Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

“Braveheart” Revisited

In my recent post about the Declaration of Arbroath I described the film “Braveheart” as being utterly appalling. I have said that consistently. I find from a post and the ensuing comments on Quora that I am far from alone in that view. 

In answer to the question  “Why do some English people have such a problem with the film Braveheart?” David  Wright wrote a reply tailored to the fact that Quora is pitched at people in the USA. His response is as follows:

“ Let me put it this way. I make a movie about the American Civil War, with General Lee as the hero and General Grant as the villain. Naturally, I will entitle it “Stonewall”

Lee lives in a tipi, with a totem pole and a birch-bark canoe outside. He is dressed as an Apache. He and his children are filthy and covered in warpaint, but his wife is spotless in a deerskin mini-skirt and eyeshadow. Grant dresses like George Washington and speaks with a Californian accent

Lee defeats Grant at Fredricksburg, which is fought on the Wyoming prairie. He has an affair with Grant’s 18-year-old wife and, in revenge, Grant invades the south and forces all southern brides to have sex with him before they are married.

Eventually, Lee is betrayed to Grant by General Jackson and spends the rest of his life in a northern prison.

That is about as accurate as “Braveheart”. What do you think Americans would think of it? “

A reader added the comment that “To add more historic “accuracy” Lee's troops should be wearing Aztec head dress and WW1 fatigues to combat.”

David Wright adds later on in the discussion that Mel Gibson is to history what Attila the Hun is to baby-sitting. Now that’s a comment to remember and adapt to circumstances.

Now if you are tempted to say “But it’s only a film!” think of its impact on some in the Scottish nationalist community and, in consequence, as an obvious example, their embarrassing willingness to daub themselves in blue and while body paint on pro-independence marches and demonstrations. Bad history in the cause of any form of nationalism is deeply dangerous, and too easily leads to bad politics and bad decisions. Oh sorry, that is a conclusion from History, not Hollywood.


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