Lately we’ve looked at how film, TV, and fiction about the RevWar tend to portray the British as arrogant dipwads. (That’s a technical social science term, is what that is.)
I think there’s a corollary to this stereotypical view of the men who led Britain’s armies in America, and it applies to the Continentals.
Think of the American officers who come across the worst in popular historiography, film, TV, and so on. The list would probably include Benedict Arnold, Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, and maybe Thomas Conway. Arnold’s place on the list is obvious. The others share something in common: all were foreign-born. Gates and Lee were both natives of England, while Conway was a French-educated Irishman.
Would we have such prominent collective memories of these men as haughty but ineffectual snots if they had been born in America?
It certainly wouldn’t have cancelled out the stigma of Gates’s performance at Camden, Lee’s ignominious capture and unseemly ambition, and Conway’s backbiting. In other words, they were probably bound to end up on the wrong side of historical memory. But I wonder if the fact that they were professional veterans of European armies helped the process along.
Director Colin Trevorrow has responded to the recent Jurassic World leaks, and I’m feeling a lot better. I really think this guy has tremendous respect for the franchise and wants to contribute to it in a way that develops organically out of what’s come before.
Here’s a sample of the interview:
Jurassic World takes place in a fully functional park on Isla Nublar.…And there are dinosaurs. Real ones. You can get closer to them than you ever imagined possible. It’s the realization of John Hammond’s dream, and I think you’ll want to go there.…
This film picks up twenty-two years after Jurassic Park. When Derek [Connolly] and I sat down to find the movie, we looked at the past two decades and talked about what we’ve seen. Two things came to the surface.
One was that money has been the gasoline in the engine of our biggest mistakes. If there are billions to be made, no one can resist them, even if they know things could end horribly.
The other was that our relationship with technology has become so woven into our daily lives, we’ve become numb to the scientific miracles around us. We take so much for granted.
Those two ideas felt like they could work together. What if, despite previous disasters, they built a new biological preserve where you could see dinosaurs walk the earth…and what if people were already kind of over it? We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T-Rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. “We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?” Next year, you’ll see our answer.
In hindsight, it’s highly unfortunate that we didn’t get to see the “super dino” within the context of a story. Instead, it came as an isolated revelation in the form of an Internet leak, and a lot of us JP aficionados (including me) freaked out. Let’s see how it plays out as part of an entire film. Let the filmmakers tell us the story, and then we’ll judge that story as a whole.
I said we’d be seeing Giganotosaurus again soon, and by golly, here he is.
That’s one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs of all time. I ran into this bad boy at the Maryland Science Center, within spitting distance of Federal Hill and the USS Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. I had some extra time after visiting Ft. McHenry, so I stopped by to indulge in a little dino-viewing.
Most of the dinos at the MSC are casts, including the Giganotosaurus, but they’re beautiful mounts all the same. I especially like this dynamic, lunging T. rex.
Donald Gennaro’s last view:
And here’s Tarbosaurus, T. rex‘s cousin from Mongolia.
Two very early dinosaurs from South America, Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus.
Cryolophosaurus, a pompadour-sporting meat-eater from Antarctica. (Yep, dinosaurs in Antarctica.)
Finally, here’s an Acrocanthosaurus in the flesh…
…trying to take down an Astrodon, Maryland’s state dinosaur. This scene is based on a famous trackway from Texas excavated by R.T. Bird and recently reconstructed digitally.
In The Face of Battle, John Keegan noted how the environment of combat changed over the course of history. One way it changed in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is immediately apparent—battles got a whole lot bigger.
If you had four and a half hours to lead a tour of a major Civil War battlefield, what would you highlight? You’d never have this problem with a Rev War battlefield, at least not a Southern Campaign site. You could probably lead three back-to-back-to-back tours of King’s Mountain or Cowpens in four and a half hours.
Take a look at King’s Mountain, Cowpens, and Gettysburg on Google Maps, all at the same zoom level. The Cowpens field would likely fit between the Round Tops and Emmitsburg Road, and I think you’d still have room for King’s Mountain.
Numbers engaged illustrate the difference, too. Greene had something like 4,500 men at Guilford Courthouse; the Confederates fielded ten times that many at Shiloh. Washington had over 14,000 at Brandywine, which sounds like a lot until you consider that the Union suffered over 12,000 casualties at Antietam.
If you’re in the Knoxville area and you’re looking for something to do this weekend, stop by Marble Springs State Historic Site for Statehood Days. They’ll have living history demonstrations, food, and tours of the historic buildings. Here’s the schedule.
So for a couple days a rumor’s been circulating that this happens in Jurassic World (SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously):
Business is good at the park, but the powers that be start to dream up new ways to keep customers coming back; namely by splicing Dino DNA with other dinos (and other species). That becomes the problem. They splice together a T-Rex, raptor, snake, and cuttlefish to create a monstrous new dino that, of course, gets loose and terrorizes the park.
Which is weird, because (as fellow JP aficionados will recall) they tried this idea with the action figure line and it was kind of ridiculous.
Well, today comes confirmation that the rumor was true, and there will indeed be a tyrannosaur-raptor-cuttlefish hybrid in Jurassic World.
Normally I would squeal with girlish delight at the prospect of a movie with a tyrannosaur-raptor-cuttlefish hybrid, but when said movie is an installment in the JP franchise, well…I can’t help but get nervous.
Don’t screw this up, guys. Do NOT screw this up.
A few weeks ago, as you might recall, I expressed some frustration with the way AMC’s Turn indulges in some common stereotypes about British officers in the Revolutionary War.
Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy’s book The Men Who Lost America has won the George Washington Book Prize, and speakers at the ceremony noted this tendency to remember the British commanders as either villains or fools:
In a statement praising the winner, Adam Goodheart, director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, said: “Countless popular books and Hollywood films have portrayed the redcoats and their leaders as blundering nincompoops at best, sneering sadists at worst. O’Shaughnessy’s work ought to kill these stereotypes once and for all — and, in the process, give Americans a richer and more nuanced understanding of our nation’s origins.”
…Publishers in the U.K. told O’Shaughnessy that “no one wants to read about wars we lost.” But he had long been troubled by what he called “a tendency to parody the British commanders as aristocratic buffoons, which was even more pronounced in Britain than in the U.S. It is a thesis that is perpetuated in movie caricatures, popular history and even college text books.”
These stereotypes about the British serve as a foil to what we Americans would like to believe about our own ancestors. If the British were “sneering sadists,” then the Patriots’ virtue looks that much more sterling by comparison, even though Whigs could be extremely brutal to Tories in American-controlled territory. And if the British were “blundering nincompoops,” it makes sense to believe that the Americans could defeat them with nothing but pluck and good old Yankee ingenuity, even though American commanders like Washington and Greene knew that the only way to defeat the British regulars was to create an army with the same discipline, hierarchy, and professionalism.