Tonight the 2012 Academy Awards will be televised as they have been for at least the last 50 years. This year advanced conversations include speculation concerning the impact of dramatic license on the audiences’ sense of history. Three of the motion pictures up for the award are based on history. Some pundits are concerned that historical facts distorted by cinematic production will do harm to the general public. The public may not be able to discern fact from fictionalized fact. What difference does it make? History books have been distorted for centuries. Documentaries are made from images and values held by the person directing the camera. It’s all in the perception any way. Five people viewing an accident will report five different stories.
In his book Travels with Charlie in Search of America John Steinbeck says:
We as a nation are as hungry for history as was England when Geoffrey of Mammoth concocted his history of British kings, many of whom he manufactured to meet the growing demand. Steinbeck goes on to describe other distortions in history. He concludes, I find this interesting but it does make for suspicion of history as a record of reality.
We all search for and believe in the facts with which we are the most comfortable. In this age of digital communication even the youngest among us knows that “Seeing is (not) believing.” At any rate, I hope that the movie Lincoln wins because it is good cinema.