History does not have to be all dusty books and facts. Since it is the weekend, we here in the Executive Offices of History Guffaw (this place is better than Hogwarts, an automatic latte machine, full-time foot masseuse and the entire staff has their own individual bathrooms) want you, the ever loyal reader, to have fun. How about a movie? Don’t want to spend $10? Good because we weren’t going to spot you. How about a rental? A movie from the past about the past…
The Patriot, is amazing (sarcasm). Released in 2000 to help all of America, nay the known galaxy, forget their Y2K fears. It may be the biggest piece of historical malarkey since Kim Jong Il’s birth in a log cabin on a snowy mountain with double rainbows dancing across the sky. Sure it has talented actors such as the late Heath Ledger, pre Joker and homosexual sheep wrangling days, and Mel Gibson who has been known to take a cheap shot or two at the Jewish people. Ok, the casting seems a tad odd with two Aussies starring in a movie that takes place in South Carolina during the American Revolution. That is not even the best/worst part of this uber-patriotic AmeriCAN flick.
What is historically accurate about this movie?
Just about nothing, at least it feels that way. Mel Gibson’s character, farmer, widower and former French-Indian War veteran Benjamin Martin and his sons own a plantation where it is explained that the “laborers” on the farm all just happen to be black and they are compensated and can come and go as they please. No slavery, in South Carolina. Just let it sink in.
To follow Hollywood’s “logic,” instead of slavery, which is bad, the protagonists and paradigms of American values actually practice a proto-type of version of share-cropping. Guess what Hollywood, share-cropping sucked and held generations of African-Americans in destitution. Not to mention, Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger, in the movie, would be in this case- slum lords, broke child labor laws, violated health code violations and probably didn’t let their labor collectively bargain.
This makes no competitive economic sense, was the rest of South Carolina in the movie also paying their “non-slave labor?” If not it means that all other competing plantations could offer their goods at lower prices and make higher profit margins. Why so serious, you ask from heaven Heath Ledger? It is just movie, just a silly, historically inaccurate movie.
As for the rest of it, Mel Gibson’s character is based on Francis Marion aka “The Swamp Fox.” Who did conduct a guerilla type campaign against the British army in South Carolina, however I doubt he dramatically fought one-on-one with a British officer as two armies conveniently fought around them and impale said British officer and celebrate by waving an American flag, spoiler alert.
Will I care about any of these questions when I watch this movie?
Actually, yes, if you have an iota of knowledge about history or just read the paragraph above, c’mon no slavery in 18th Century South Carolina is like no diabetes in 21st Century Houston, doesn’t make sense. The action is nothing special and the dialogue is melodramatic.
Who should watch this movie?
North Koreans, they like propaganda. Communist the world over should own this movie. Seal Force 6 should find all the copies (VHS and DVD) and throw them deep in the Indian Ocean over Osma Bin Laden’s grave.
It is rated R, so there is nudity?
No. Even if there was, it wouldn’t be worth it.
What will I learn from this movie, history wise?
Nothing, there are some “real” characters and “real” events. General Cornwallis was a British General; there was a Battle of Cowpens and even an American Revolution. There was also slavery, which would cause the United States to go to war with itself 80 some years later.
A smidge of sentimentality with patriotism can be well done; Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Stripes (kidding about one of those). The Patriot is not so deft in its application of sentimentality. If it really wanted to celebrate the “freedom” of living in an open society, then it wouldn’t gloss over the ugly parts of history.
Happy New Year!