A while back I read an article stating that the college-aged/ young adult demographic claims to get most of their news and current event information from late night talk shows and variety programs like Saturday Night Live. I laughed. I cried. I was afraid.
Do these young ‘ens understand that these shows do not employ journalists? They have a staff of comedy writers! You don’t get news stories from these shows. You instead find spoofs, satires and all sorts of silliness.
What if this same audience learned history from movies like Year One (2009), History of the World, Part 1 (1981) or One Million Years B.C. (1966)? Yikes!
What if we got all of our literary education from watching movies?
In the 1999 made-for-TV presentation of Noah’s Ark, based loosely—and I mean VERY LOOSELY—on the Biblical account in the book of Genesis, we find Noah and his wife dealing with Lot and his pirate friends. Now I’m not sure if the writers of this story ever read the Bible, but I have. I can tell you with certainty that Lot was a relative of Abraham. He had pretty much nothing to do with Noah. Hmmm….
Okay, but that’s just one movie. Let’s look at Disney movies. They have deep pockets. They’ll be true to the original books, right?
The Little Mermaid (1989) is probably the biggest offender. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a precious movie, and I adore the fish song, particularly. However, anyone who has ever read Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale knows that it does not have the happily-ever-after ending of the movie. The poor little mermaid does not marry her prince.
What am I saying? Should we not enjoy movies based on books? Should we completely disregard all films that are based on events in history? Should we never make political decisions solely based on information we get from SNL’s “Weekend Update”?
All right, that last one—I am saying precisely that.
For the others, though, please enjoy the movies. Just understand that historical events depicted in a two-hour film probably took much longer to develop. Characters may be an amalgamation of several different real people. Movie producers tend to like happy endings, especially for children’s stories, even when the books don’t have cheerful resolutions.
When you’re done with the movie, read the book. Look up what really happened in history. Watch the evening news—the one with real reporters and no musical guest stars. In other words, keep reality and entertainment separate.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!