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Historical mistakes in books and movies

(133 Posts)
Penelope1980 Tue 25-Sep-12 22:27:52

Hello! I thought this would be a good place to ask you what your top pet peeves are in historical books and movies as, as history lover, it is something which interests me. Do you mind when things aren't right? Or does it make you seethe? What specifically do you hate the most? Are you ever forgiving of mistakes, modern language, modern haircuts etc? Or, are you usually so busy enjoying the book or movie to notice?

I find I don't mind a good historical bodice-ripper as can usually get carried away in the story, or most movies set in the past, but am really intolerant of the following:

- when a true historical character is painted a villain when there is no proof that they were. Case that springs to mind is Murdoch in the movie Titanic, who is painted a bad guy with no real proof that he was.

- When in books set hundred of years ago all the 'good' characters have modern values (especially regarding gender, race and class) and the 'bad' characters have the values of the time. I find this presentism irritating, and a bit condescending.

Interested in your thoughts ...

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Thu 11-Oct-12 23:01:05

Although Matthew Hopkins is notorious for torturing witches. He used to walk them for days, deprive them of sleep, and when he had discovered their witches marks, would stab the mark with a retractable pin, to prove that witches marks feel no pain! We have a ducking pond here as well.

joanofarchitrave Thu 11-Oct-12 23:08:29

I've said it before on here, but... hats.

Keira Knightley Women prancing about outside without hats or gloves. In the 19th century.

In the 1930s women were still wearing hats indoors to lunch parties (bizarrely) and to the beach. I believe I'm right in thinking most women wouldn't go out without their hats on in the 19th C.

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Thu 11-Oct-12 23:20:42

In the first instance, he would have his victims thrown into a isolated prison cell, stripped naked, beaten, starved and kept from sleep, while using the pain and humiliation psychologically against them. If this didn’t work he would use his more brutal and favoured methods of torture, starting with “Pricking”. Pricking was an excruciatingly painful ordeal to endure and involved the use of evil looking pins, needles and bodkins to pierce the skin looking for insensitive spots that didn’t bleed. If any were found they would then be interpreted as a mark of the Devil . If none were found the victim was made to sit cross-legged on a table or stool, then bound in the posture with cords and left alone for up to 24 hours or until such time as the cramps and pain set in. Naked and bare foot they would then be forced to walk up and down the cold stone floor of the cell without respite until their feet began to blister and bleed.

WofflingOn Fri 12-Oct-12 00:09:05

Llamas in the dreadful film of Troy, the one with Brad in it.

Ken Follett:
Acorns were famine food and often ground up to make flour with. Chestnut flour would be very nutritious, acorns less so.

sieglinde Fri 12-Oct-12 10:21:14

saggy, what's the source of that quotation?

I agree that some of Hopkins' methods AMOUNTED to torture by today's standards, but they weren't regarded as torture by him, but seen instead as a method of empirically proving witchcraft - so paradoxically they were LESS reliant on confession than most other forms of witchy jurisprudence. What never happened was REAL torture, and there were plenty of methods about - the rack, for example, or the suspension by the wrists; both could actually nuke the victim's spine - or the boots, which basically caused compound fracture of the lower legs.

Don't think I'm making light of Hopkins, and his methods WERE seen as tantamount to torture by some of his opponents, but in the context of the brutality of the era it was a. not legally torture and b. relatively moderate.

Why does a. matter? well, it's the case that actual torture - of for instance burglars and Catholics - was incredibly no-holds barred, designed really to maim, if not kill. This was the state's way of laying down a marker on what it valued. Witches were really seen as less of a threat than Catholics or burglars.

I realise these might seem fine distinctions, but I think they are important ones.

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Fri 12-Oct-12 11:31:32

Oh gosh, you'll have to bear with me, I'm at work today, I'll fish the source out of the laptop this evening! grin

LauraShigihara Fri 12-Oct-12 11:45:07

Not a film but a supposedly factual programme that was running in the background while I painted the bedroom wall last week.

The presenter told the 'true story' of a doomed love affair in the fourteenth century. They both came from noble families, but they were not allowed to marry because his family was Catholic and her's was Protestant

I had to climb down the stepladder in order to rant loudly enough at the telly

True story, my arse.

sieglinde Fri 12-Oct-12 12:08:08

Thanks, Saggy. I'll come back this evening. But I'm guessing it's Anne Barstow?

Acorns are quite a common substitute food in northern Europe, woffling. Pigs also fed on them in autumn. Not sure they are hugely nourishing, but they were eaten. Kinda a desperation thing. A few chefs use them for infusions - David everett Whatsit at Le Champignon Sauvage...they taste interesting, a bit like chicory, hence were also used as coffee substitutes.

Whitamakafullo Fri 12-Oct-12 16:16:13

Nobody mentioned Braveheart yet? Full of shite from start to finish, and I say that as someone with Wallace blood flowing through my veins winkgrin

SirBoobAlot Fri 12-Oct-12 16:27:23

Titanic gets right on my tits too.

