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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Dumb-Ass TV-History Moment of the Week #1

In the first of an occasional series, the prize goes to Channel 5's otherwise rather interesting documentary on Albert Goering, 'the good brother' (http://www.five.tv/shows/goerings-last-secret-revealed/episodes/goerings-last-secret-revealed).  The prize is awarded on the basis of the moment where, in explaining why Albert was, if a bit of a philanderer, evidently a genuinely brave and humane individual who saved a lot of people from the Nazis while his brother was, well, Hermann Goering, the documentary dredged up basically unfounded rumours to the effect that Albert was illegitimate (the son of his godfather if I remember correctly).  So that's it, then: he just didn't have the 'evil Nazi gene'.  Phew what a relief, not least for Hermann, whose behaviour probably resulted from a simple inherited genetic disorder rather than from any decisions he might actually have made for himself.  Not such good news for Albert, of course, who, rather than having made conscious and courageous decisions, was spared such torment by having got the 'nice gene' (albeit also evidently inheriting the 'philanderer gene' from his godfather/father).

So (drum-roll, please), on the basis of:
                              1.  Reduction of 'evil' to something pathological and
                              2.  Implicit invocation of genetics to explain everything
I award you, Channel 5's 'Goering's Last Secret: Revealed', the inaugural 'Historian on the Edge Dumb-Ass TV-History Moment of the Week' Award.  Congratulations.

Also a special 'Highly Commended' to the Channel 5 web-site for accompanying the info on the programme with an utterly gratuitous pic of actors dressed up as (suspiciously healthy-looking) concentration camp inmates.  Nice work all round.

Also, this week:
History on Film Bluffing/Irritating your Family, Co-workers and Friends Tips no.1
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
No one sane watches Indiana Jones films for historical accuracy, or expects it from them, but here are a couple of irritating, anoraky things you can say to annoy people, based on watching it last night for the umpteenth time (leaving aside the vexed issue of where Indy got that suspiciously RPG7-like rocket launcher from, towards the end, or the origin of the bizarre 'flying wing' Nazi plane, which at least has a plausible Blohm und Voss prototype feel to it):
1: (This is the penny that dropped last night) A bit of blatant orientalism here in that Egypt is depicted as a sort of backwards Middle Eastern country with no option but to allow the Nazis to send in armed forces to find the Ark of the Covenant.  In some ways not far wrong, of course, but wasn't Egypt a British protectorate in the 1930s?  Do we think that the British/Egyptian government would have allowed a Nazi contingent (with significant contingent of troops, an air-base with armed aircraft etc etc) into the country?  Hmmmmm....
2: A common Hollywood problem this: Every Nazi soldier seems to be armed with the MP40 sub-machine gun (erroneously known as the 'Schmeisser' - extra bluffing/irritation points for that).  Leaving aside the fact that this was a weapon principally issued to NCOs and officers only, the clue lies in the name: MP40.  It means it was developed in 1940 - so what's it doing in universal service in 1936?  The date (courtesy of the opening sequence) also rules out its predecessor, the MP38, which came into service in 1939 for the invasion of Poland.
That should get you banned from any further communal watching of Indy films. 
I thank you.