History of the World According to the Movies: Part 17 – Pre-Columbian America


Of course, in one of Mel Gibson’s attempts to bring history to life, here’s his vision of Pre-Columbian America, specifically the Mayans. Still, though the architecture may be historically acceptable, they look pretty drab by most Mayan standards. If these buildings really looked as they did in Mayan times, they’d be painted in bright colors so they could easily be seen like most buildings in Latin America or Southern United States. Also, they Mayans were much more than a civilization that practiced human sacrifice which Mel Gibson fails to show. Not to mention, this movie also contains a heavy Eurocentric bias by including Spanish Conquistadors but that’s beside the point.

Just because the continents of North and South America had to be discovered by Europeans, doesn’t mean that there’s no history in the Americas to be told. While only few societies in the New World had a written language, the Americas had plenty of civilizations in the Pre-Columbian era nonetheless. After all, indigenous peoples had been living in North and South America for thousands of years before the arrival of Columbus explained by the presence of archaeological evidence. Of course, when it comes to movies set in Pre-Columbian America, Hollywood mostly centers on the Mayans since we know more about them than any other such civilization at this time, they had a written language which has been preserved, and that the Mayan people still survive to this day. There can’t really be a historically accurate movie on Pre-Columbian civilizations because there are things we simply don’t know about their cultures and archaeological evidence can only go so far. Still, there are plenty of historical accuracies in movies set in Pre-Columbian America that even archaeologists can say which may consist of putting the wrong buildings in the wrong locations as part of the wrong civilizations, having people speak the wrong language, or what not. Sometimes Pre-Columbian culture on film can consists of mish-mash between cultures. Still, I list some here.

The Mayans:

The Mayans ransacked a village of their own people for sacrificial victims and slaves. (Captives were taken during war and there is not much evidence that they ever did this.)

The Mayans sacrificed captives in mass quantities. (No, that was the Aztecs who did that. When it came to human sacrifice, the Mayans were into quality not quantity. Besides, to the Maya, human sacrifice was a very personal thing.)

The Mayans sacrificed almost anyone. (Again, it’s the Aztecs. The Mayans preferred to sacrifice royals and elites {preferably adversarial} taken from war, which led to a lot of wars in the process. Oh, and there were rituals pertaining to self-sacrifice involving a Mayan king having to draw blood through a barbed thread at either the tongue or his genitals. The 1960s Mayan movie with Yul Brynner is actually more accurate in its treatment of Mayan human sacrifice than the one directed by Mel Gibson since the character trying to avoid sacrifice is a chief who’d be a more likely candidate {despite that he’s the leader of a tribe from Mississippi}.)

The Mayans were a savage people with reckless sewage treatment, widespread slavery, bad rave dancing, and a real lust of human blood. (They were also very concerned with hygiene. They had remarkable astronomy with their calendar being especially good at predicting eclipses and were able to precisely measure planetary orbits. They also had advances in medicine, agronomy, and mathematics. Also, all the Mayan buildings were built by free men who participating in such projects as a civic duty. Yet, we don’t know whether these people did it because they were forced to, as a way of using labor to pay taxes, or voluntarily. Then there was the Mayan ball game which was a combination of basketball, lacrosse, and rollerball, in which either the captain of the winning or losing team was sacrificed, we’re not sure which. Oh, and they were probably one of the most sophisticated Pre-Columbian civilizations of all time, which was an ordered society of maize, kings, and gods, as well as flourished for a thousand years. Nevertheless, they were no violent than other civilizations even if they did practice human sacrifice.)

The Mayans were awed by solar eclipses. (They were accomplished astronomers and therefore, the Mayan elites would’ve known it was coming and planned a ritual all around it.)

