Too true

Period Speech:  Four figures are on a stage. Character one declaims: "Forsooth, do you grok my jive, me hearties?" Three companions (one carrying a spear, one carrying a dagger and a pistol, one carrying a laptop) respond: "Ten-four!".

A few centuries from now, all the English of the past 400 years will sound equally old-timey and interchangeable.

My imagination is already reeling. What are your current favourite or most detested anachronistic historical films or TV series, and what future travesties do you think your descendants might see?



Categories: arts & entertainment, history, language

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23 replies

  1. I’ll go first with virtually any movie or miniseries about the Tudors done in the last century. So much budget spent on the costumes and highlighting the intrigue as soap opera, so little attention paid to accurate chronology.

  2. You come correct, O my droogs, mos def.

    detested anachronistic historical films or TV series

    I’m always irritated by Foyle’s War. Yes, it’s fun crime drama with history in it, and Sam Stewart is a badarse, but every now and then there’s dialogue or details which blow suspension of disbelief entirely.
    There’s one scene in one episode where a criminal evades punishment because he’s going on overseas service—and then describes to Foyle exactly where he’s going, in what capacity, and when. And this in a series which had a whole episode dedicated to the Official Secrets Act!

    • and Sam Stewart is a badarse

      [tangent] I occasionally vacillate as to whether Honeysuckle Weeks or Benedict Cumberpatch has Teh Best Name Evah in actorly circles [/tangent]

  3. Well, let’s say 50 years get mashed into one era, which is quite likely. That gets you the Summer of Love with mobile phones. Or widespread use of the Internet to organise opposition to the Vietnam War. Or it being unremarkable for a member of the Australian middle class to have regular international holidays during, say, the Whitlam government.
    I tend to think the speed of communication is key. To take examples from my personal lifespan, my father nearly missed the birth of my sister because he was on the road and calls were being made from location to location to try and track him down (“sorry, he just left fifteen minutes ago for such-and-such…” etc). I rang that same father from my delivery room when my son was twenty minutes old, and his birth was announced at a conference party in New Zealand, via information received from Twitter, before my postpartum haemorrhage had been completely resolved. Getting the exact nuances of how fast news spreads right will be hard for the scriptwriters of the future.

  4. Or if you expand the year bracket, you could have a spy drama with T.E. Lawrence and Mata Hari locating Saddam Hussein’s missing gold.
    …actually I’d totally watch that.

  5. With a leaked email exchange between Eleanor Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger.

  6. Kitchener killed Harold Holt. You heard it here first.

  7. Because of a geopolitical dispute about foreign policy relating to the USSR in the glasnost period.

  8. The Imperial Japanese space programme, of course, TT, was part of the race against Hezbollah rocketry.

    • A neighbour of mine just came around to alert me to an episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand that is showing tonight on Go! – we had a discussion a few years ago about the homoerotic subtext of the sword and sandal genre and now he keeps me up to date whenever the gay network starts talking about a new must-see show.
      A quick wiki-look showed me a delightful list of historical “deviations”, of which this one is probably my favourite:

      Roman legionaries are portrayed wearing lorica segmentata. The first attested use of this type of armor dates to around 9 BC,[23] six decades after Spartacus’ revolt.

      Now that’s the sort of meticulous attention to detail that warms a history pedant’s heart. This reminds me that the regular clunker with dramas set in Mediterranean antiquity that infallibly gets me twitching is the use of stirrups by riders. No, no, no UR DOIN IT RONG. The record in public art shows that Rome and Greece were strangers to the stirrup before the 4th century CE.

  9. @ TT

    Look you can have Epic or you can have factual. Now which would you rather? *thinks inappropriate thoughts about actors pretending to be hot and sweaty Romans in lorica segmentata*

    • Apparently there’s a lot of blood as well as the sweat, Mindy. Did I mention that John Hannah and Lucy Lawless get to be all ambitious and manipulative as the owners of the gladiator school as well?

  10. The temptation was too great – I’ve gone to look at the trailer on YouTube.
    It’s pretty gory.
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/yHxn8mTpAJU?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

  11. Getting the exact nuances of how fast news spreads right will be hard for the scriptwriters of the future.

    Even now that’s an issue, simply because the technology is developing so quickly. I remember when Torchwood: Children of Earth aired last year, Tigtog commented that everyone should have been spreading the information about the aliens via Twitter — but the script itself was written 18-12 months before the airdate, and at that point, Twitter was nothing like the cultural phenomenon it had become by July 2009.

  12. one of the main problems with the future looking back on now is that the now is just so very very much faster than a hundred years ago. Technology is so completely different in a matter of years, or even months.

    • @Beppie, I’d forgotten about that lack of Twitter in Children of Earth, but that’s exactly the sort of example.
      @Paige, you’re quite right. I suspect that future historians of technology are going to have their work cut out for them.
      I watched half of the Spartacus last night, am about to go and watch the rest. It’s sexed-up martial-arts soap opera (slow-mo fight scene moments even!), basically, and of course it perpetuates what is widely considered to be a a bit of face-saving Roman propaganda about the man known to history as Spartacus – the claim that he was a foreigner. Many historians who’ve studied what we know of his generalship believe that his skills were Roman all the way.

      ”Thracian,” along with “Gaul” and “Samnite,” originally referred to prisoners of war from Thrace, Gaul, and Samnium (in southern Italy), who in the republican period were forced to fight as gladiators and naturally used the weapons and equipment characteristic of their people. In time these terms ceased to indicate the actual ethnicity of the fighter, but simply designated a particular type of gladiator using particular armor and fighting equipment. “Thracian” remained as category until late antiquity, while “Gaul” and “Samnite” disappeared, but the former may have been the model for the later secutor and murmillo.
      [Source: Brooklyn College Classics Department: Types of Gladiators]

  13. “This reminds me that the regular clunker with dramas set in Mediterranean antiquity that infallibly gets me twitching is the use of stirrups by riders. No, no, no UR DOIN IT RONG. The record in public art shows that Rome and Greece were strangers to the stirrup before the 4th century CE.”
    Yes! Also, I was most annoyed by (among other things) the movie Troy showing Greeks fighting on horseback. FAIL.

  14. Armour generally is a problem in drama (the reality of what a knight in armour really looked like, and what we see on screens, is jarring indeed), and no doubt uniforms will also be for future dramatists. In future centuries they can surely expect to see the German soldiers in World War 1 dressed like the Waffen SS, and the RAN officers offshore from the Falkland Islands still wearing cocked hats.

  15. but the script itself was written 18-12 months before the airdate, and at that point, Twitter was nothing like the cultural phenomenon it had become by July 2009.

    I felt this reading Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son (recommended by the way), which is set in 2007. The geographically separated early-twentysomething characters write each other emails a lot on top of texting. The emails are a bit too lengthy and well-written but I considered that a reasonable trade-off for a readable work of fiction. There’s mention of MySpace. However, she was lucky with that choice of date: if it was set in 2008, it would be unbelievable that they weren’t primarily interacting on Facebook.

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