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From: bob couttie <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: REPLY: War movies are right, too (2) Date: March 11, 2010 10:55:41 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> I have some modest credits in film and in history so this thread is certainly relevant to my experience. Let me say that the reason I got involved in studying history was because of research I carried out for a historical film set in the Philippines in 1901 during the Philippine-American War/Philippine War of Independence. That resulted in some serious writing and I would like to think, possibly vainly, that there is a better foundation for understanding the complexities of what happened. Having read much of the contemporary record and later publications I have to say that I found them about as fictional as any movie. One book in particular, Ordeal of Samar, continues to be cited even though much of it is little more than fiction. I believe there is a biblical reference to motes and beams that might apply. True, films are intended as entertainment, but that does not necessarily imply frivolous meaningless or without substance. Poetry is also intended for entertainment and I'd argue that Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasoon expressed the emotional impact of World War 1 somewhat better than the history books. I've never heard anyone say that those poems should be removed from the history curriculum. Das Boot, All Quiet on the Western Front and even total fiction like Red October represent different aspects of the experience and reality of war, perhaps more than Green Berets. I haven't had a produced war film, the nearest was Goodbye America, set in the last 10 days of the US Navy presence at Subic Bay. What we set out to do was explore the 92-year old relationship between the base and the local community, and the relationship between the US and the Philippines at a time of great change - and that is what it accurately portrayed, as it was intended to. It did seem toi have an educational value: Few American even knew that there was a US Navy base in the Philippines, let alone the largest outside CONUS. The last version of The Alamo DVD carried a fascinating voice-over discussion between two historians that, perhaps, should be required viewing. Films are about emotion and gut-feel. I would argue that their value is in sharing the emotional impact of war on the players, rather than visible or audio truth, and it can do that it a way that is very real and present. Some subjects remain taboo, untouchable in the film industry: The Philippine-American War being one of them. Bob Couttie Balagiga Research Group Author: "Hang The Dogs: The true tragic history of the Balangiga Massacre"" Original Message: 1st Reply: From: email@example.com Subject: Re: REPLY: War movies are right, too Date: March 9, 2010 6:52:25 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Jorg Muth writes: > Roger wrote: "One thing that war movies can do better than fiction and nonfiction books, better than photographs, better than paintings, >is to present what an event was like visually and audibly." > I have to disagree with that statement. We see how Hollywood portrays the event visually and audibly. People think they have seen >D-Day but they have not. I tell my students that when they have seen a 'historical' Hollywood movie they know only one thing - how it was not. > The use of movies in classes makes for lazy teaching and the students tend to keep the images more in mind than any historical facts >that were brought up during class. > 'Historical' Hollywood movies are just plain entertainment on a very low fact level. Mr. Muth is right, of course. That said, I respond "you can't beat something with nothing." Presumably he would agree that the beach sequence in "Saving Private Ryan" (for instance) provides a BETTER understanding of what the beach looked and sounded like than would a written account or the few still photographs that are available. Surely that scene isn't knowledge destroying, is it? --Mark Stout Johns Hopkins University 2nd Reply From: Dr David Keith Yelton <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: War movies are right, too Date: March 10, 2010 11:22:01 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> I teach our undergraduate research methods course and in our section on sources, I include feature films as an option-under the category of historical fiction. It seems to me that is precisely where it belongs as all feature films are much like novels. They are works of art and as such their primary goal is not recording the past, but they can be used-in conjunction with other sources-to illuminate a point. And they serve as a good tool to encourage critical thinking (e.g. what's accurate? What's inaccurate? Why?). But anyone who relies exclusively on feature films for historical information might as well rely exclusively on novels and short stories. It's all historical fiction or fictionalized history. Documentaries... now that's another discussion thread. David Yelton Professor of History Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC ----- Original Message ----- From: "Scott Hendrix" <hendsn1@GMAIL.COM> To: H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU Sent: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 5:48:05 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern Subject: REPLY: War movies are right, too (2) 1st Reply From: Westermeyer GS11 Paul W <email@example.com> Subject: RE: COMMENT: War movies are right, too Date: March 9, 2010 9:17:53 AM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Roger Horky wrote: > Most of us on H-War are professional historians, and as such > we know better than to rely on one source for our knowledge. > We collect our information from a host of material. We also > know how to interrogate a source, to analyze its strengths > and weaknesses. A commercial motion picture can be a source > of knowledge, if one respects its boundaries and limitations, > which are many. The knowledge may not be historic or > accurate, but it is knowledge, and thus should not be dismissed. > > Roger Horky > PhD Student and Teaching Assistant > History Department > Texas A&M University > College Station TX I think Mr Horky makes a very valid point, but the very intensity of historical films makes their dangers that much greater. They rarely provide any context for events, and especially recently are biased in favor of those with the least amount of knowledge concenring what was happening. And, frankly, the bias of filmmakers & the 'war movie canon' permeates these films. The result is propaganda as heavily biased as anything produced by Hollywood or Goebels during World War II, propaganda that is much more effective at shaping viewers' beliefs precisely because so few recognize it as propaganda. Of course, when historians try to correct the misinformation shown in such movies they can be easily dismissed as cranks focused on uniform details. I do not think there is any conspiracy here, it occurs with films from widely differing political views, it is just one of our more difficult issues as historians, and the one we are perhaps least trained to deal with. Paul Westermeyer Historian, History Division Marine Corps University Paul.Westermeyer@usmc.mil http://www.history.usmc.mil "The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Oratore, II.XV,62 2nd Reply From: Joerg Muth, M.A. <J.Muth@utah.edu> Subject: REPLY: War movies are right, too Date: March 9, 2010 3:12:24 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Roger wrote: "One thing that war movies can do better than fiction and nonfiction books, better than photographs, better than paintings, is to present what an event was like visually and audibly." I have to disagree with that statement. We see how Hollywood portrays the event visually and audibly. People think they have seen D-Day but they have not. I tell my students that when they have seen a 'historical' Hollywood movie they know only one thing - how it was not. The use of movies in classes makes for lazy teaching and the students tend to keep the images more in mind than any historical facts that were brought up during class. 'Historical' Hollywood movies are just plain entertainment on a very low fact level. Best regards Joerg Muth ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----