Historical Inaccuracies In Movies Can Warp Minds

Categories: Film

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A Duke University study has found that it can be damaging to young people when historical movies change the facts for entertainment's sake.

A lot of times, people come away from the theater remembering the wrong stuff instead of what's actually in the history books, quoting the Hollywood versions at dinner parties as if they were documentaries.

For example, in Titanic -- which is coming back this week in 3-D -- you see First Officer William Murdoch shooting two men and committing suicide by gunshot.

"But in reality," says the release about the study, "surviving crew members said Murdoch was last seen trying to launch lifeboats and is believed to have died in the water."

And that's not all!

There's also:

* "Glory, which tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War. Most of the individuals depicted in the film were former slaves from the South. However, most of the recruits in the regiment were actually freemen from Massachusetts and other Northern states."

* And "Amadeus presented Mozart as being a childish and vulgar person. However, there is no evidence that Mozart behaved this way in public. On the contrary, Mozart is thought to have displayed impeccable manners in the presence of royalty and acted professionally with colleagues."

"Unfortunately, students aren't very good at catching the major historical inaccuracies in popular films, even when explicitly asked to do so," said Sharda Umanath, a doctoral student in Duke's psychology department and the lead author of the study.

"The difficulty of detecting the errors makes informing students about what exactly the inaccuracies are in a film absolutely vital to the learning process."

It's very disheartening.

I'm just going to stick to Adam Sandler films from now on.


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16 comments
Tonhogg
Tonhogg

But don't a lot of people say even the history books are quit inaccurate as well.   The writers of them portraying things to line up with their own political beliefs.

Dan P
Dan P

In actual fact there is evidence an officer on Titanic did shoot passengers and then himself.  The question is who; Cameron decided on Murdoch as his name was most frequently connected to eyewitness accounts of a shooting/suicide.

ThoseWhoForgetThePast
ThoseWhoForgetThePast

"Cabaret" shows us how the Nazis came to power because of blond youths singing songs in the Alps. 

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

 I've never understood why the movies have to make up bogus stories about celebrated people when the truth is always sooooo much better and readily available.

Yes, "Jeanne Eagels" is a good example, but it does have Kim Novak and Jeff Chandler, both looking beautiful, the romance of Carnival lights and an absolutely ravishing, yearning musical theme by George Duning. (Jeanne Eagels' 1929 version of "The Letter" is now available on DVD; do get it.)

Just about every minute of Oliver Stone's "JFK" is a lie. And to have handsome Kevin Costner playing the ghastly wreck of a person that was Jim Garrison is an atrocity.

Diana Barrymore's gripping autobiography "Too Much, Too Soon" was turned into an abortion of a film, redeemed only by Dorothy Malone's scenes with Errol Flynn playing Diana's father, John Barrymore. (Drew Barrymore looks like the young Diana and would be sensational in a factual film of her aunt's life.)

I'm sure everyone has favorite examples of botched films on a favorite subject ...

Andrew Hamm
Andrew Hamm

None of these films are billed as documentaries; all are clearly "based on actual events." It isn't an artist's job to micromanage his audience's response to every detail; it is to create an entertaining and affecting piece of art. It's MY responsibility to check my own facts when I see a historically-based piece of drama.

None of the changes referenced by the author are major plot points, nor do they contradict large salient points of history. ALL of them make the affected movies much more compelling to watch. It's not like we're talking about "Anonymous," a movie based entirely on a pile of horseshit conspiracy theories.

Muscato
Muscato

Anna Anderson wasn't really Anastasia, no matter how beautifully Ingrid Bergman played her.

Shirley Temple movies to the contrary, Queen Victoria rarely reunited moppets with their long-lost daddies.

Dolley Madison looked nothing like Ginger Rogers (what, you haven't seen The Magnificent Doll?  Good - it's a stinker).

And while it's not a specific historical inaccuracy, '60s period epics drive me crazy - everybody (sometimes even the leading men) wears false eyelashes, sausage curls, and bangs, and the costumes all look like they're made from wash 'n' wear double-knit (Funny Girl, I'm looking at you!).

latenitebump
latenitebump

the movie 54. mike myers made steve rubell look terrible.cleopatra was not white or jewish.stonewall the movie. should center around the black queen who stood up first to the police and fought back which sparked the riot/gay liberation in 1969.hercules was african.

Maggie Mcdonnell
Maggie Mcdonnell

Wait, Hercules was African!?!?? Not gonna lie, kinda ruined history for me.

Fido
Fido

So you're a stone-cold racist and white supremacist, is that what you're saying? Hercules (Herakles) was Greek, BTW.

Melinda9
Melinda9

Another thing about Amadeus is the way his wife and her family are presented. The Webers were a family of musicians - Constanze's sisters, Aloysia and Josepha, were opera singers.It's a gimmick - write a play with gossip and slander about someone who's dead and can't fight back. It sells tickets, but it's pathetic.

Mrwhompers
Mrwhompers

It's poetic license and people just have to get over it. If you quote a movie as truth, then you're pretty hopeless to begin with.

Fido
Fido

But the point is the psychological and cognitive effects fictional narratives in cinematic form have on our brains. Or did you just not grasp that basic point?

Cf1156
Cf1156

Just don't get me started about  "Jeanne Eagels".....

Libi
Libi

Forget about Glory. How about The Hurricane??? That one took so many liberties with the truth it's amazing they even pretended it was about Hurricane.

Wings
Wings

When I found out that Amadeus was complete bullshit, I lost all respect for that film. But at least Wolfie is presented as a genius whereas Salieri is the soulless copycat.

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