Re "History lessons, with popcorn," Opinion, Feb. 12
Zach P. Messitte is spot-on regarding the influence that films with historical backgrounds have on today's college students.
Since 1991 I've been teaching at USC's School of Cinematic Arts. I've witnessed many changes there, both in technology and student attitudes, particularly when a historical incident is adapted into a film.
In my generation I saw how films like "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter" affected American audiences regarding Vietnam. Later I saw how "Saving Private Ryan" illustrated to students the horror of war. The same held true for "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
After years of rejections and research, my book, "The American War Film: History and Hollywood," was published in 2002. Someone asked me why I took on such a task. My answer: The war film is the only genre that truly reflects American history.
Also, the war film genre does exactly what it is suppose to do: educate audiences, particularly the young audience.
I think it is naive and even dangerous for Messitte, a professor of political science and a college president, to use movies as a "critical rough draft of history" in higher education.
The movie business is motivated by telling stories that will sell. Historical accuracy is often an oxymoron when it comes to fact-based Hollywood dramas.
Movies distort and fabricate at will to entertain. Oliver Stone freely admits that he takes liberties with the facts in service to the storyline.
Maybe stressing old-school research in campus libraries and elsewhere would make for better education than having students explore history by watching films made by Hollywood ticket sellers.
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