It’s early. The summer sun that used to wake me at 6am is reluctant to come out until 7 now. Signs fall is on the way. As I attempt write I try to ignore my morning hands that are weak from sleep and my foggy mind: a sleep induced morning drunkenness if you will; which comes in handy for what I want to talk about today: drinking.
A few years ago, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, created a website called Funny or Die, a place where folks could upload content that, at that time, didn’t really have a home to be viewed; mostly comedy bits. Well, it was so funny, so popular the site grew and soon webisodes were created and shown only on the site. For example, Zac Galifianakas, the hairy guy from The Hangover movies, has a show called “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” and my all-time favorite, “Drunk History” which started in 2007/8.
(Good Lord if you’ve never seen this show, go watch it…NOW! Talk about making your day and cracking you up!) (and I’m pretty sure my love for it is only a little bit rooted in my love for history and a lot rooted in loving funny things.)
Watching Comedy Central while on vacation this summer, I saw that they were airing Drunk History! This hilarious history show has made its way to the main stream!
If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of seeing the show here’s a little back ground. Someone gets drunk. Then, the cameras roll said drunk person recounts their favorite historical moment or story. Then, in editing, the script that has been developed by the drunken story teller, is given to such actors as Will Ferrel, Jack Black, and Michael Cera (to name a very few) and they re-enact this history; mouthing the words as the voice of the story teller…tells the story.
So, all of this Drunk History got me to thinking…this isn’t really an original show. We’ve been getting incorrect history lessons, aka drunk histories, fed to us in the form of full length feature cartoon films for years now.
Isn’t Drunk History simply an honest version of Disney movies? Now, bear with me here. I love Disney; I know all the songs; I have all the movies; I love the overpriced park; I buy overpriced merchandise…but let’s just take this apart and look at it a little more closely. For fun, because I’ve been thinking about it, so that I have something to write about this morning.
Why don’t we use, oh I don’t know, Disney’s Pocahontas for our example. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions (thank you Breakfast Club) here’s an academic history: Pocahontas was the daughter of a chief. She was a young girl when John Smith was captured by her tribe. She had never seen him before the day he was brought to her village. John Smith’s journals tell two conflicting stories about his time among her people, but the most famous of his stories was that the moment before he was to be beaten to death, she stepped in and asked that he be released. He left. A few years later, she was captured during a war and used as bait to get some English prisoners back. (John Smith was not involved.) She was not returned and stayed with the English people for a year. She became a Christian, she met a farmer named John Rolfe and married him and preferred not to return to her people after that. In 1617 she was received in court in England and died on March 21, 1617 of pneumonia.
Okay, that is the very basic, very simple, tall and short of the matter.
Here is Disney’s Drunken History:
Pocahontas, a woman of possibly twenty and two, with Broadway musical sensibilities and the ability to communicate with animals and leaves and trees in a Native American sort of way, not a Doctor Doolittle sort of way; is longing for something more than the life she’s living. A curious young woman, she yearns for adventure, travel, the right to vote, a SUV. She doesn’t want to spend her days gathering and curing animal hides; she doesn’t want to marry the hunk a hunk of burnin’ love her daddy has picked out for her, she wants…more!
A ship carrying gold seeking Englishmen heads to the new world. Aboard the ship is an equally musical minded John Smith, aka Mel Gibson (before he got weird). A knowledgeable gentleman who is smarter than the average sailor, more sure of himself than the average soldier, and all around handsome white man. Once they land, Smith takes off, knowing exactly how to handle himself in the wilds of this new continent where most everything is a little different than what he’s used to, with no worry at all for what may lurk just around the river bend. (ha ha! See what I did there?)
He sings his way through the forest and comes upon Pocahontas who is busily brushing her hair and dreaming of sleeping in a house with carpet. They don’t speak each others language, but they instantly fall in love and once they kiss, she is promptly fluent in English; Smith, therefore, has no need to learn her language.
Meanwhile, things are ‘happening’ (sing that word like a stereotypical gay man) between the Native Americans and the English unbeknownst to the two love birds. He promises indoor plumbing, she sighs in contentment and takes him to meet her Grandmother who just happens to be a willow tree. He has to go check in with his men, sign into the register so he can get his paycheck, but he promises a romantic moonlit dinner at a top end place.
When Smith never shows up to the Rainbow Room, she’s pissed, but then she finds out he got held up by her dad and the newly developed politics. She runs to the nearest rock she can find, flings herself to the ground and cries while grandmother willow soothes her and helps her see she needs to save Smith because he has a boat.
She sings a rousing interpretation of “Papa Don’t Preach” which clarifies how her father is seeing these trespassing, war minded, word breaking Englishmen all wrong and he invites them into the village as friends.
Somehow Smith is accidentally shot by a crew member who has had enough of him traipsing about talking about his hair, his eyes, his smile, how he can do everything better, how he’s only been in the New World for two days and already has a girlfriend.
With no conventional medicine for this kind of wound in the New World, the English, who are now bff’s with the Native America’s, are sad but they have to take the voyage back to England (which could take anywhere from 47 to 138 days) in order to save Smith’s life.
Pocahontas runs to the highest cliff watching over the ship as it sails away, singing a moving aria entitled, “But you bastard, you promised me a dishwasher.”
So, as you can see my friends, Drunk History may seem like something new; but it’s just an honest marketing of what we have been spoon fed for so many years now.
And super funny.