Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gerard Henderson, Historical Truth, wretched David Hare, the lies of Frost/Nixon, and the fake tits of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities

In other news today, acclaimed columnist Gerard Henderson fiercely attacked playwright William Shakespeare for his shameless historical inaccuracies in his column Can't see the truth for the screen. (cough, that's Henderson's column, not Shakespeare's. Already with the inaccuracies).

Mr. Shakespeare's portrait of Brutus in Julius Caesar as a misguided hero of the people is patently false, and doesn't accord with Plutarch's version at all, while his account of Mark Antony is riddled with errors, Mr. Henderson said, in a vitriolic attack on playwrights who confuse fact and fiction.

As for Hamlet, it is a risible attempt to evoke significant historical events in Denmark, with so many errors and falsehoods, that it pays no respect to the people involved, nor to the sources Mr. Shakespeare clearly ripped off in his desperate attempt to conjure up a feeble entertainment, Mr. Henderson added.

I cannot begin to recount the falsehoods, egregious errors, mistakes, anomalies, discrepancies, and comedies of inventions to be found in Mr. Shakespeare's series of plays about English rulers and their courts, but I will say that they are so grievous as to constitute a grave crime against history, possibly even a war crime, Mr. Henderson noted.

When asked to respond to the attack, Mr. Shakespeare simply said They're just plays, for fok's sake, just entertainments to amuse the people in the pits. I meant no harm. He refused to comment any further.

Mr. Henderson noted that the playwright had no adequate defense for his demeaning works, and certainly the excuse that they might be art carried no weight at all.

He then went on to note that recently there has been an alarming tendency, richly deserving condemnation, for film and theatre to blur fact and fiction.

In particular, he was outraged at the number of howlers contained in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. He pointed out that there were a huge number of tits on show in the show, and that this rash of boobs, breasts, nips and nipples was patently in error, as people in the nineteen seventies had sex under blankets and never exposed their private parts to cameras.

Mr. Henderson additionally made reference to the opinion of Anthony Beevor, one of the leading historians in the English-speaking world, deploring the tendency of television and movie-makers to blur the border between fact and fiction to an unprecedented degree while pretending increasingly that their film is based on a true story.

One film that has particularly outraged historians is the film Fargo which opens with the line This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.

Subsequent enquiries revealed Fargo to be a farrago of lies. Not one thing in it actually happened, was true, took place in Fargo, involved real people, or involved dead people. The film-makers thought they were being funny when in fact they were being irresponsible ahistorical smartarses.

Mr. Beevor has proposed that it should be the duty of not just every scientist and historian, but also of every writer, publisher, movie-maker, TV producer and ordinary citizen to fight all attempts to exploit the ignorance and gullibility of audiences.

Mr. Henderson in particular noted the appalling portoid treatment of the truth in JFK, and the way David Hare in Stuff Happens used fact and fiction to condemn the decision of George Bush and Tony Blair to commit US and British forces to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There are more than enough reasons to condemn Bush and Blair for their barbarity and abuse of power using historical facts, without the need of fiction, said well known historian Edward Gibbon.

Mr. Henderson also pointed out that the play and film Frost/Nixon distorted the truth, to the detriment of president Richard Nixon and the benefit of interviewer David Frost and leftist academic James Reston. (He noted that serial abuser David Hare was also involved, but is prepared to forgive Hare for the way he upset port-oids with his redemption of Nazis and Kate Winslet in The Reader).

Revealing he actually soiled his eyes by reading and referencing that notorious snake pit of leftist liberal sentiment, The Huffington Post, Mr. Henderson used an article by Elizabeth Drew (no fan of the late Republican president) to detail the many errors in Frost/Nixon, including the false folding to Frost about his participation in the Watergate building affair, and a fake late telephone conversation involving an impression Nixon was a binge drinker with memory lapses. 

Everybody knows that Nixon bombed Cambodia, authorised the Watergate affair, and destroyed the crucial part of a tape with a very clear head, and hands that never shook, said historian Manning Clark. He might have been a war criminal and a common criminal, but you could never accuse him of alcoholism.

These scenes, said Mr Henderson, are sometimes described as brilliant depictions when they are wilful fabrications, designed to defame the dead, calumnies to which there can be no reply.

He then went on to attack Screen Australia (into which Film Australia has been folded) for being given $7.5 million over three years to produce meretricious tosh like Menzies and Churchill at War, pointing out that these are not documentaries but docudramas that invent conversations and mix fiction with fact. 

