Friday, 1 August 2008

Critical thought

I'm in pre-holiday wind-down mode so don't expect a huge amount from me over the next week, unless you're comfortable with disappointment. To my mind a holiday is what you get when you get away from computers in a country where they don't speak English. It seems like I'll only manage one of those in the next seven to ten days but I'm looking forward to none the less.

With little to report in Worcester Park I thought I'd do something different and invite you to step away from your current thoughts and come with me on a brief journey into the past.

If you go through many posts here you'll find that every so often I'll insert some historical fact about Worcester Park, many from David Rymill's excellent book on the subject, as history has always been a big interest for me though Mrs Brinkster might roll her eyes when Miss Brinkster and myself sit down to watch something on the History channel (Tony Robinson on Nero last night!). It's been said that if you don't understand history then you can't understand the present and in many cases the realities of historical events are much more dramatic than TV or Hollywood can capture.

Many years ago the film "Braveheart" came out to rave reviews so having watched and enjoyed it I duly trudged off to Foyles to read up on the subject and was largely disappointed to find that virtually none of the film followed the immensely sketchy historical records. Don't get me wrong, it's a great film, very entertaining, epic battles, good plot, love interest, etc, etc and probably deserving of its five Oscars and I've seen it several times. The only problem is that I can't quite get away from the nagging feeling that while I'm watching it the wool is being pulled over my eyes and I'm guessing that there are probably a generation of kids who think that Braveheart is a documentary. So imagine my delight to find an article in The Guardian the other day that concisely and comprehensively dismantled Mel Gibson's portrayal of Scottish history. Some of the better excerpts include:

"We begin in 1280 when, a voiceover informs us, the Scottish king has died with no sons. In fact, King Alexander III of Scotland didn't die until 1286, and in 1280 both of his sons were still alive. Meanwhile, outside a grubby West Highland hut, young Wallace is wandering around in the mud. The real Wallace came from Renfrewshire and was the privileged son of a noble landowner. This isn't going at all well, and we're only three minutes in."

"After his lady love is murdered by the English, Wallace pretends to surrender. At the last minute, he whips out a concealed nunchaku. Wait, what? Glossing over its implication that medieval Scotland imported arms from China, Wallace's rebellion gathers pace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which the film has inexplicably set in a field. Rather than, you know, on a bridge. For pity's sake. The clue's in the name."

"So irresistible are the Scotsman's hairy charms that she [Isabella] allows him to impregnate her. This scene is set in 1304 or 5, when the real Isabella would have been nine years old. Accuracy on that point might have been a bit tasteless, but accuracy on the point that she was still living in France and didn't marry the Prince of Wales until three years after Wallace's death would have been fine."

"regardless of whether you read English or Scottish historians on the matter, Braveheart still serves up a great big steaming haggis of lies."

If you do go and see an historical movie or read a book that purports to be an accurate depiction of historical events then please do read at least one genuine history book on the subject as well. The scary thing is that you get the feeling that with Hollywood movies like Braveheart some people really believe it was true......

If science is your thing rather than history then I'd recommend Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog

Have a great weekend!!

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