29 November 2009

David Attenborough, where are you?

Note: this post contains unjustified criticism on the basis of incorrect assumption from the title. See addendum* below.

Here we go ... another occasion when I justify the title of this blog.
I have an inner conflict over historical accuracy in films (other media too, but most strongly in films and television; so "films" is my shorthand for the lot).
On the one hand, I robustly defend the thesis that fiction has no obligation to fact – as Ralph Harper puts it, “Fiction and romance do not need facts to tell the truth...” Its only obligation is to the reader: violate too many expectations and the contract to suspend disbelief will be ruptured, but short of that anything goes. Without that acceptance, we would have no fiction at all.
On the other hand, I am alarmed by how common it is to have a view of the world which results from the failure to separate fiction from fact.
I suppose, if pushed to it, I would say that I am happy with any amount of invention if it supports the fiction but that I see no reason to mess with accuracy where there is no reason to do so.
Why am I moaning on about this? Because I am surrounded at the moment by advertisements for the DVD release of Ice age 3: dawn of the dinosaurs.
I watched and immensely enjoyed the first in this franchise; I watched and moderately enjoyed the second. The anachronisms and other liberties (including the extinction of the dodo several millennia early) didn't bother me in the slightest; hey, it's a fiction. I haven't seen the third, but have no doubt that I would enjoy that too ... yet that title gnaws at me. For a bunch of mammals to witness the dawn of the dinosaurs (who actually predeceased them by tens of millions of years) is ... just ... one violated expectation too far, for this viewer at least.
Why undermine children's learning, and the efforts of overworked primary school teachers, for no reason?

*Addendum (17 July 2013): having been reminded of this rant by Jazz of PsychoBabble, I must come back and put the record straight.
Since writing the above, I have seen the film ... and it does not suggest that the dinosaurs post dated mammals at all. This is fiction in the mould of Jules Verne's Voyage au centre de la Terre, (or Edgar Rice Burroughs' The land that time forgot): our assorted anthropomorphic friends Diego, Manny and Sid discover a preserved subterranean world in which dinosaurs have escaped distinction.
So ... I unreservedly apologise to the film's creators for my undeserved criticism.

  • Carlos Saldanha, Ice age 3: dawn of the dinosaurs. 2009: 20th Century Fox
  • Ralph Harper, The world of the thriller. Cleveland, Ohio, 1969: Press of Case Western Reserve University. 0829501487.

1 comment:

Dr. C said...

Why are you surprised? Man has a great ability to suspend his critical faculties and indulge in the most outlandish beliefs imaginable. Did we question the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans when
Alley Oop
came along? Or, for that matter, the Flintstones? BTW, according to Alley Oop, flint was one of the first items of commerce in the Stone Age (bottom left of Alley Oop page above). Sort of ties the two together.
Seriously, the political landscape is littered with the carcass of many a truth. Yes, Virginia, there are WMD in Iraq still today!