Oh, pretty much the whole "The Other Boleyn Girl".

TunipTheVegemal Fri 12-Oct-12 16:29:10

yes to Braveheart and Titanic.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 12-Oct-12 16:38:31

YY, sieg is right, it's a bit like Guantanamo bay, I think. Torture was illegal, so what he did was 'not torture'. Though obviously it was. sad


But then, there's the really scary fact that if you look at common punishments for children, they pretty much amount to torture too.

I love the inaccuracies in Braveheart. 'History is written by those who have hanged heroes' = I'm telling it my way, dammit! grin

SummerRain Fri 12-Oct-12 20:29:49

Laura, that made me properly laugh out loud... I'm guessing they meant they supported different claimants to the disputed papacy but thought us dumb folk at home wouldn't grasp such an intellectual concept hmm

Penelope1980 Fri 12-Oct-12 20:45:43

Re Braveheart, you mean Isabella of France didn't have an affair with William Wallace while under the age of 9? grin And William Wallace didn't have the kind of long hair popular in the early 1990s?

Laura your post reminds me of a book I read once about the 1300s where the distinction between capitalists and communists was drawn, as if they existed. Can't remember the book now though - it wasn't a famous one.

Apart from the Murdoch thing mentioned in the OP my main peeve about the Titanic isn't an inaccuracy as such but find it annoying how it seems 95% books and movies set over 1912 have at least someone die or on the ship. Can't articulate why that bugs me, but it does.

sieglinde Sat 13-Oct-12 10:50:07

yy Penelope - Marxist whiggish interpretations - my most hated is the movie Lady Jane, in which Guildford Dudley is a cuddlesome socialist.

How have i failed to mention Anonymous? SOOO bad it's beautiful. I kept count of the errors, and gave up when I reached three figures in the first hour. Funnier than Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The entire male peerage are Elizabeth I's illegitimate children and alos her lovers and fathers of other peer children. hmm

yyy Titanic. What a pile of shite. They way Miss Bukater is addressed as Rose by complete strangers, frinstance...

TunipTheVegemal Sat 13-Oct-12 10:53:37

I've just remembered what pisses me off even more.
When a character in a film or tv drama is given credit for an important actual historical event, thus erasing the heroism/intelligence/hard work of the actual people that did it. Prime example: when the lesbian sister in the last series of the new Upstairs Downstairs organises the Kindertransport.

TunipTheVegemal Sat 13-Oct-12 10:54:30

yes re Lady Jane, and the way Jane & Guildford manage to fall in love just before she gets chopped.

SirBoobAlot Sat 13-Oct-12 11:41:48

Anonymous - is that the Shakespeare one? Never watched it, maybe I should...

YY Tunip, makes me quite sad actually.

Oh - and "From Hell". Now, I love Johnny Depp, and as a work of fiction it is good, but if you're going to spend a budget like that on a Jack The Ripper film, why choose the least plausible theory, plus have one of the victim manage to get away at the end?!

sieglinde Sat 13-Oct-12 12:44:14

SirBoob, it's the one that sees the earl of Oxford as the author of Shakespeare. because someone PLEBEIAN could never have written such majestic stuff. Highly recommended as it's such utter and complete and total shite... makes Elizabeth and The Tudors look quite good.

EmBOOsa Sat 13-Oct-12 12:56:27

Oh god, I'd wiped From Hell from my memory! I was fuming watching it, but then it is an Alan Moore and he is a twat.

SirBoobAlot Sat 13-Oct-12 13:05:45

Sieglinde grin I shall have to look it up now! Was it is as painful as Elizabeth / The Golden Age? Because they actually physically hurt at some points.

Penelope1980 Sun 14-Oct-12 00:52:26

I came across a mistake in the book "Sarah's Key" which really grated - the Jews in Paris got a letter from some Jews in Eastern Europe c1940 which detailed what was happening to them at the hands of the Nazis. I am 95% sure that such a letter never would have made it past the censors. It was just a little thing and not intergral to the story, but for me made me wonder about the historical accuracy of the rest of it which made it less enjoyable. Which is a shame as was enjoying it until that point.

MooncupGoddess Wed 17-Oct-12 17:58:48

Public snogging pre the 1960s really annoys me. There is a BBC adaptation of Persuasion where Anne and Captain Wentworth engage in some tongue-twisting on a crowded street at the end! It just would not have happened - at most they would have exchanged meaningful looks and he would have put his hand under her arm.

nickeldaisical Thu 18-Oct-12 16:00:01

oh, yes, the kissing!!
it's everywhere! never would have happened!

Mirage Sun 28-Oct-12 21:18:25

Could the 'Israel; on the van in The Sound of Music,be the name rather than the country?

I get annoyed with grammatical errors,spelling mistakes and the wrong word being used in the wrong context in books.It happens surprisingly often and really spoils my enjoyment.Do they actually use proof readers these days.Bloody hell,I've only got O levels and even I can spot them.hmm

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