MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
I have been railing recently about how history can be rewritten or otherwise manipulated to fit an agenda and in the process, overlooked one of the other major ways this can be done and you may not even notice it because it is cleverly disguised as entertainment.
We now live in what can be called the biopic era where films can take liberties with historical events or stories and mold them into a completely different narrative that becomes a controversial form of Hollywood double-think.
Have you ever wondered if the movie you just saw that claimed to be based on a real story or historical events was really accurate?
We now live in an era of rewriting the tale of a public figure and in the end the public once again realizes that truth and facts are matter of perception.
Critics say that it is lazy movie making, where old school narratives are reworked into new-school, high-definition stories that go for the essence, rather than a chronicle of events, focusing on a galvanizing incident or episode in the life of a protagonist that the public has already passed judgment on.
Steven Spielberg confirmed that “biopic” had become a soiled concept when he refused to give Lincoln, which zeroed in on the last four months of the president’s life that label.
However, need we forget that this is how Spielberg saw Lincoln and that many people will argue that what was on the screen was not necessarily canon in the annals of history.
Spielberg called it a documentary, rather than a Hollywood version of history.
I mean when the soldiers miraculously could memorize the Gettysburg address I thought that was more or less sensational – or Lincoln pulling speeches out of his hat seemed a bit like a magician who by sleight of hand and the right message mesmerized everyone into ratifying the 13th Amendment.
One of the more recent biopic films that twists history is the Academy Award winning, Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill’s first weeks as Britain’s Prime Minister precisely as Western Europe crumbles under the Germans’ blitzkrieg assault.
The movie historians claim was pretty solid, but it would not give you any insights for a history test — it is always wise to read a few books and get a full idea of what the history books say.
One of the things that I thought was quite funny is when they accurately told the audience is that when Churchill would give a backwards V for victory hand sign what he literally was doing was actually saying “up yours.”
Some people may have already known that – I just thought it was a funny aside and made the historic protagonist more human, far from some monolith we read about when we learn about the horrors of World War II.
Gary Oldman got the Oscar for playing Winston Churchill and once more 24 principal acting Oscars since 2000 have gone to people playing real-life figures.
Hollywood actors and the establishment do well when they take a jab at history and there is a worry that a lot of the facts wind up on the cutting room floor.
Most of us know that Hollywood’s version of history leans more towards fiction that fact. But someone needs to remind the children, as they believe everything they see on screen.
Research has proven that film, movies, are perhaps the most powerful teaching instrument available, the problem lies in what they are teaching.
Andrew Butler, a researcher from Washington University in St Louis conducted a study in which he demonstrated the effects of many films on children, in particular films dealing with historical topics.
He proved that films can vastly increase a child’s historical knowledge, however, the film media is so powerful and the visualized narrative so much more convincing, that films present and deeply imbed false images in the child’s mind and psyche.
When the factual presentation is incorrect, and at times blatantly so, the pupils are more apt to believe the false scenario presented in a visual format even if they are told otherwise by texts and teachers. Even when presented with the correct version in a textbook, they most frequently remember what was in the film, not what was in their book, or what their teacher told them.
This reminds me of when I was a kid and watched the Ten Commandments I was dismayed to hear that many of the characters in the film did not exist and that even though the film is filled with inaccuracies – whether we like it or not Charlton Hesston’s performance is the definitive version of Moses.
From a romance that never existed and concocted characters to an instant parting of the Red Sea, the movie is riddled with fiction.
It is, in fact, a cinematic masterpiece in everything except accuracy. It won an Oscar, three other major movie awards and was nominated for another seven awards.
Does it surprise you to learn that a lot of the script was taken from the Koran?
According to the commentary on the 2004 DVD release of the film, the movie’s script was enhanced by non-biblical sources, such as: Josephus, the Sepher-ha-Yashar, the Chronicle of Moses and the Koran. Also, some parts in the script are mere inventions.
