There’s a terrible saying that you can’t spell “history” without “story.” And while the spirit of that saying is true, the sheer painfulness of it might go a long way towards explaining why so many history classes are exercises in tedium. And even for the kids who spent afternoons sitting in the stacks with a pile of dusty history books, even for those with that predisposed bias towards history as a subject, history classes tended to be bores. Most people manage to finish their education having been engaged and thrilled by less history courses than can be counted on the fingers of a blind woodcutter.
Films have hardly been less offensive to history than curricula, regularly stamping out anything from the historical record of actual interest in favor of fitting every event of the past into a template. Eliminate all grey areas, take out the questionable violence, add some cliched violence, and be absolutely sure to include a love interest and a snarling bad guy.
It’s a tragedy because done with any respect for the material, history is a juggernaut of every element of story we prize. No matter how insane a gamble, how impossible an overcoming of odds, how unbelievable of a character, if it can possibly be imagined, it is safe to say that history can top it. The pages of these tomes are packed to bursting with events and deeds so incredible that if they hadn’t really happened, no one would ever believe they could. History contains within it every story we’ve ever told. And that’s why boring history classes and amateurish movies are such terrible things. They take the living and breathing magnificence of our past, that cacophony of stories, and squeeze the life out of it until nothing remains but dust.
And that’s why we started Storytellers here on Pajiba. We had the simple idea that history is not boring, and that maybe, just maybe, if we teased out some of those spectacular stories, we just might raise the discussion a bit about what stories films can tell. So today we thought that we’d make a day of it, get everybody on board, and put up a whole book load of Storytellers articles. So while tomorrow we will return to your regularly scheduled programming, we figured that it was only fair to provide warning. Today it’s going to get historical up in here.
Storytellers Posts (Updated Hourly)