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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 ...

TunipTheHollowVegemalLantern Mon 29-Oct-12 11:15:21

I've just been reading Jacqueline Wilson's new Victorian foundling one, Emerald Star. The story is told by Hetty/Emerald and at one point she says 'Let's cut to the chase'. This is surely an anachronism from the days of cinema, no?

TunipTheHollowVegemalLantern Mon 29-Oct-12 11:19:44

re The Sound of Music, I once read a movie mistakes entry that claimed it was ridiculous that nuns would have been able to siphon petrol out of a fuel tank. Someone else pointed out that nuns due to their living without men frequently can do stuff like car maintenance.

80sbabe Sat 10-Nov-12 22:29:40

My dd's class topic this term is The Tudors. She brought home a book this week from the school library which stated in the blurb that it contained up to date research facts.
It claimed that Anne Boleyn was beheaded on a block.
That Jane Seymour gave birth to Edward VI by caesarean section.
That water was a common drink in Tudor times.
That Katherine Howard was illiterate.
Where they did their research I don't know but I have been tempted to return it with corrections in red ink ! grin

sashh Wed 14-Nov-12 06:48:36

OK I've got one the otherway round.

I had some made for TV film on about a schoolgirl smuggling Jews out of the Warsaw Ghetto and keeping them in the attic. All 13 of them. Oh and she had a little sister to look after too.

I thought what a ridiculous idea.

But I googled Stefania Podgórska


mummytime Wed 14-Nov-12 07:19:35

sashh that story is amazing!

LineRunner Wed 14-Nov-12 23:17:36

MN should write a proper book. Of proper women's history.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 13:12:55

Yes, please!

If for no other reason than I'd love to see 'The Little MN PROPER WOMEN'S HISTORY DAMMIT Book' alongside the Baby Book and the Pregnancy Book. grin

I love that story sashh.

5dcsandallthelittlesantahats Fri 07-Dec-12 06:25:13

Mines just a tiny thing (!) but in blackadder nursie says to Elizabeth something like dont do that or they'll cut off your head like they did to your sister Mary.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 10:53:48

Nicked this post from another thread since it's such a good one:

'Lancelottie Sat 29-Sep-12 23:20:28
Ignore | Favourite
Nope, can't cope with Falco since I read a line that went something like 'he'd thought of a reasonable price and added a zero on the end' -- not in bloody Roman numerals he hadn't!'

skullcandy Thu 27-Dec-12 01:13:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FaLaLaLaLauraPalmer Thu 27-Dec-12 01:36:56

The dialogue in The Hour. So contemporary it makes my teeth itch!

BOFingSanta Thu 27-Dec-12 01:55:53

Downton Abbey! Julian Fellowes frequently has the characters use anachronistic phrases like "big girl's blouse", which was first reported in the 1960s. There's usually at least one clanger per episode.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 27-Dec-12 15:47:42

Caesarian sections have been done for millennia. They are not a modern invention.

Astralabe Thu 27-Dec-12 20:18:50

Not sure if anyone has mentioned it but nitpickers is a good website if you like this kind of thing - with my History class we used it to spot the inaccuracies in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (there were many!)

kickassangel Thu 27-Dec-12 20:41:13

The other Boleyn girl is one of those where Mary is given modern ideals with no reason to do that than to gain our sympathies for the character, e.g. She always wanted to be with her son and let him run/kick freely, she saw Henry as an oversized child etc. she may have done,or she may have been a jealous shrew who only cared about trying to keep her position and only headed to the countryside when it was obvious it was that or lose her head.

kickassangel Thu 27-Dec-12 20:43:09

C sections have been around for a long time but the mothers didn't usually survive. I am very glad to have access to modern medicine (would be dead now without it)

sarahtigh Sat 05-Jan-13 18:36:35

well not so much movies but in any ancient history programme when they find a skeleton of child they immediately seem to think child sacrifice rather than it probably died in infancy from infection or one of the numerous causes of infant mortality and then in last two minutes after all their research yes the child did just die young

even in history if you hear hooves think horses not zebras

ZebraOwl Wed 06-Feb-13 00:37:46

Argh, yes, the kissing, the kissing! It seems as though film/programme-makers think we won't understand the relationship unless we get to see a tonsil-tennis match taking place.

