TV and Archaeology

I often have students ask me about documentaries or historically based shows/movies they catch on television. Usually they want to talk about the accuracy of the show. I have to admit I am of two minds here. On one hand, I feel that if a show or movie gets people interested in history then that is a good thing. On the other hand, the proliferation of channels showing documentaries has led to a decrease in accuracy since there is now less competition and it is a seller’s market. (I realize that this is the same argument used about the dilution of pitching talent in MLB caused by expansion of teams). For a very good synopsis of the issues check out what Eric Cline wrote in his article entitled "Raiders of the Faux Ark" originally published in the Boston Globe, but also available at the AIA website. I particularly like this article, not only because it is well-written and persuasively argued, but because he also mentions the Naked Archaeologist a show on the History Channel that students frequently ask me about. I also have to confess that the intent of the producers of the show/movie is important to my view on it. For example, I saw an interview with several of the producers of the recent movie, 300, and appreciated the fact that they said they changed things to make the movie more visually appealing and entertaining. And yes, I know some people argue that history doesn’t need to be tinkered with to be exciting, but I also understand that movies are made to make money. I do, however, get very ticked off when I see or hear producers of movies/shows going on at great length about their product’s historical accuracy and attention to detail but then see errors or inaccuracies in their production. I hope this makes sense somehow, and is not just a bizarre rambling.

RSM

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