The Mayan civilization collapsed with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s. (The Maya Civilization collapsed in 900 A. D. which was 600 years before the Spanish ever set foot when their cities were abandoned {yet it’s possible that some of the Mayan cities did survive}. Of course, Spanish disease killed many of the Mayan people, but that’s beside the point  since it took almost 200 years to subdue the people who were left from their remaining cities {while the Aztec Empire fell within a year}. Still, as to what caused the Mayan collapse, many have their own theories like drought, deforestation, disease, overpopulation, warfare, social disruption.)

Mayan villagers were hunters and gatherers in the deep jungles of Meso America. (Actually they would’ve been farmers on manicured land with a very structured social and economic system. Oh, and they had crops like cacao, tomatoes, corn, and avocados long before the Europeans did.)

The Mayans thought 2012 would be the end of the world. (The Mayans never equated the end of their calendar with the end of the world. Also, it’s 2014.)

Mesoamerican jungle people were never aware of Mayan pyramids. (They would’ve since these structures were never too far from anywhere in the Mayan world, occupied or abandoned. If you lived 6 to 12 miles outside a large Mayan community, you would’ve certainly have seen one since such structures were usually 20 kilometers away from anywhere in the Mayan world.)

Lots of Mayans wore jade. (Jade was only reserved for royalty since it was a symbol of royal power and wealth.)

The Mayans were mankind’s earliest civilization. (Actually the Mesopotamians were as far as the historic record goes. And in Meso America, the Olmecs. Also, the Olmecs and the Zapotecs had writing before the Mayans but not much of it survives.)

Mayan sacrificial victims were painted blue and were sacrificed on a column shaped stone. (The Mayans would never paint their victims blue. Rather they would adorn them with special quetzel plumed headdresses. And it’s the Aztecs who were known to sacrifice victims this way, not the Maya. Also, the Mayans used decapitation, heart excision, dismemberment, hanging, disembowelment, skin flaying, skull splitting, throwing kids in wells, and burning.)

The Mayans relished torturing their captives. (Not necessarily, but their victims were their enemies suffering a long tortuous death and being carefully disassembled. These guys were competition and a Mayan ruler may get something to add to his kingdom.)

The Mayas didn’t have libraries. (They did, but the Spanish destroyed most of their books that there are only three or four left {and one may be a fake}.)

The Mayans were tall, slim, ripped, tan, and very European looking. (The actual Mayans were shorter and stocky but I was just ripping off a 1960s movie called Kings of the Sun starring Yul Brynner.)

The Mayans visited the US Gulf Coast. (Well, it could’ve happened since the the Mississippians did grow Mesoamerican crops like corn, beans, and squash but we can’t be sure.)

Mayan kings were bystanders in human sacrifice rituals while two priests did the actual work. (He was usually the central figure who conducted rituals in front of a large audience in a major ceremonial fashion. He was not only the political leader in his Mayan city-states, but a religious one as well.)

Mayan villagers lived in stick huts in the wild jungle. (They would’ve lived in homes with stone foundations near the cleared plazas or in surrounding villages near the capital. Housing on lots were planned and intensively managed spaces where fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants were grown and where some domesticated animals were raised.)

The Mayans were sun worshipers and called themselves “sun people.” (They had a pantheon of gods with the Maize god as the most important deity because he signified the change of the seasons.)

Some Mayan tribes used swords made out of wood or metal. (They usually used obsidian for knives which were very sharp.)

Aztecs and The Triple Alliance Empire:

The Aztecs were a homogenous people. (The Aztec Empire was run by a triple Alliance of three Nahuatl city states Tenochtitlan, Tlateloco, and Tlacopan near the islets of Lake Texcoco. Oh, and they called themselves the Mexica who may have came to Mexico during the 13th century from Arizona {oh, the irony}.)

The main Aztec city was situated in the jungle. (The Aztec Triple Alliance ran their empire from Tenochtitlan which was built upon a lake in a the middle of the Valley of Mexico. When the Spanish arrived, it looked like a Pre-Columbian Venice with a network of canals and bridges. Of course, no filmmaker has a budget to recreate this.)

The Aztecs used gold coins. (They more likely used cocoa beans as currency than gold coins. Besides, Aztec gold coins never existed in Pre-Columbian America.)

The Aztecs mummified their dead. (High-ranking Aztecs were cremated. However, the Andean peoples certainly did.)

South America:

Nazca buildings were made out of stone. They also built their tombs on hills and were mummified in a fashion depicted by Francisco de Orellana. (Nazcas built with adobe, had their tombs in the ground in flat areas, and mummified people by hunkering their knees against their chests before wrapping them.)

Peruvian coastal tribes used blowpipes with poisoned darts. (Amazon jungle tribes did.)

Meso and South America:

All Pre-Columbian cultures in Meso and South America look basically the same. (Despite the fact that many of these societies existed in different environments and have different styles of art and architecture.)

The groups of people who lived in Meso and South America were the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Incas. (There were many other indigenous groups who lived in the same areas.)

All Pre-Columbian cultures in Meso and South America lived in the jungle. (They lived in all kinds of environments and climates such as deserts, mountains, the coasts, and other areas.)

All Meso American buildings and structures were of just plain rock. (Actually they were painted in bright colors like the works so they could be more visible.)

The Meso and South American Indians sacrificed to Quetzalcoatl more often than any other god. (He’s perhaps the only god in many of his pantheons who didn’t ask for it and abhorred the practice {making him the most bloodless and most merciful god in the pantheon whose sacrifices only comprised of birds, snakes, tortillas, and butterflies}. So it’s very unlikely that even the Aztecs would sacrifice to him. Filmmakers probably use him the most as a god to sacrifice to because his name is easier to pronounce and he’s the most famous in his pantheon anyway {he’s probably the only Mesoamerican god most people know}. Also, the Plumed Serpent is a cool nickname. As for the heart ripping out of a person’s chest and tossing the body down the pyramid stairs, that’s a festive sacrifice for the Aztec war god, Huitzilopochtli, whose name is a mouthful and is nicknamed the Left-Handed Hummingbird, yeah.)

Mesoamericans made and used crystal skulls. (Every crystal skull ever found turned out to be a fake.)

The Meso and South American Indians didn’t use metal weapons because they didn’t have the technology. (They actually did but the fact they didn’t use metal weapons was more out of personal choice because the aim of war for them was to take captives to sacrifice later, not to kill people. Also, they used metals for their figurines but they didn’t see it worth much.)

The Meso and South American Indians bound their infants’ heads with a rope to honor their gods. (It was in accordance with their beauty standards. Also, they liked elongated noses like Adrien Brody’s.)

Quecha was spoken in what is now Mexico. (It’s an Andes language spoken throughout the Inca Empire.)

Meso and South American women walked around in scantily clad bikinis or bare breasts. (No, they didn’t. Many of them simply wore a decorated cloth with holes for the head and arms. Also, many of them were shown in artwork as rather conservatively dressed with their breasts covered.)

Meso and South American Indians lusted after gold as a precious metal. (Mayas used cacao beans as currency, the Aztecs valued feathers and jade much more than gold, and the Incas only saw gold as some metal to make a drinking vessel out of. Let’s just say the Mesoamericans would be more pissed off at you eating their chocolate than melting any of their gold jewelry.)

Meso and South American Indians viewed white people as gods. (No Inca or Aztec Emperor ever mistaken a Spanish Conquistador as a god. Their giving gifts to the Spaniards was more about showing superiority and good ol’ sacred hospitality. The Spanish just assumed this.)

Meso and South American priests were always bloodthirsty men wanting to sacrifice nubile virgins to their dinosaur gods. (Sure they were the ones doing the human sacrifices most of the time. Yet, they usually viewed it as part of their job and most of their rituals do include some sort of sacrifice. They believed that such sacrifices sustained the universe and many of their stories dealt with the importance of sacrifice. Also, most Pre-Columbian sacrificial victims were men.)

Meso and South American Pre-Columbian artifacts are usually cursed. (I’m sure this isn’t the case.)