The movie shows Moses openly fighting an Egyptian, killing him and then being arrested and exiled. Yet Exodus 2:11-15 says that Moses saw no one else when he killed the Egyptian and that Moses fled afterward, since the Pharaoh sought to kill him.
Baka (portrayed by Vincent Price), was not mentioned in the Bible.
No wives of any kings are mentioned by name in the Bible, while a star in the movie is “Queen Nefretiri,” obviously a variation of “Nefertari,” the wife of Rameses II, according to Egyptian history. The Bible mentions no extra romance of Moses with anyone, though Nefretiri’s love of Moses is one of the dominant components of the DeMille movie.
The biggest disappointment I remember when I was a kid is when I found out that Dathan played by Edward G. Robinson was not real.
I was a kid then – I know the truth now.
It goes to show you – you remember well what you were told or shown when you were a kid and then when you learn that it is all Hollywood fed history – you learn that critical thinking is very important.
Social engineers are well aware of how powerful this type propaganda and have for the past several decades produced a steady stream of misinformation in fantasy format, as well as historical fantasy masquerading as fact – a steady stream of false narratives.
These go beyond the acceptable realm of artistic license and cross the borders of decency into the realm of deliberate deception designed to alter the public perception of reality and advance misguided and devious agendas.
Are we okay knowing that a generation is growing up mistakenly believing Mozart was a spoiled brat and U.S. troops instead of British soldiers captured the Nazi Enigma Code machine? Is it okay to not specify the truth about Russian soldiers taking losses as they took over Berlin to end World War II?
English Heritage, the government body responsible for the historic environment, has accused Hollywood studios of destroying Britain’s national identity with misleading and inaccurate portrayals of the country’s past.
They point out that movies like Saving Private Ryan, U-571 and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as prime offenders.
Mel Gibson’s, Braveheart, was deemed by historians as “almost totally sacrificing historical accuracy for epic adventure” for its portrayal of the first Scottish war for independence; Jude Law’s performance as a Red Army soldier at the battle of Stalingrad in the 2001 blockbuster, Enemy at the Gates, was so lacking in historical fact that Soviet veterans called for it to be banned.
Now, there is a new genre that tells the half truth in what is called the mockumentary.
Films like I, Tonya slickly twists the story of Tonya Harding in an entertaining way, that takes a once vilified media darling and turns her into a character that is victimized in need of sympathy.
I, Tonya is not necessarily a biopic about Tonya Harding as it is a dark comedy that makes the cast of misfits larger than life – again.
From her early days at the ice rink in Portland, Oregon’s Lloyd Center mall to the Nancy Kerrigan incident and her subsequent flameout at the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994 the film breaks form with typical Hollywood biographies.
I, Tonya is packaged as a kind of documentary, with contradictory confessional interviews by Jeff Gillooly played by Sebastian Stan and Harding played by Margot Robbie. The format gives the movie a true-to-life feel while trafficking in events that feel too absurd to be real.
It is a little like a comic book form of history where you are compelled to revisit a classic news story in order to get the facts on a character.
In fact, Margo Robbie who played Tonya in the film, has said she couldn’t believe that the events in the film actually happened.
Well, many things didn’t happen the way the film portrayed them but it is a product of Hollywood.
Another disturbing trend in biopic media is the “revisiting of news events” where a Network like CNN or Fox tries to reshape or re-envision a story in order to shape the event in a way to satisfy the court of public opinion.
CNN recently aired “American Dynasties: The Kennedys which became a vehicle to promote the film “Chappaquiddick,” about the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s July 1969 car crash that left Mary Jo Kopechne dead.
The movie, which reopens the scandal and Kennedy’s failure to save Kopechne or immediately calls in the nighttime wreck, has already drawn new controversy, even from her family who were given a private screening last month.
The ad campaign also comes with a hashtag, #ThisReallyHappened. So we know what demographic the creators want to reach.
CNN also has produced, American Heiress: The Patty Hearst Story, and is also working in retelling the story of The Branch Davidians Waco.
