Hollywood Revisionist History Page 2: Braveheart: Fiction and Nationalism Con't
Historians consider Edward II a wimp, because his wife Princess Isabella and her lover usurped the throne from him. They even considered Edward so unthreatening as to leave him alive and unimprisoned, but there is no evidence of homosexuality on his part, as portrayed in the movie. This additional characterization received protests from gay rights' activists, essentially because of the film's tone of satisfaction when Edward I pushes his son's lover out a window.
Edward I, known as the Longshanks because of his long legs, spent much of his reign at war, subjugating both Wales and Scotland through brutality and fear. While he crushed Welsh rebellion, the Scottish rebellion would win out following his death. Other inaccuracies in the film changed the locations of battles and the chronology of events of the Scottish resistance.
Interestingly, historians and scholars in America and England criticized Braveheart movie not for its treatment of the English, but for how the film had revised and manipulated history and been praised for its dramatic elements. In the years following its release, publicity around the movie continued and contributed to a renewed interest in Scottish independence. Although debates had been going on for years over the reopening of Scotland's Parliament, Braveheart's appeal gave the efforts a needed boost.
On July 1st, 1999, the BBC's (British Broadcasting Company) coverage of the Scottish Parliament's first session since 1707 included music from the film played during the broadcast. An Internet webcast arranged by the Scottish government was hosted from William Wallace's statue at Stirling with the help of the webmasters of MacBraveheart. In London newspapers articles covering the event alluded to Braveheart's influence in revitalizing Scottish nationalism.
Setting the Stage for British Ire
Following Braveheart, Britain kept a watchful eye on Hollywood. In 1998, some bristled when Saving Private Ryan had nary a Brit on-screen and British General Bernard Montgomery was called "over-rated." In 2000, Hollywood gave the British several reasons to protest. The year began with news of Hollywood usurping the successful British literary import, Harry Potter.
The casting of a British youth to play Harry as well as casting well-known British actors like John Hurt, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman in supporting roles did little to dispel complaints of creative theft, since the studio and most of the creative people working on the film would be Americans. Hollywood has often imported European films and remade them, such as Point of No Return and City of Angels.
Hollywood rarely produces anything original and often copies itself. In 1992, two movies about Christopher Columbus, Christopher Columbus - The Discovery and 1492: Conquest of Paradise, had raced each other to the box-office, only to both bomb. In April 1995, a few weeks before Braveheart premiered, another Scottish kilt movie was also released. Rob Roy, the title character played by Irishman Liam Neeson, was a 18th century Scotsman in a kilt on a personal crusade against English nobles.
In March 2000 the publicity machine started for the first big summer box-office entry, U-571. U-571 follows an American submarine crew who in 1942 steals the German Enigma coding machine by impersonating a U-boat crew. The big historical gaffe is that it was a British crew who pulled it off in 1941. Director Jonathan Mostow did enlist the services of Lt. Commander David Balme, an English seaman who was part of the real mission, and David Kahn, leading expert on Enigma encryption.
However, the fact remains that he directed a film that supplanted Englishmen with Americans, rewriting history for moviegoers who don't check up on the facts. Many older Western Europeans resent the cocky American tourist attitude that 'we' saved Europe from Hitler and movies such as Saving Private Ryan and this one have come to be considered solid evidence of America's superheroism in World War II.