Meso and South American people could stop sacrificing people whenever. (Being sacrificed was seen as a great honor in these cultures. Besides, to them, not sacrificing people was one way to usher in the apocalypse.)

Meso and South American gods didn’t succumb to temptation. (There’s a story about Quetzalcoatl getting drunk and banging his sister. So Miguel and Tulio didn’t have to worry much about making mistakes in El Dorado.)

North America:

The Indians were noble savages who worshiped nature and cared for the environment. (This is all bullshit for there were many Native American societies that farmed and built structures like houses, temples, and monuments, even in North America.)

The New World was mostly unpopulated, with Native settlements few and far between. (Truth is, the Europeans were keen on spreading diseases they were already immune to {very successfully, I might add}. The native population was decimated by bugs like Smallpox. These sicknesses spread so fast, that when settlers moved west, they found a fraction of the population that once thrived there.)

Native Americans were a backward, childlike people who talked like Tonto. (Never mind the working economy, clearly defined values and morals, deep religion, highly developed language, and well developed justice system. Yes, Native American society was that complex, just ask the Iroquois Nations and the Cherokee.)

The Inuit always wore parkas, carved trinkets, lived in igloos, went fishing with harpoon, traveled by sled and huskies, and ate cod liver oil. They also kissed by rubbing each other’s noses together. (It might have been true at one time but not during the 1920s.)

Indian princesses were gorgeous. (There had to be ugly Indian princesses.)

Mayans and Mississippians spoke similar languages. (Their languages were from completely separate families like the Mayan and the Algonquin.)

The Mississippian peoples lived in tepees and hunted buffalo. (I don’t think this is very likely since it’s more suggestive of Plains Indians. Also, the Mississippian people were an agrarian society as far as I know. But who knows what they lived in anyway. The Mississippians were a mound building culture, however. Yet, I’m sure the Mayans didn’t build pyramids there.)

The Inuit wore metal sunglasses over their eyes. (They didn’t, yet there’s a movie poster of an Inuit who does.)

Indians planted corn in rows. (They didn’t plant corn that way.)

Indian corn ears were far larger than a human hand. (Native corn were about the size of a thumb, rarely ever bigger. Large corn was a product of seed selection and genetic research mostly done since the 1860s.)

Iroquois settled on the Ottawa River. (It was Algonquin territory.)

Indians fought during the winter. (Native war parties usually stayed home during the winter.)

Iroquois gratuitously killed their young prisoners. (They would never have killed a young prisoner who could’ve been adopted into a family to replace a fallen kinsman.)

Indian guards raped female prisoners. (Well, Mary Rowlandson did testify she was raped by one during the Indian Wars in Massachusetts, but there was a strict taboo against raping war prisoners throughout the native East. The Iroquois in particular eschewed sex with future adopted kinswomen.)

Iroquois guards were posted on a scaffold tower on cold of dead winter nights. (No Iroquois guard was.)

Most Indian captives were killed. (Indian captives were mainly adopted and kept alive.)

Indian captives were led by leather thongs around their necks and fully dressed. (They were naked when taken prisoner.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 16 – Africa


Sure this is a movie about something that happened during the 1990s as well as centers on a real guy who’s still alive, yet Hotel Rwanda is a good movie to picture because it’s about an ordinary African man who saved so many lives at a great cost to himself. Of course, this takes place during the Rwandan genocide with AK-47s and machetes galore. Still, the reality of this event was much worse than depicted and Don Cheadle’s character paid a much bigger price for his efforts.

