My Kind of History

This morning while procrastinating, I came across this little diddy I wrote a while back that cracked me up. Which is good, because isn’t that what the muses preach? When writing, it’s important to at least be able to entertain yourself.

Indeed.

Sometimes morning writing comes with hands that are weak from sleep and a foggy mind. A sleep induced morning drunkenness if you will, which comes in handy because that leads to thinking about drinking and thinking about drinking and writing leads me to thinking about procrastination and my favorite site for procrastinating is Funny or Die.

Developed in 2007 by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, FunnyorDie was meant to be a place where folks could upload comedy content that, at that time, didn’t really have a home for viewing anywhere else. (This was before we could all be Youtube stars.)

FunnyorDie grew in popularity and the web series evolved, so did my favorite series Drunk History. An “American educational television comedy” – that’s how Wikipedia defined it! ha ha! It’s billed as “the liquored­-up narration of our nation’s history.”

Drunk History started on FunnyorDie in 2008 and then was picked up by Comedy Central in 2013 and is now in it’s 6th season.

If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of seeing the show here’s how it works. A guest story teller gets drunk. Then, the cameras roll and said drunk person recounts their favorite historical story. Then a script is developed based on the words of the story teller and “acted” out by such actors as Will Ferrel, Jack Black, and Michael Cera (to name only three I can remember off the top of my head without looking up the complete cast).

Drunk History is an attempt to tell history in a funny, factual, engaging way, aka: broccoli covered in cheese. I started thinking about the history lessons we’ve gleaned over the years that aren’t so factual, but just as drunk.  As a lover and student of history, one of the things that upsets me is when mainstream media give us history lessons that stray from the actual facts. What do I mean? Glad you asked.

Imma use the example of Disney’s Pocahontas for this one. Now, bear with me. I like Disney. I know all the songs. I love the overpriced park. I buy the merchandise…but I’m still going to use it for this example.

In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions (thank you Breakfast Club) here’s a VERY simplified academic history:  Pocahontas was the daughter of a chief.  She was a young girl of 9 or 10 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, Pocahontas stepped in and asked that he be released.  Then, John Smith left.  A few years later, Pocahontas was captured during a war and used as bait to get some English prisoners back. (John Smith was not involved.) She was not returned but 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 super basic, very simple, tall and short of the matter.

Now, for contrast, here’s an inaccurate drunk History based on a movie that came out in 1995.

Pocahontas, a woman of possibly twenty- 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, and an SUV. She doesn’t want to spend her days gathering corn and curing animal hides. She doesn’t want to marry the hunk a hunk o 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 man named 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 these Englishmen 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) between the Native Americans and the English unbeknownst to the two love birds. Smith promises  Pocahontas indoor plumbing, she sighs in contentment and takes him to meet her Grandmother who just happens to be a willow tree.  The tree sings and approves.

Smith has to go check in with his men, sign into the register and such so he can get his paycheck, but he pledges a romantic moonlit dinner at a top end place later that night.

When Smith never shows up to the Rainbow Room, Pocahontas is 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 her grandmother willow soothes her and helps her see she needs to save Smith because he has a boat.

Pocahontas marches into her fathers tent and 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. He sees the light and invites the English 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, and how after only two days in the New World he 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.”

Ah, history.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply