A Duke University study has found that it can be damaging to young people when historical movies change the facts for entertainment’s sake.
A lot of times, people come away from the theater remembering the wrong stuff instead of what’s actually in the history books, quoting the Hollywood versions at dinner parties as if they were documentaries.
For example, in Titanic — which is coming back this week in 3-D — you see First Officer William Murdoch shooting two men and committing suicide by gunshot.
“But in reality,” says the release about the study, “surviving crew members said Murdoch was last seen trying to launch lifeboats and is believed to have died in the water.”
And that’s not all!
* “Glory, which tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War. Most of the individuals depicted in the film were former slaves from the South. However, most of the recruits in the regiment were actually freemen from Massachusetts and other Northern states.”
* And “Amadeus presented Mozart as being a childish and vulgar person. However, there is no evidence that Mozart behaved this way in public. On the contrary, Mozart is thought to have displayed impeccable manners in the presence of royalty and acted professionally with colleagues.”
“Unfortunately, students aren’t very good at catching the major historical inaccuracies in popular films, even when explicitly asked to do so,” said Sharda Umanath, a doctoral student in Duke’s psychology department and the lead author of the study.
“The difficulty of detecting the errors makes informing students about what exactly the inaccuracies are in a film absolutely vital to the learning process.”
It’s very disheartening.
I’m just going to stick to Adam Sandler films from now on.