Africa: the cradle of humanity. For its thousands years of history, it has been home to great tribes, cultures, kingdoms, and civilizations. Not only has it been the home of Ancient Egypt but also of Carthage, Nubia in the ancient world. In the European Middle Ages, it was home to great empires and kingdoms like Mali, Aksum, Songhai, Great Zimbabwe, Asante, and so many others all a unique culture of riches, rituals, and innovations. However, if you should ever dare making a movie pertaining to this history of Africa, then a Hollywood producer will probably tell you to get a job for National Geographic. After all, Hollywood is simply not interested in the African history that doesn’t contain violence, oppression, poverty, human rights violations, disease, crazy dictators, poaching on endangered species, or Europeans (or biblical figures in that matter). I mean the only reason why Hollywood would ever do something on African history is to present people being subject to unimaginable horrors as well as make themselves look good. Of course, depictions of African history tend to be either racist, violent, or both. Nevertheless, while Africa is a continental hellhole it’s seen on film, there’s more to African history than that, much more. We also know it’s a home to a lot exotic animals, but we know everyone likes to see them on nature documentaries. Nevertheless, out of movies on African we do have, filmmakers can make a lot of use of artistic license, and here are the inaccuracies, I’ll show here.


Ethiopia has always been a heavily pagan and juju spirit believing culture. (It is also has some of the oldest churches and synagogues in Africa as well as a sizeable Muslim population. Orthodox Christianity was introduced in the 4th century and Judaism even earlier and was said to be the home of the Queen of Sheba from the King Solomon stories.)

King Solomon got together with the Queen of Sheba. (There’s no record of this, not even in the Bible.)


Great Zimbabwe was built by a lost white race. (This is about as true as saying that Great Zimbabwe was built by aliens. This notion was debunked in 1905.)

The DRC:

The DRC was always the DRC. (It had been called Zaire for a while and had its named changed back to the DRC in 1997.)

Sierra Leone:

The De Beers company secretly hired Executive Outcome to make a fortune out of diamond mining during a civil war in Sierra Leone. Also, Executive Outcome was also a mining company and received diamond mining concessions as payment. (They were actually solely a military contract company like Blackwater hired by the government of Sierra Leone. Their main job was to retake the rebel-controlled diamond field used to raise funds {but they didn’t mine or take diamonds from the fields}, which they did. De Beers had no links to EO during the 1999 civil war in Sierra Leone.)


Muse had his hand sliced open in the trap of broken glass. (The trap of broken glass didn’t happen though Muse did get his hand sliced open when he was captured by the crew and he went below deck with a crew member unarmed.)

Captain Philips was held hostage by Somali pirates for a day and half. (It was actually for five days.)

The Americans were working alone in Somalia to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the battle of Mogadishu. (Actually they had help from the Malaysians and the Pakistanis. Also, it was a Malaysian general who was at the command at Mogadishu. Apparently, the Malaysians’ beef with Black Hawk Down is perhaps justified.)

Captain Philips offered his life and let himself be a hostage in exchange for the pirates leaving the ship when his 2nd mate was going to be shot. (According to TTI: “In reality, Phillips never offered his life and was more the subject of a botched hostage exchange than letting himself become one, which he himself admits in interviews. Additionally, some of Phillips’ former crew feel he was responsible for the hijacking because he ignored suggestions to steer the ship farther from the coast, but Phillips countered that they would have been just as unsafe 600 miles away as they were at 300.”)

South Africa:

White South Africans were rich and racist and were either Afrikaans or Rooineks. (Actually there are plenty of white South Africans who aren’t of Dutch or British descent as well as plenty who live in the middle class alongside blacks since South Africa is the most middle class African country. And I’m sure there are some white South Africans who aren’t racist {like Alan Paton and F. W. deClerk}. There’s also a sizable Asian population, too.)

The Springboks rugby team’s winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup brought everlasting racial unity in South Africa. (Contrary to Invictus, the feeling of apparent racial unity lasted about a month. The winning team was later plagued by racism with Matt Damon’s character organizing a standoff with the South African Rugby Union and offered the other players sweet deals to sign with the World Rugby Corporation, except the token black player who got less than the others despite being one of the most popular on the team.  Another player Geo Cronje refused to share rooms or shower with his black teammates as recently as 2003. They also had a bad succession of coaches after their World Cup-winning coach had to step down due to leukemia.)