We count on it being accurate but I am sure that the mainstream media has a need to put their stamp of approval on history and even create history or solidify in the public mind a version of it that may or may not be true.
FX started their true crime anthology series with “The People vs. OJ Simpson.
Interest in Simpson seems evergreen. The recent documentary, O.J.: Made in America won an Oscar, The People vs. O.J. Simpson was one of the biggest hits of 2016.
It was a critically acclaimed look at the OJ Simpson murder trial. The series practically ignores the horrific crime at the heart of the so-called trial of the century. It treats the double homicide of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman as a piece of pop culture, giving more airtime to Kim Kardashian and her siblings than to the families of the murder victims.
And yet what at first seemed little more than a campy retelling of the trial that transfixed the nation in 1995 has become its own cultural artifact, one that has drawn in a new generation of TV viewers mesmerized by the cast of characters who made their cases for and against Simpson before Superior Court Judge Lance Ito.
What is worse is Fox’s “If I did it” presentation of what is claimed to be the lost interview where OJ speaks in the third person and hypothetically describes what happened the night of the double murder.
It is interview footage form 2006 sit-down with Judith Regan.
The interview was originally set to air on Fox in 2006, but Fox faced huge criticism from the families of Brown and Goldman, prompting an apology from boss Rupert Murdoch.
Over the course of the special, Simpson described to publisher Judith Regan, in increasing detail, the series of events that could have hypothetically led to Nicole and Goldman’s 1994 deaths. He made mention of a friend named “Charlie” who was with him at the time of the murders, though at certain points throughout the interview, he alternated between talking about Charlie and speaking in the first person.
I recently watched the If I did it video and decided that it should have been called “The WTF moment” as whenever OJ was going off the rails in detail he reminded us that everything he was saying was hypothetical.
He described in excruciating detail the process of getting rid of the evidence.
Simpsons recalled having to dispose of bloody clothes following the hypothetical killing. When Regan asked Simpson directly, “And you had left your keys and wallet in your pants pocket and you had to go back and get it?” a momentarily stumped Simpson replied, “You know, to be honest, I think – I know that to be true, yes.”
Regan immediately followed up by asking him whether he believed in heaven and hell, and whether he thought he would see his late wife again someday. “Yes,” he replied confidently. “Hey, look, I’ve cursed her. I’ve been to her gravesite and why – what the hell? Look at these kids. Look at Sydney with no mother. I’ve done that. I’ve done that.”
This is how deep the need to claim the mainstream history goes.
However, the need to update the scene with characters like the Kardashians seems a bit opportunistic; after all, the girls were all young when the OJ trial was progressing and of course, there are far more interesting characters in the mix that need to be put into the spotlight.
People like the “house guest” Kato Kaelin, who is now a successful business man and actor.
Kato Kaelin is best remembered as the witness in the O.J. Simpson murder trial who helped prosecutors establish a timeline of events on the night that Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were murdered.
When I saw I, Tonya in theaters, I thought out loud that a similar film about Kato Kaelin would be just as interesting as a colleague of mine Jeff Rector and director Kevin Dellullo cast him in a film called, “Fatal Kiss.”
He was also seen in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s, Basketball.
It would not be out of the question to see a film called I, Kato in theaters as we would be able to see the OJ saga in the eyes of what some people called the ultimate slacker.
In 2015, Kato spoke with Barbara Walters and said that he believed O.J. was guilty.
As for his opinion of how he was portrayed in the TV show, “The People vs. OJ Simpson,” he says that while Billy Magnussen, the actor who played him is a great actor – he felt that he was the wrong choice for his portrayal. They made Kato look stupid and Magnussen said that he didn’t want to meet Kato.
I guess all portrayals are not flattering, and yet Kato still perseveres. He started a clothing line, has been involved with sports and has worked hard to become a pop culture icon.
There are no deals for an I, Kato movie as of yet, but now the seed has been planted and so I’ll be waiting in line with my popcorn and Milk Duds hoping for that funny biopic.
All you have to remember is when it ain’t exactly history – it’s Hollywood.