Whitewashing History?

from Jun 16, 2011 Category: Tabletalk Magazine

To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times, the worst of times. That is how one might describe the current movie-saturated era. Certainly, from an entertainment perspective, it is the best of times. While I myself still prefer the classic films of the 40s and 50s, from The Maltese Falcon to The Searchers, it is hard not to be impressed by everything from the special effects in something like Inception to the sheer brilliance of acting in The King’s Speech. Yet therein lies the problem, that which makes it, in a sense, the worst of times. As our access to the past is increasingly shaped by, if not actually mediated through, such media as movies, the real past is too often sacrificed for the sake of a good story.” Carl Trueman begins his contribution to this month’s issue of Tabletalk by writing about the movies.

Take The King’s Speech, for example. As every British schoolboy of a certain generation would know, Winston Churchill, great war leader though he was, was also an ardent supporter of the pro-Nazi Edward VIII in the abdication crisis. The great British hero was not quite so heroic, or astute, when it came to the slimy Edward. The movie, however, puts Mr. C on the other side. Which version, I wonder, will become the received narrative for future generations? More egregiously, a few years ago a movie was made about the American cracking of Adolf Hitler’s Enigma Code. Great story, I guess, if you are an American. The fact is, however, that it was the British who cracked the code.”

From the movies Dr. Trueman draws some conclusions about human nature. Find out what they are in “Whitewashing History?“.