Black South African women had limited roles in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. (There was a 1956 Anti-pass march co-organized by the Federation of South African Women. So women were pretty active in the movement.)

Nelson Mandela’s political views didn’t change while he was in prison. (Except for not wanting apartheid, many of them did. For instance, he started out as a radical who favored nationalizing key industries. And he wasn’t initially in favor of adopting a multi-racial view of South Africa. Oh, and he was also a communist, which has been a South African open secret for years.)

Winnie Mandela was an irrational Lady Macbeth type woman who was the cause of the black-on-black violence in the 1980s and early 1990s South Africa. (She wasn’t. The violence was actually between the African National Congress and state-funded proxy organizations.)

Nelson Mandela was the major figure in the anti-apartheid movement. (Mandela was chosen by a committee in the ANC as the international face of the movement. Also, he was in prison much of the time. Still, the ANC’s work on social justice relied on collective and collaborative leadership. Of course, films about Mandela tend to ignore guys like Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and Oliver Tambo working behind the scenes. Ever heard of them? Neither did I.)

The African National Congress was a peaceful political organization. (It initially started out as a paramilitary group, which bombed public buildings in order to destabilize the South African government. In some ways, they started out no differently than some Mideast terrorist organizations.)

Prison guard James Gregory had a close relationship with Nelson Mandela while the latter was in prison. (Nelson Mandela only mentions him twice in his autobiography and they barely spoke to each other. Also, his friends were furious that the guy wrote a book about it which was later turned into a movie.)

Nelson Mandela spent his whole nearly 30 year prison sentence on Robben Island. (He only spent 17.5 years of his sentence there. He actually initially imprisoned Johannesburg then Pretoria for a year and a half during his trial then sent to Robben Island. After spending his 17.5 years there, he was sent to Pollsmoor Prison for 6 years, then to Victor Verster Prison for 2 years until his release. So though he did spend almost 30 years in prison, he didn’t spend it all in one place.)

White South Africans referred to blacks by the “k-word” during apartheid. (Even under apartheid it was illegal to use this word.)

The first meeting between white reporter Donald Woods and Stephen Biko went rather swimmingly. (Actually Biko gave a more powerful and confrontational speech saying he was trying to discourage hatred of any sort as well as liberate black people not white liberals.)

Stephen Biko was chaste, humble, and non-violent. (He was known for speaking fierly, wittingly, and colloquially  with references of “hey, man!” in his speeches. Also, he was known to be a womanizer despite having a wife and long-term mistress.)


Bob Astles was a Scottish physician who was a loveable rouge who helped bring down the Idi Amin regime. (Astles wasn’t Scottish nor a doctor and wasn’t a nice guy {he was called the second most hated man there as well as nicknamed “The White Rat”}. Actually he was an adviser to the regime Amin overthrew and was tortured and imprisoned for 17 weeks after the despot took power until he gave Astes a job {though Astles had been living in Uganda for 30 years and was in his 50s unlike James McAvoy’s character in The Last King of Scotland who’s his expy}. Oh, and he never fooled around with one of Amin’s wives either {though there was a doctor who did but he was African}. And he tried to flee Uganda when Amin was overthrown in 1979 but brought back to face criminal charges and prison.)

Idi Amin killed his wife for getting knocked up by doctor. (Her lover accidently killed her while giving her a botched abortion and later killed himself. Of course, Idi was probably the reason why she’d seek abortion in the first place and would’ve killed her anyway if he ever found out.)

Only one hostage was killed during the rescue operation at the Entebbe Airport. (Three were and a fourth would be killed later at a hospital by Ugandan Army officers.)


The Rwandan Tutsis were victims of a savage Hutu driven genocide in Rwanda solely because they always hated each other. (The Tutsis and Hutus had been at odds with each other since Belgian rule since Belgium often appointed Tutsis as their colonial retainers in the region. Before the Belgian intrusion, they managed to at least coexist peacefully since the Tutsis were herders and the Hutus were farmers. Not to mention, Tutsi and Hutu relations in Rwanda had been strained for years and there have been incidences of anti-Tutsi violence in the country since the 1960s.)

