Hollywood: Suspension of Historical Facts and Common Sense.

I have been watching a TV show in USA Network called Damnation. Set in the early 1930s (1931 I recall hearing it mentioned) and the darned thing looks good, has some decent acting, but the script suffers from the same malady many other shows and movies have: Not a lick of logic to be found.

The story is that there is some sort of farmer’s strike in a county in Iowa and it is alleged to be based in passing on stuff that really happened. That is fine and I accept certain dramatic liberties, hell I even accept that the strike breaker’s 1911 has a 12 or 13 round magazine and Novak sights, but when I see one of the striking dairy farmer dumping the milk rather than sell it and letting his kids starve, I got my alarm bells up. My maternal grandfather had cows and whatever milk was not sold to the local processor, was converted in cheese, butter or fed to the family.

Now, there are not a single character with a redeeming value in the show, but we have really bad guys that happen to be the ultra rich from the east trying to buy farmland for notorious purposes. One location that they already control has a strange factory where hobos and drunkards are herded to be used in chemical warfare experiments, namely to make a uniform that could withstand the Mustard Gas , I guess.  There is a scene where you see somebody totally unprotected disposing of uniforms with holes in the from the chemicals that had killed the hobos and drunks. I had to ask myself, why do you need men at this stage at all? You just need to hang a uniform and dump some gas on it to see if it melts the sucker. But if you do not have a man inside, the writers probably believe you won’t get enraged. Now, why are the doing Chemical Warfare research in 1931 somewhere in Iowa? For the incoming war in Europe? Hitler had not reach power yet in 1931 and does not challenge Hindenburg in elections till 1932 and does not become Chancellor till 1933 and only consolidates power in 1934.

The dumbness of the obvious fails of common sense was bothering me, but it was one precise historical detail that killed the show for me. Remember this is 1931 and the Ultra Rich Bad Guys are having a feast and talking about the future in industry and technology that would dominate the planet. One of the “baddies” comments he got sick and that his mom prayed for his health but it was doctors and technology that cured him, not prayers. He closes by saying “It was Alexander Fleming and not God who invented penicillin” or close enough to those words. I remembered I had read about Fleming’s research in elementary school and I knew that was wrong. That was when I realized that this “historical script” was being done via bad Google & Wikipedia searches. Yes, Fleming has discovered penicillin by then, but very few people knew about it and there was no technology to produce it in stable form, much less mass produce it for sale. There was no full production of the antibiotic till 1943 and that was mostly used in the war effort. The writers apparently did a quick search, saw that Fleming discovered the mold in 1929 and figured that was close enough for Hollywood work

There are several other mistakes of history and common sense, but it was the penicillin that did it for me. The problem is that thanks to the lack of a classical education,  the majority of people watching will actually believe the bullshit displayed as historical fact in this series. The ignorance of the writers will get passed along to others and we get dumber by the minute.

4 Replies to “Hollywood: Suspension of Historical Facts and Common Sense.”

  1. I had similar thoughts when I first saw “Inglourious Basterds.” Plus, apart from the “fake history” aspect in and of itself, I felt it was a disservice to the men who actually fought and won the war.

    1. There is a theory that all Quentin Tarantino movies take place in the same alternative universe. If you go into Inglourious Basterds thinking that, it’s just a good action flick. Besides, is it really any worse than The Dirty Dozen?

      1. Except Dirty Dozen has some interesting history behind it. It’s a warped story of the “Filthy Thirteen” — paratroopers who were, well, poor on discipline and hygiene, but long on valor. Their ring leader, Jake McNiece, spent five years in the military, got 4 Bronze Stars, 2 Purple Hearts, the French Legion of Honor, and left service the “acting” first sergeant of his unit. He spent most of his time as a private because he’d get busted every time he got promoted.

        The Filthy Thirteen dropped into Normandy and Market Garden. Half of those who survived those drops went into Bastogne to direct supply drops — they parachuted into Bastogne AFTER it was cut off.

        Mix in a little history of the First Special Services Force (which DID get staffed with convicts and being sweeping, at least the US contingent), and there you go.

  2. Hollywood playing fast and loose with history to serve a political agenda is a longstanding tradition. “Birth of a Nation” started the idea that historical facts could be “adjusted” for political purposes. In (relatively) modern times “JFK” was the seminal example of manufacturing history to reflect a preconceived bias, so much so that a majority of people believe it’s a documentary, not a drama.

    Now, even though their efforts are more inept, the attitude that historical facts are mutable, and no one need study what happened more than five years ago anyway allows the propagandists to get away with anything. I’m too old to be around (I hope) when they start rounding up dissidents for the re-education camps, but it sure feels like it’s coming.

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