Saturday, January 22, 2011

If You're Going to Write Something Historical, Study Some History!

My family has been off at a day-long retreat today, so I had the television to myself. That means I hunted up movies with some sort of historical link. I ended up watching Brothers of the Frontier and part of Two Mules for Sister Sara. In each case, I found myself questioning some of the history in the movies and getting rather irritated.

I was actually not so much irritated as questioning when the French pulled out what appeared to be a Gatling gun in Two Mules for Sister Sara. I remembered from a trip to the Museum of Arkansas Heritage (where they had a firearms exhibit up) that the Gatling gun was invented during the American Civil War. A quick trip to the internet told me the French invaded Mexico during roughly that same time period, so at least the gun existed to lend at least a shred of truth to the story. However, further reading convinced me that there wouldn't have been a Gatling gun in that French stronghold in Mexico; the U.S. Army didn't actually adopt the gun until 1866, meaning it probably wouldn't have made it into the hands of foreign armies just yet by the time the French were defeated in Mexico. So while it's plausible, it's just not very likely. I don't care that a Gatling gun made for really dramatic battle scenes; it is historically inaccurate and shouldn't have been in the movie.

At least the Gatling gun in Two Mules for Sister Sara was plausible. There were so many things in the Brothers of the Frontier movie that were just plain wrong. In a nutshell, the story is about a family that is driven away from their home when a greedy, proud neighbor falsely accuses their oldest son of theft. The family leaves for the West and gets separated on the way, leaving the three sons alone in the wilderness. This story was supposed to have taken place in the Alleghenies of the 1700s. But let me tell you, whoever wrote this movie and whoever did props and costumes apparently made no effort whatsoever to find out what people wore in the 1700s. The mother had on the standard form-fitting "pioneer woman" costume with what looked like Battenburg lace on the collar. Battenburg lace???? Are you kidding me? The Alleghenies were still frontier territory during the 1700s - this woman would have been lucky to have a very simple linsey-woolsey dress.

I also caught them using the term "OK" throughout the movie. I know from research for my own writing project that "OK" didn't come into common usage until the 1820's. And their dog! It was one of those fluffy little white "Benji" types of dogs. No self-respecting pioneer family would have a cutesy dog like that! They would have a hound or some kind of terrier that could pull its weight, not just be a pet.

Well, I could go on, but the family just got home and it's bedtime. For my two cents, these movies are just wrong...if you're going to write historical stories, get the history right!

1 comment:

Ephemera said...

Amen, amen, amen, AMEN!!!!!!