Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fact and fiction

This is beautiful:
I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.
Personally, my favorite part is this:
Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.
The point, of course, is the old adage, "Truth is stranger than fiction." Or more to the point, "Truth is less believable than fiction." It reminds me of a scene in one of the stories my girlfriend wrote. In it, the protagonist, an unpublished writer trying to get some words on paper in a New York coffee shop, is accosted by a tourist couple who are excited to meet a "real New York writer." Upon reading that, I shook my head and told her that the scene would never fly. It's too cute, the couple is too touristy, it's just not believable. Her response was that the exact thing had happened to her once in New York Halifax. I recommended that she cut it anyway. Truth just doesn't cut it when you're trying to write believable fiction.

Anyway, she's since sold the story (though I don't know whether the scene made it or not, as I haven't seen the final version).

Update: In the comments, Kristin corrects me that the real life events happened in Halifax, not New York. Which doesn't exactly do much to make it more believable.

1 comment:

  1. No, I replaced that scene with one that fit the story better.

    It was actually Halifax, not New York, where it happened to me. But it really did happen.


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