It is plainly obvious, complained historian G. M. Trevelyan, that the actor chosen to play Mr. Menzies in fact looked nothing like the man but such is the dominant power of his performance that young and impressionable minds are likely to assume that this is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about Ming the Merciless. After all the man only wanted to ban communists, and who can complain about that?

Mr. Henderson concluded with a heartfelt plea: Certainly history is contestable. However, it is either conceit or deceit to maintain facts either do not exist or do not matter. Ask Paul Mackay.

Immediately we heard this plaintive cry for help, this yearning plea for truth and decency and justice, this blog sprang into action.

First step: there's no point that pretending that Shakespeare's many historical errors are redeemable by way of footnotes, or notes to teachers. We propose an immediate ban on his allegedly historical writings in all schools, and a ban on any public performances of his allegedly historical works. We see this as a two-fold win-win situation, since it will at once wipe much grievous nonsense from the records, and absolve students from the need to worry about this over-wordy prattling prate, his historical distortions or indeed history itself.

Secondly, more recent stuff is a bit tricky, given the power of Hollywood and local FTA broadcasters, and the shameless way the media can abuse helpless politicians with no chance of a level playing field for the pollies. This heavyweight industrial machinery, dedicated to fraud and chicanery, must however face the music of their port-oid tendencies. 

We therefore propose an immediate recall of all recent films so that they can have corrective historical subtitles inserted at appropriate places: for example, in any sex scene where an actress is purporting to represent a real person, the footnote could read: Important note: this actress's tits are bigger (or smaller) than the real person she is pretending to be be.

After we've read a hundred or so such corrections in Underbelly 2 (so many tits, so little time), ratings should plunge, thereby providing a healthy historical correction.

These footnotes will be required on all new shows, and on all old films which have ever been shown in theatres or broadcast on television, and involve allegedly historical facts (yes, right down to Bugs Bunny's racist remarks in his world war two cartoons).

All these shows will have to be recalled and refitted to a new, approved and certified level of historical fitness using subtitles or even corrective photographs and other documentation. For example, an appropriate footnote in Frost/Blair would be something like: Caution: while Michael Sheen looks a lot like Tony Blair, and that worked well in other shows, he has bugger all resemblance to David Frost, who looked more like this at the time (show photograph).

Sure it'll be a big job, but that's no excuse. Hollywood film-makers are a tiresome bunch of trading off wankers, who think history is only useful if it's entertainment, and who go on making all kinds of shows that celebrate aliens, angels, and Christian ways of thinking. This metaphysical delusionary nonsense has to be stopped. We even wonder whether such frivolous entertainment might be banned altogether, so that readings of the works of Mr. Henderson (by a plain actor dressed in plain puritan black against a simple black background drop) can be read aloud on the televisual medium for the edification, information and heartfelt correction of the public.

There's a lot to be said for the banning of films, plays, the theatre, music and other frivolous works of entertainment which seek refuge in the tired old saw that they are somehow art. Perhaps hands could reach out across oceans, and the Taliban could find renewal by working with Mr. Henderson on this fine cause, this epic project. Truth before art, historical objectivity and factual accuracy before relativist modernism, and death before dishonor.

Finally we have to report a few gremlins in this report. Apparently there are some dead historians in this piece who didn't say what they are purported to have said, and it is also profoundly untrue that Bill Shakespeare based his portrait of Polonius in Hamlet on close observation of Mr. Henderson's mannerisms. There is a gap of some four hundred years involved, and a detailed examination of director Robert Zemeckis's cheap time travel device suggests that in fact Mr. Shakespeare at no time came forward to the present time before whizzing back to the past to write up his caricature.

Coming next week to a cinema near you: see sanctimonius claptrap taken to a new level, hear stentorian nonsense spoken at one hundred and thirty decibels, watch as history is re-worked into a patchwork of quilted lies, gasp as the whole tawdry basis of the entertainment industry is shown to be based on an abuse of history, marvel at the newly corrected, entirely accurate, historically relevant and excitingly naked tits on view in this week's episode of Underbelly 2.

Disclaimer: while this blog is based in part upon a true story, certain characters and names have been changed, some characters have been composited or invented and a number of incidents fictionalised. Any similarity to any name, character or history of actual persons living or dead other than those portrayed and depicted herein is entirely coincidental and unintentional, and even those real characters depicted herein might have no basis in reality either. You decide.

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