Paul Rusesabagina was a Hutu. (Yes, but only on his father’s side. His mother was a Tutsi.)

Tatiana Rusesabagina never understood why he had to stand behind to protect people sheltering in his hotel. (She actually did if reluctantly for good reason.)

Tatiana Rusesabagina was angry about Paul putting her and their kids on a truck to escape the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which was a last minute decision on his part. (She was actually sad but nevertheless accepted the decision due to the circumstances. Also, he discussed the matter with her and the kids the night before the attempted evacuation.)

Paul Rusesabagina’s extended family managed to survive the Rwandan genocide in one piece. (Actually though Paul and his wife and kids managed to survive, many of his relatives weren’t so lucky. During the genocide though Paul did everything in his power, Tatiana lost her mother, father {who had to pay soldiers to shoot him instead of lopping off his limbs one at a time}, brother, sister-in-law, and four nieces and nephews. Paul lost four brothers. Furthermore, his actions earned him so many death threats after the genocide that he and his family had to move to Belgium. So the ending to real Hotel Rwanda wasn’t nearly as happy as it was depicted in the film {it still isn’t}. And the genocide depicted is depicted less violent in Hotel Rwanda than it really was.)

The United Nations helped save some of the Rwanadans from slaughtering each other. (Sure the UN did help some, but they never called what was happening in Rwanda a “genocide”  until years after it happened, despite evidence that the Tutsi population was being massacred. Many affected by it are still not being helped by the UN.)


Libyan rebel leader Omar Mukhtar was brought down when his horse was shot and thrown aside. (He’s actually said to be pinned under it but the scene plays out like this in Lion of the Desert probably because being under a horse would’ve been unsafe for Anthony Quinn.)

Benito Mussolini sent Rodolfo Graziani to take over as governor of Libya in 1929. (He sent him the next year and only as vice-governor unlike what Lion of the Desert would tell you. Nevertheless, he took over a disastrous military campaign against the Libyan rebels that had been going on since 1923.)

Rodolfo Graziani graciously returned Omar Mukhtar’s glasses to him after they had been stolen from a previous battle. This happened during the rebel leader’s show trial in Benghazi. (Transcripts reveal that Mukhtar had to ask Graziani for his glasses back, which his interrogators considered outrageous.)


African civilization has mostly been tribal and rather primitive. (Lo, they forget that Egypt is an African country and the African Kingdoms of Mali, Songhai, Nubia, Zimbabwe, and others. Of course, there are still African tribes as always but there were African kingdoms, too.)

African slavery didn’t exist until the European slave trade. (Yes, it did but not as you know it. Africans had been slaving each other for centuries, but they treated their slaves as servants or even members of the family.)

No African tribe profited from the slave trade. (Europeans befriended paid certain African tribes to get captives from their rivals. Many West African tribes made a lot of money on this.)

Africa has always been a continent full of black people with the exception of Egypt. (Even though the people in North Africa tend to be considered Arabs than black. Also, the fact that there is a sizable white population in South Africa and that the continent is home to Indians and Asians as well. Gandhi was even there once.)

All black Africans tended to resemble those from West Africa. (The reason why movies depict Africans as if they are from West and Central Africa is because it’s where many ancestors of African Americans came from. Yet, not all Africans in Africa look like that.)

Black Africans were primitive, childlike, superstitious, believed in witchcraft and voodoo, lived in huts, defended themselves with spears and shields, could be easily scared by modern technology, or be easily ripped off being sold worthless junk. (Superstitious, yes, believed in witchcraft and voodoo yes, lived in huts, sort of, defended themselves with spears and shields, perhaps, could be easily ripped off, maybe, could be easily scared by modern technology, maybe. However, primitive and childlike, hell no.)

