The Incredible Legacy of Historical Ancient Women: Where are they in film? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Lindsey Perritt

A question that I have currently asked myself is where is the representation of women from the ancient history in modern day films? We see films like Gladiator, Alexander the Great, and Troy. The issue I encounter is the missing representation of powerful women that ruled and bravely campaigned for their kingdoms.

As an historian in training I have researched many incredible subjects of interest. My focus in history is women in ancient Egypt, and my favorite area of study is the life and legacy of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. My minor is women and gender studies (WGST) and I have learned so much in the last two years about powerful and influential women.

The women I search for in films are women that defied all the rules of the patriarchal system of their ancestors. Sure we have films like Elizabeth I or the new Mary Queen of Scotts (which personally I’m dying to see) but I feel that these films are produced simply because of the Tudor legacy that Henry VIII left behind. The scheming, the passion and of course the bloody executions have always intrigued the public and historians alike, myself included.

Women in films are always dependent on the male figures in their life, or have a romantic connection to a dashing male lead. What I am hoping for is a film that shows the biography of women such as Hatshepsut or Neferusobek, women who ruled powerful empires. Representation of women who set the foundation for a lasting legacy that historians, archeologists, and scholars alike scramble to understand and teach. Where are the proposals for a film of a woman who ruled a powerful empire? Where can the public discover such historical figures outside the classroom?

Whenever I discuss my major with the general public who inquiry what I study I say Hatshepsut’s name and I receive bewildered expressions. “Who?” they repeat and laugh, and I then proceed to rant and rave about an incredible, powerful woman in history. Public history has many intersectional aspects, and though films can be skewed or flawed, the impact is everlasting. Whenever I attend my ancient Rome classes, the Gladiator movie is constantly brought up and discussed. Whenever I speak of ancient Egypt I hear the consistently mentioned name of Tutankhamun. A whole three-day movie event premiered the television series for Tutankhamun, but he was merely a young man whose rule is only remembered by his intact tomb, not his actions or surviving building structures.

All I ask is for the acknowledgement of more women from the ancient world and to be remembered in a more public way.

via The Incredible Legacy of Historical Ancient Women: Where are they in film? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

White Washing in Movies — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Summer Berry

Every day we see different movies being announced and released for a wide market. However, we all see certain movies made that are based form Greek and Egyptian Mythology that casts a white majority cast: Gods of Egypt, and Clash/Wrath of the Titans are two examples.

Though I am personally a fan of Greek Mythology and the attention to detail that was put into the Clash of the Titan films, most of the cast is either American or British. I’m a big fan of movies like this but it truly gets on my nerves that films that are created in the Mediterranean or even somewhere in the middle east would cast of mostly white actors to be in the film,

There are also a lot of Asian movies that have been white washed as well though not being as popular in the states as movies like Gods of Egypt. Movies that center around religion aren’t safe from this practice either. They are set in the Middle East and none of their actors are from there. Who’s the main lead inNoah? Russell Crowe. Then you’ve got The Passion of the Christ, not only depicting the treatment of Jesus from the bible but also the way people may have lived during the time he had lived. Though most of the cast was not Middle Eastern as it should have been to maintain a perfect representation of the culture.

The Lone Ranger comes under major criticism as well since Johnny Depp played Tonto, the Native American character, in the film. Like many people Depp is a very talented actor, but he is not a Native American and his portrayal may be offensive to Native Americans that see the film. Though at the time that the original Lone Ranger TV show was made, I highly doubt that anyone was concerned about having the race or ethnicity of the characters perfect, however we have the chance now to change that. To take the idea of all of us being separated by the way we look: our hair color, skin color, ethnic background.

The only films that aren’t white washed would be those that deal primarily with the kings and queens of Europe. Films like Elizabethand Shakespeare In Love, having the queen being depicted as accurately as possible for the time that those films should be set in. This would be culturally accurate and most of the rulers from both France and England were white. However, we do not usually see them having any servants or handmaids that are colored, Indian or what other. We have the power now to make films that could accurately reflect what may have happened in certain time periods. Not only with the stories that they can tell but also with those we hire to portray such people. Be it a woman to play an Amazonian warrior, or a man from the Mediterranean to portray Zeus in the next Clash of the Titans movie. We can make this change, but I ask you, why haven’t we?

Citations:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-ten-worst-examples-of-whitewashing-from-the-last-fi-1749960081

https://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/mythology/mythfilm.html

via White Washing in Movies — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Pseudoarchaeology and History in Media: The Danger of Inaccuracy in Pop Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Sydney James

Channels such as the Travel Channel and the History Channel are notorious for creating shows that appear to be historical in nature, but are often filled with inaccuracies for the purpose of raising public interest and viewer counts. These shows include some form of historical or archaeological background, an amateur “expert” in the field, a celebrity for show, and a whole lot of wild speculation. For good measure, some wandering through the woods or crawling through “undiscovered” tunnels is included. Magic or aliens are probably mentioned somewhere as well. (For more laughable but infuriating examples, give@DSAArchaeologya follow on Twitter – he talks about this quite a bit!)

This, of course, raises an important question: why are television shows so insistent on spinning archaeological and historical fact into wildly inaccurate tales? Is it because archaeology or history are not interesting enough on their own (obviously false)? Could it be that people are skeptical when it comes to believing in science and reason? Were ancient civilizations really incapable of creating megalithic structures without the help of extraterrestrial beings (probably not)? Most likely, maybe these media forms find it necessary to alter the facts to gain more viewers?

Whatever the reason, pseudoarchaeology has been detrimental to how much of the general public views the history of ancient civilizations. (For these purposes, wikipedia actually provides a great definition of the term – “Pseudoarchaeology- also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology – refers to interpretations of the past from outside of the archaeological science community, which reject the accepted data gathering and analytical methods of the discipline.”)[1]Some of the more popular claims, for example, are blatantly racist. As an example, we can look at Ancient Aliens (a show on the “History” Channel). This show looks most primarily at large scale structures erected by the ancient Egyptians or Mayans, for example. The show claims that because we do not know how structures such as the pyramids were built, alien beings must have been involved in the creation of these monuments. In a recent article[2], Sarah Bond (@SarahEBond) talks more in detail about the shows racist implications, discussing how people have gone so far as to remove parts of Khufu’s pyramid in an attempt to validate their claims of alien origins.

Not only does this discount the accomplishments of these civilizations, the focus of the show on regions of minority ancestry also paints a picture that depicts ancient people of color as incompetent and incapable of applying science or mathematics to their architecture. And, as Bond points out, it is not the British that stand to lose anything in these claims – rather, it is non-European cultures that are subject to have their abilities questioned as a result.

Despite this, people continue to consume television that feeds into wild fantasies about magic, aliens, folklore, spirits, and so on. More often than not, some of these shows are based on the fears and legends that have appeared throughout time. More people believe in the extraterrestrial and paranormal than one might initially think, and feeding into those beliefs is a sure way to make profits. Of course, it is not surprising that people are fascinated by that sort of subject matter. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones are all classic examples of extremely popular stories that involve fantasy to capture and mesmerize an audience. The issue here is not with fantasy itself – on its own, fantasy can be an excellent break from reality. The issue is when these beliefs are spun into historical and archaeological fact, where the twisting of history demeans ancient civilizations and peoples and provides an unknowing public with false information – information which then spreads rapidly and becomes a regular part of public understanding.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoarchaeology

[2]Bond, S. E. (2018, November 13). Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens. https://hyperallergic.com/470795/pseudoarchaeology-and-the-racism-behind-ancient-aliens/

via Pseudoarchaeology and History in Media: The Danger of Inaccuracy in Pop Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018