Sensationalism Has its Purpose


Before I get to the actual topic of today’s blog, I need to address something that should not interfere with my work in this class or any other, and yet it has a direct effect on my work ethic.

Breaking Bad is ruining my life.

No, seriously. I started it two, maybe three, weeks ago, and it has consumed my life. It is a drug within itself. I literally get up early to watch Breaking Bad, and then I go to bed late because I was watching Breaking Bad. Anytime I have free time I ask myself, Do I have 50 minutes to watch an episode? The answer is usually yes, even if it does make me five minutes late to my next class. The show has put a large dent into my productivity as of late. But I can’t help it because it’s that good.


ohmygodican’tcontainmyexcitementIloveitsomuch. And also, GIFS.


But sadly (luckily?), the series finale is on Sunday night, so I have the rest of the week to finish catching up. Then, I watch the finale, have some type of emotional crisis depending on what happens, and then I can finally get on with my life.


So. On Monday we watched Inherit the Wind as a class. It is basically a movie about the Scopes Monkey trial from the 1920’s but not really about the Scopes Monkey trial. It focuses around fictional characters as they go through the events of a trial that is extremely similar to the one that actually happened. So my assignment for today is to discuss the cautions I would give to the viewer of a popular movie as a source of history.

First of all, it will be sensationalized. No matter how historically accurate it may be, it is still a movie first and a historical source second, so events will be dramatized so people who aren’t history buffs will be entertained. For example, in Inherit, the court room scenes get really intense, and there is a subplot about the frowned-upon engagement of the defendant and the local pastor’s daughter. This is probably why they chose to base it on the Scopes trial instead of trying to recreate it.

This is why historical inaccuracies in films should be taken with a grain of salt. If someone is looking for a historical source in moving picture form, go watch a documentary. The purpose of a historical film is to educate the general themes and ideas of the historical event while still keeping it entertaining for the common viewer. Even war films, like Saving Private Ryan or the Band of Brothers HBO series, that do a great job of portraying the horrors of war, are still sensationalized in their own ways. However, historical films are like historical fiction literature in a way. Their aim is to portray the spirit and emotions of the times while giving the basic overview of a specific event, even if the details aren’t quite right. Even if they can’t be used as an accurate historical source for the event, they still give the general idea, and hopefully give it justice. For this reason, whenever I watch a historical film, I still find it educational, even though I know that it has been sensationalized. I (sort-of) learn while being entertained.

One personal example is Valkyrie.  When I first watched this movie, I loved it. Sure, Tom Cruise seemed kind of wooden and dull, but whatever. He’s a serious, high-ranking Nazi, there’s no room for this personality nonsense. But watching this movie was the first I had heard of the Operation: Valkyrie plot. After watching it, I got really interested. I did my own research and read a few books on the subject, so I consider myself to be pretty well-read over the July 20, 1944 bomb plot. But then I went back and watched the movie. Granted, all of the following may just be nit-picky pet peeves of mine, but they really bothered me.

The accents were inconsistent. Almost everyone in the movie had British instead of German accents, which is fine. But then there was Tom Cruise, the only American in a Nazi conference room full of British guys. And then there was Hitler, who actually bothered to have a German accent. Honestly, if an English speaking film studio is going to make a film about a foreign event, then at least keep the accents consistent. Jeez. Honestly, I would rather watch a movie that was entirely in German with English subtitles. Which is basically what Inglourious Basterds was, with some French and Italian thrown in.

And also, of what I’ve read about Stauffenberg, he was a lot cooler person than Cruise portrayed him. Like, he actually smiled every once in a while and had a pretty awesome, charismatic personality. Sure, I guess Cruise kind of looks like him (except not really):


But that’s not enough to make a casting decision.

But I give the film credit, because it did get me interested in the actual events that took place. When I was studying abroad this summer in Germany, I visited the Bendlerblock (where the coup and the assassinations took place) in Berlin on July 20, the 69th anniversary of the event.

Phone Camera 046

But more on all that later, hopefully. I have a lot to say about it.

Oh, and also this. Completely relevant.


2 thoughts on “Sensationalism Has its Purpose

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