Bad History makes me have All The Rage in all contexts though. I watched a C5 "History" programme once & got in such a froth my friend got freaked out by my ranting. Ahem. I get just as cross when I hear Bad History in real life: as a Young Leader I almost bit a hole in my tongue not correcting the Brownie Guider who made a throwaway comment about Churchill spending his evenings at Number 10 watching TV. During WWII. I could have wept. Living in London I overhear vastly more than my share of Bad History, too, as there is so much History Stuff & so many people admiring it that the idiots who like to show off their "knowledge" are there in strength. On a related note, what is wrong with adults who blatantly make up answers rather than admitting they don't know?!

Have got all History Cross now, thinking about Bad History. A History Fit, maybe? Grump/

deleted203 Wed 06-Feb-13 00:51:08

Braveheart. Makes me cringe that there are so many, many historical inaccuracies. Wallace was killed in 1305. Edward I died in 1307. Edward II married Isabella in 1308. Hmmm...yet she had met, shagged and got up the duff by Wallace in time to tell Edward I about it on his death bed?

I absolutely hate any film based on history that then makes up its own story, to be honest. If you are basing it on real people then at least make it bloody accurate.

What really drives me mad about these films is that so many people will happily believe all this, not knowing any better.

RM76 Wed 06-Feb-13 00:57:52

'Pet Peeve' is the right phrase, mine is:

Gladiator (yes, I don't know why I watched it either)
A German Shepherd, Really????

LineRunner Wed 06-Feb-13 01:10:22


What can I say. It was only after twenty viewings that I finally dragged my eyes away from Russell Crowe enough to see it was not entirely historically accurate. Still like it, though.

The awnings over the provincial arena were well done.

ZebraOwl Thu 07-Feb-13 03:01:08

Oooh, just been reminded: all the films where the Americans win WWII all on their own.

U-571 is one that instantly leaps to mind, claiming it was US submariners who first captured an Enigma machine. It's bad enough when it's a general "la la la we won the war with our awesome" but warping a specific story like this is just... Leaving aside the Bad History & the perpetuation of the We Won The War For Them myth in the US, it is a pretty shabby way to treat the [memory of] the British personnel who were involved in the first capture of an Enigma machine before America even came into the war!

Then of course there's The Great Escape - no Americans were in the camp then much less involved in the escape. As for the motorbike ridiculousness!

Greydog Mon 25-Feb-13 12:03:16

Like one of the other posters on here I am a re enactor, and have spent many hours telling people what they see on the screen is not what happened. Husband spent an hour explaining to one group of people that Braveheart was not a documentary. When the Da Vinci code came out - because I speak about religion in medieval times - I spoke to dozens of punters who believed that the whole thing was true. In the end I resorted to explaining it was Harry Potter for grown ups! U571 is a really dreadful one, ignoring the sacrifice of the British who captured the machine. It puts me in mind of the Errol Flynn films that were so dislike by the British, and there's a famous cartoon of Flynn after (I think) a film called Objective Burma, with the ghost of a tommy saying to Flynn "Excuse me, Mr. Flynn, you're sitting on some graves" That film was withdrawn from British cinemas.

deleted203 Mon 25-Feb-13 14:25:18

The thing about Errol Flynn was that, as a naturalised American citizen in 1942, he became eligible for the draft when the USA entered the war and was completely rejected. He had a heart murmur and he had already suffered at least one heart attack. He had recurrent malaria, chronic back pain (for which he self-medicated with morphine and later, with heroin), lingering chronic tuberculosis, and numerous venereal diseases. (Lovely!) Flynn, famous for his athletic roles and promoted as a paragon of physical beauty, was classified 4-F – unqualified for military service because of not meeting the minimum physical fitness standards.

I suspect Hollywood studios did not want to publicise just how physically defective he actually was and a lot of people regarded him as a draft dodger, which increased dislike of his 'war' movies!

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 26-Feb-13 19:47:23

YY re U571 - had forgotten that "US capture" part till now. Grr.

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