a warning... that story isnt true, he shouted "the regulars are coming", because everyone he would have been shouting "The British are coming" too were British, everyone still considered themselves British and the sort of revolutionary ideas that would lead to America after the conflict was over just didnt exist in a widespread fashion... so they would have been confused or possibly insulted.

The movie, none the less, shows America as a sort of independent culturally seperate nation that is completely at odds with these foreign invaders. Which given the timescale and population by immigration and everything, is absurd, both sides should be British speaking and acting (some of the colonials a little different perhaps) and only Mel Gibsons accent should stand out as incongrous and odd, as is his way.

Also the English soldiers either seem to be posh English officers or working class ruffian types right out of a Dickens novel. The British army was a bit more diverse than that, chaps.

Also it seems to ignore the whole irony of a nation fighting for its freedom and basic liberty that still intends to keep murdering its native populace and enslaving Africans, but that isnt that movie worthy, I guess.

Inaccuracy Rating - 2.3/5

The Evils of The English

The British are mass murdering people, burning down churches with people in them and shooting children for kicks.The noble Americans are forced to fight them off with roughshod rebel tactics.

Well, the thing is, thats not true. I mean, a lot of American propaganda at the time (yeah, they had propaganda back then, Hitler didnt invent that shit) might have read like that, but really no side was particurley more brutal than the other. There was a lot of killing surrendering men, but this isnt exactly geneva convention days, that thing was considered "not cricket" but wouldnt always mean you got sent home or even disciplined (in the British army) and a lot of the 'revolutionary' army fought semi-independently and in some cases their only previous combat experience was mass murdering Injuns, so you can imagine what they got up too.

So, the British Army could be dicks, but so were the guys they were fighting.

"(the men showed) a vindictive asperity not easily restrained." - Tarleton on his men not showing quarter to (possibly) surrendering soldiers.

Infact, the German director, often seems to mimic nazi atrocities (the burning of the church thing is pretty much an exact reference to the massacre of Oradour in German occupied France) and portray the British doing them. I dont know if nazis is just his go-to villain characterisation, or if he had some creepy agenda going there, but really... that is a little weird, dude.

Its like Hollywood is bending the truth to make a war about one set of elites replacing another set of elites in an orchestrated war into a good vs evil struggle so people identify with it more. Why would you do that Hollywood, why?
Inaccuracy Rating - 3.7/5

The Americans are Revolting!

The movie pretty much plays into what seems to be a common historic fallacy, that Americans revolted out of some sense of liberty and justice, that the common man rose up and said no to oppression. I mean, dont get me wrong, the foundations of America led to the constitution (a landmark document in quite a few respects when it came to enhancing the common liberty of man, on paper anyway) and many future good things (pizza mostly) but it wasnt really how the war happened.

"One of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle." -- James Otis, 1761

The war happened because the rich dudes in charge in (what would be) America realised they could get rid of the rich dudes in charge back in Britain and be the only rich dudes in charge. They thought up a few reasons for this, rabble roused with a load of pamphlets blowing really minor stuff out of proportion and used their resources to make this happen.

Afterwards, the liberty stuff happened and the good stuff, but its more a murky little war that made it happen. See, America is a superpower now, and like any superpower it needs a cool origin story. Batman has the parents thing and the vision of bats, what did America have, a dispute over the rate of taxes paid on tea. They had the aquaman origin story. So they dressed it up with some cool, triumphing over evil stuff and noble intentions, and there you go, America is Batman again.

But if you are making a historical epic, that is at all accurate, the colonials shouldnt be Batman.
Inaccuracy Rating - 4.2/5

America Wins in the End!

At the end of the movie, America wins. Or the colonies. I will just call it America, that is quicker if innaccurate. Anyway, thats it, liberty triumphs.

Ok, yeah, thats right, the colonies did make fighting the war so costly it wasnt considered worth the effort. That is a technical win, like France won the hundred year war after 120 years they made it too difficult to keep occupying most of France.

But well, the movie skips over the whole massive foreign help America got. No real victory, without, among others the Spanish contribution. It does show a number of Battles the English won as American victories (which is just retarded, but whatever) but it ends on lots of shots of American stuff and you feel all independent'y and good, so thats ok.

Historical Inaccuracy - 2.1/5


Basically, if you want to watch a big budget movie about the war of revolution (you notice how the revolutionary aspect of the American backstory sort of got reworked to war of independence after the Cold War, dont deny your partially imaginary origins America! Embrace them!) I would reccomend this one.

Its made up, often inaccurate and it has Mel Gibson in it, totally ignores the massive complexities and dual nature of the whole conflict (the notions of liberty some where fighting for, versus the more realistic economic factors and so on)... but its the only one I have really seen, so my hands are tied.

"Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few." - John Adams, 1763

Also all those inaccuracy ratings are totally random. So if you were reading anything into them, I probably wouldnt.

If anyone knows a GOOD movie about this period in history, sort of examining the moral ambiguities more and the propaganda super hero element less, I would love to know, thanks.


Mr. Gale said...

I should probably mention I wrote most of this on the basis of the superhero origin joke bit I really liked, which I took from Tim.

I am a terrible blogger.

Mr. Gale said...

And I dont hate Americans. I loved Buffy the vampire slayer and the moving pictures in general.

Keep up the good work!

Tim said...

Damnit, you leave my cousin alone!

That was the deal Gale, you steal my jokes and in exchange you're not allowed near my cousin.

You blackguard.

Mr. Gale said...

I thought the deal was I use that awful, awful "the americans are revolting" pun?

BSam said...

I really enjoy making pie.


How dare you insult the good name of Mel Gibson you imperialistic swine. For shame.

P.S. America sucks! lol

bruce182 said...

My favorite part was when Gibson impaled a Brit with the flag. Take that "tea time."

Mr. Gale said...

Did he actually do that? Thats awesome. I tried to kill a guy with an union jack once but he was all "its only an union jack if its at sea" and by the time we rented the ship, well, I forgot why I was doing it in the first place.

Seresecros said...

It appears you are eight steps in front of me. However - Joss Whedon, who created Buffy, was brought up in England. Haha!

I'm a Browncoat. No regrets.

Edward said...

I always thought Col Tarlington was cut from the same cloth as our Seals or the British SAS types. Those guys are focused on mission .. not on the stuff that gets broken in between.

You are entirely correct about the Americans at the start of the war considering themselves British. A good example of that is the flag that was flown at Bunker (Breed's) Hill. Take a good look at it .. .. pretty much says it all.

Gibson? Noticed right off his hatred toward anything Brit. Ok. Could understand the William Wallace thing but after watching The Patriot I was .. hmmmm.

Of course .. then he got really weird with his last films.

Suppose it has anything to do with him being an Aussie?