Entry 15 (Part 1): Football Analysts and Generals

Gettysburg Movie Poster

Gettysburg. Written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. Based on the novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.

Release date: October 8, 1993.

As I mentioned in my last post, Gettysburg is kind of a big deal in the Civil War community. I first saw it long before I imagined becoming a professional historian, so my views on the film have evolved as I’ve learned more about the war. However, the aspect that stood out during my most recent viewing was one that hadn’t struck me before: for a movie that includes so much depiction of and talk about death, it’s remarkably bloodless. Combat scenes that seemed impressively realistic twenty years ago now play more like sterile pageants. Maybe I was naive back then, but this is not the same war I read and write about now. So I began to wonder, is Gettysburg one of the prime culprits in propagating the “football analyst school” of Civil War history?

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Gettysburg! Gettysburg!


Jeff Daniels reacts to my decision to devote two entire posts to Gettysburg.

Some of you likely noticed that Gettysburg will be the subject of my next review. For those who don’t know, this movie carries a significant amount of weight among historians and buffs–deservedly so or not. We’ve all seen it multiple times and have favorite lines (usually to mock, and usually by Sam Elliott) and lots of opinions.

It’s also super long.

Thus, after watching it for the first time in several years, I’ve decided to devote two entries to it, instead of my usual one. Each review will follow a different line of inquiry, since the film directly addresses my two favorite blog topics: the “football analyst school” and the Lost Cause. So, keep a clear eye me boyo, and join me for a thorough examination of how one of the Civil War’s best known modern films fits with the rest of Civil War pop culture. For those who think reading around 2,000 words on a Ted Turner film will leave them so very tired, just skip over these reviews, but stay tuned because I have an exciting guest post lined up for my next subject.

Entry 9: A Tale of Two Marys

Lincoln Movie Poster

Lincoln. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Tony Kushner.

Release Date: November 16, 2012.

I decided early on that I would occasionally invite friends and fellow scholars to write entries for this blog, especially if the subject is something I’ve written about elsewhere. In the case of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, not only have I already commented on it (mainly here, but also during my 15 minutes of fame here), I also have an excellent reviewer: my friend and colleague, Stacy Pratt McDermott. As the Assistant Director for The Papers of Abraham Lincoln and the author of a recent biography of Mary Lincoln, Stacy provides a unique and informed perspective on one of the film’s less-discussed characters and I’m just as interested as anyone to read what she has to say. So, without further ado, I’ll turn things over to Stacy… Read More

What Does Point of Honor’s Failure Mean?

Point of Honor is dead! Long live Point of Honor!

By now, many of you know Amazon did not greenlight Point of Honor. Given that the pilot episode was almost universally panned–including by me (other examples are here, here, and here)–we can call this a win for good history and good TV, but I’m reluctant to declare total victory. Viewer votes determine which pilots Amazon greenlights, so Point of Honor‘s failure clearly indicates audiences weren’t impressed. But why weren’t they impressed and what does that mean for the current state of the Civil War in popular culture? Read More

On Women in Civil War Pop Culture

Before shifting away from historical fiction for a few weeks, I want to make a few observations about women in Civil War pop culture. After reviewing Point of Honor and Cold Mountain (heck, even after The Beverly Hillbillies), it occurred to me that stories about the Civil War much more prominently feature female characters than fiction about other American wars. Sure, the Civil War has more than its share of guys-only stories (I don’t think there’s a single woman in Gettysburg, for instance) but it seems to me women are central to the way the Civil War is popularly represented and perceived. Indeed, the most popular and significant fictional treatment of the war, Gone With the Wind, has a strong female protagonist. Read More

Entry 3: Scarlett Gets a Makeover

Cold Mountain Movie Poster

Cold Mountain. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Based on the novel by Charles Frazier.

Release Date: December 25, 2003.

In his book on the Civil War in popular culture, Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten, Gary Gallagher argues that Cold Mountain is, in part, a revision of Gone with the Wind‘s take on Confederate women. I decided to focus on this as I re-watched the film for the first time since it came out in 2003. It didn’t take long for me to realize this is, in fact, the only way to watch Cold Mountain. This movie is all about the ladies. Read More