How Accurate Is: All The President’s Men (Movie, 1976, Alan J. Pakula)

Hello everyone! Today’s (long-delayed) post will be on the 1976 film All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Alan J. Pakula. This film chronicles the Washington Post investigation of the Watergate Scandal and, like the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight, focuses almost exclusively on the investigation itself. The film is very strong overall. Similar to the process of investigative journalism, it is slow-moving in parts; however, it never lets the audience forget what is at stake. Robert Redford in particular does an excellent job as Bob Woodward, and Hoffman as Carl Bernstein is also a strong performance. With regards to historical accuracy, All the President’s Men is one of the most accurate films this site has reviewed.

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How Accurate Is: The Golden Mean (Book, Annabel Lyon, 2009)

Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great; by JLG Ferris, 1895.
Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great; by JLG Ferris, 1895.

Hello everyone! Today, I am going to be doing a book post, this time on The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. This book focuses on the tutoring of Alexander the Great by the famous philosopher (and student of Plato) Aristotle from 343 BCE until (possibly) 335 BCE. This is a period of history surrounding which there is much speculation but little information; no details from the sessions survive until today, and so only the record of their existence remains. As a result, Lyon had a large canvas to work with, and she does not disappoint, providing a carefully constructed description of the tutoring and the effects it had on both figures involved, as well as a brief summary of the life of Aristotle himself through flashbacks. Essentially the only times in the book she deviated from the historical record, in fact, were when she filled in gaps in the historical record surrounding the life of Aristotle. I will list such examples of those as could be found here.

  • Aristotle’s second wife, Herpyllis, is presented in the novel as the maid of Aristotle and a childhood acquaintance; in fact, little is known about her except her marriage to Aristotle. However, her identity in the book is one of the more common theories surrounding her, so Lyon is as close to historically accurate as possible.[1]
  • As far as I have found, there is no record of Aristotle tutoring Arrhidaeus, the incapable elder brother of Alexander; it is likely this was a fiction on the part of Lyon so the relationship between Alexander and Arrhidaeus could be seen.
  • Although Lyons does not appear to weigh in specifically on how long the tutoring of Alexander lasted, there is some debate on the subject; estimates range between five and eight years.[2]

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Baudolino (Book, Umberto Eco, 2000)

baudolino

(Spoilers will be present. Always assume they will.)

Hello everyone! Today, I will be doing a post on the Umberto Eco novel Baudolino, written in 2000. This book, set during the time of the Fourth Crusade and its sack of Constantinople, tells the story of the title character through a long series of flashbacks. The character of Baudolino is a peasant from Northern Italy who, through chance, encounters the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and becomes his adopted son; from there, most of the rest of his life is dedicated to finding the mythical kingdom of Prester John, a myth that he helps create in the process. As was Prague Cemetery, this book by Eco is impeccably researched; for example, the figure to whom Baudolino dictates his life story, Niketas Choniates, was a real Byzantine court historian and actually wrote an account of the Fourth Crusade, which he begins at the end of the book.[1] There are many other such accuracies:

  • Everything Frederick does in the book is as it occurred in history; his six expeditions to Italy, his canonization of Charlemagne, and all the rest. The only invented thing about Frederick in the book is his motive for embarking on the Third Crusade.[2]
  • Almost all the minor characters not directly related to Baudolino (the members of Frederick’s court, etc.) are also historical; however, Baudolino and his group of friends are not.
  • Much like in the Prague Cemetery, Baudolino uses its fictional main character as an explanation for the motives behind historical events that we know little about, which is a strategy that allows them to maintain historicity and an interesting story.
  • For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: Prague Cemetery (Book, Umberto Eco, 2010) Part 2

The Battle of Sedan
The Battle of Sedan

Hi everyone! Today I will be doing another post on Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. Last time I wrote about the Italian Unification; today, I will be writing about the French sections of Prague Cemetery, specifically the Franco-Prussian War and the Dreyfus Affair. The first, historically, was an 1871 war between France and Prussia. The war resulted in the death of an empire- the French Empire of Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon, a cousin of the original), which collapsed after the capture of the Emperor at the Battle of Sedan- and in the birth of an empire- the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I, formerly King of Prussia and of the North German Confederation. The second was a major political scandal of the Third French Republic which, in the 1890s, saw a French Lieutenant, Alfred Dreyfus, accused of spying (falsely) and imprisoned; the scandal was notable principally because Dreyfus was Jewish and so the event stirred up Anti-Semitic sentiments across France.

For more, continue past the link.

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How Accurate Is: The Prague Cemetery (Book, Umberto Eco, 2010) Part 1

Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco

(Warning: spoilers are present here. They are present everywhere. Also, I get that I am using two referencing systems here; I apologize if this annoys anyone, but hey, that is one of the perks of having your own website: you get to reference things however you want! That said, if anyone finds them truly offensive and/or inaccurate, please let me know.)

Hello everyone! Today’s post is going to be on The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, published in 2010. This is a well-crafted piece of historical fiction, and so I am likely going to spend more time detailing what this book did right than what it did not, not that that is a bad thing.

The Prague Cemetery is set in the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, and partly focuses on conspiracies in European history- from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to anti-Freemason rantings, this book has it all. At the same time, it dips heavily into the actual historical events of the period. The book begins in Italy prior to unification and ends in France in the 1920s. The protagonist is certainly an unusual choice for a main character; a professed Anti-Semite, the opening pages of the novel (which takes the form of a diary) are comprised of a vicious tirade against, in this order, Jewish people, Germans, Italians, Frenchmen (and women), Jesuits, and Masons, with scattered other racial stereotypes (“vain as a Spaniard… unwashed as an Englishman”) thrown in for good measure. In short, the main character is neither likeable nor a particularly accurate narrator. This, however, is the central conceit of the novel; the protagonist is slowly recovering his memory of the events he has had a hand in over the years, which range from the Italian Wars of Unification to the creation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The sheer range of events present in the book means that I will likely do several posts on it. Therefore, I will begin at the beginning- the treatment of the Italian Wars of Unification in the book. Continue past the link (Next time I promise there will be some actual information before the link) for more.

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ButISawItOnTV: Introduction

Hello everyone! This website/blog, www.ButISawItOnTV.com, will be measuring the historical accuracy of pop culture- think television shows, books, movies, video games, and potentially even more. Keep an eye on this space for new content, which should begin uploading shortly.

You can also follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ButISawItOnTv, and on Tumblr at https://www.tumblr.com/blog/butisawitontvblog. Neither of these have any content yet, but they will soon.  Both of these links are also present in the side menu and at the bottom of the page, so you don’t need to keep track of this post.

You may notice a link to an About Us page at the bottom of the page- this contains essentially the same information as this post, so feel free to refer to it at any time. Please feel free to leave a comment on the About Us page suggesting a piece of media you would like to see reviewed- there is no guarantee it will be seen, but we will do our best. Thank you for visiting, and please enjoy.

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