Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Where do we draw the line between Hollywood drama and the way the Past Gets Rewritten

Canadian philosopher and communications theorist Marshall Mcluhan once said "The medium is the message".

He also coined the phrase "Global Village" and predicted the coming of the world wide web 30 years before its time when Mr. Gore was a mere 14 years old.

I find these bits of information both curious and interesting two days after the coveted Best Movie Oscar prize went to the movie Argo.

Mr. Mcluhan sure did know what he was talking about. The medium was not so much about the content itself but about what the resultant effects of that content have on our greater society. What does creating and viewing that content say about us?

Take the case of the movie Argo. It is a film of fiction, for entertainment, which most films are; however Argo claims to be based on a true story. So what will society think about this film that considers itself based on a true story? Will society expect that film to be true to its word and message? What will be the end result on our social conscious? How will we interpret the 'true story'? And now that the movie has a coveted academy award to its name does that change the social conscious toward this movie in some way?

These are important and curious questions in light of the fact that recently key players in what was commonly know as the "Canadian Caper" and now also known as Argo seem to have a different story to tell from what was portrayed in the film.

While Argo tells the story primarily from the CIA's point of view 1. it leaves out key facts, such as Mr. Taylor's true role and the that the CIA actually played a minor role in the whole affair which I understand was not depicted in the movie.

I have recently read that former President of the US Jimmy Carter came out with his own perspective on "Canadian Caper" events. To paraphrase he said that it was a operation that had 90% Canadian involvement and that Mr. Ken Taylor 2. was the real hero, to quote "Ninety per cent of the contributions to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian, and the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA.3"

I have read from the sources listed below that a DVD documentary was slated to come out Feb. 19 that "offer(s) more content, a greater sense of Canada's role abroad and the true nature of an embassy.4." It also is said to include interviews with former Prime Minister Joe Clark, former US President Jimmy Carter, former Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor (who was the real hero according to primary sources). As well as an interview with Mr. Affleck. All of the former having some involvement with the actual events, while Mr. Affleck directed and stared in the movie.

As a former high school teacher this has been a long time concern of mine. Many young people today, while not naive don't seem to be having as much debate and dialogue around issues about the "facts" and just how much content is 'based on a true story' and how that relates to the public consciousness and what it says about those who skew the 'true story' and how those who were actually there and are aware of the 'facts' have to deal with skewed renditions of the past. Perhaps society as a whole should be having a wider debate as well.

I have written a fantasy trilogy that is set in Regency England and early 19th century France. I use the names of some nobility from the period for fictional purposes only and make no claims that what I write is base on a true story in any way. I do not claim that my fantasy book is the 'true story'.

Where do we draw the line at fact and fiction? When do we say that it's not in the best interest of those involved and for the greater public to use the term "based on a true story"if the term is so loosely based in 'facts' that it's difficult to find the 'facts' in a piece of drama? What happens to the public/social consciousness when such claims are made but aren't grounded in reality or 'fact'? And do we make these 'fact' claims too loosely before we have a good understanding of what the facts really are? I ask these questions to open up a discussion for public debate, because when "the medium is the message" shouldn't we be considering how we use and interpret such "facts'?

A Writer's Path - words that strive to create meaning.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argo_(2012_film)
2. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2013/02/argo-the-jimmy-carter-experience.html
3. http://news.moviefone.ca/2013/02/22/jimmy-carter-argo-canadians-ken-taylor_n_2744219.html
4. http://news.moviefone.ca/2013/02/14/argo-ken-taylor-unbalanced-ben-affleck_n_2690428.html

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