Blacks were enslaved by kidnapping. (They were usually enslaved through war but yeah, it’s kind of accurate.)

Most of Africa has been ruled by strongmen dictators who lived like kings. (Actually besides South Africa there have been African nations that have enjoyed stable democratic rule like Kenya at least most of the time.)

Much of Africa was independent by the 1950s. (Most African countries wouldn’t gain their independence until the 1960s.)

The Zulu had mass marriage ceremonies in front of the king. (I’m not sure about that.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 15 – The Rest of Asia


Of course, no movie can emphasize Asian history more than Mongol, which is about perhaps the most important person in its history as well as one of its most famous conquerors Genghis Khan. Though this movie shows how rough he had it from his childhood to young adulthood, it nevertheless shows a fairly accurate portrait of the man whose family would conquer Asia. Also, if you’re Asian, there’s a good chance you’re related to him.

As far as Asian movie history goes, I’ve covered China, Japan, and India. But though they may be the biggest entities with historical movies or historical movie errors, they are just three countries in a large continent that includes a variety of countries, cultures, and what not. And all these countries each have their own history. Of course, you have Mongolia, home of a man who started out as a son of a Mongolian chief who got poisoned, only to become perhaps the most legendary conqueror who ever lived. Of course, his name is Genghis Khan. In Thailand you have the kings of Siam with the most memorable these days having a musical about him and being played by one of the hottest bald guys in history. Then there’s Tibet home of the 14th Dalai Lama (well, he’s in exile now) and the best known Hollywood movie about his life stars Brad Pitt as a former Nazi. Then there are the aspects in Asian history films that show up in every movie, especially when it pertains to martial arts or Buddhism. Nevertheless, historical errors in movies on Asian history still abound which I shall list.


Genghis Khan started a war Khwarzim because he thought it would be a great place to conquer the world. (He might’ve had intentions about it but it was really in revenge because the Shah killed his messengers.)

Khwarzim fell in one battle. (The Mongols conquered each city one by one.)

The Khwazim Shah died in battle. (He fled to an island in the Caspian Sea and died there.)

Genghis Khan died at Khwarzim. (He died in a hunting accident seven years after conquering it at 65. This is according to the Mongols who said he fell off his horse and died from the injuries. Some say he was killed by the Western Xia in battle.)

Jochi was Genghis Khan’s son. (Though Genghis would raise him as his own child, he was never sure if he was the boy’s father since his mother Borte was kidnapped after they were married. She was heavily pregnant with Jochi and living with another man when Genghis found her. Jochi and his descendants may have been passed over as his heirs after Genghis died for this reason {though Jochi predeceasing his dad may also have been a factor}. This had unfortunate implications in Genghis Khan’s empire).

The Mongol tribes rode on western horses. (They rode on stocky horses with short legs and large heads. Of course, the filmmakers may thought these horses were too peculiar looking to be seen.)

Genghis Khan got his start as a Mongol chief Temujin who kidnapped his wife Borte a Tartar princess. (Of course, Genghis Khan’s real name actually was Temujin, which most films about him usually get right. However there’s no evidence if Borte was a Tartar princess and I’m not sure if Genghis was a Mongol chief {his dad was before he was poisoned} yet when he married her. I mean he had a very rough childhood in which his family was under rival subjugation the entire time. Also, she was abducted after the two were married and there’s no way Genghis would’ve kidnapped her because they were engaged to each other as children.)

Borte had to rescue Temujin after he was taken in a raid. (It’s the other way around.)

Temujin was enslaved by the Tangut kingdom until Borte traveled and travailed to rescue him. (There’s no record of this. However, he was captured by enemies as a child.)

Genghis Khan had dark hair and eyes. (He’s said to be a redhead with green eyes {according to Islamic accounts} but then again, we’re really not sure what he looked like anyway. Still, dark hair and dark eyes may be a better approximate. However, there have been children with lighter hair and eyes in Mongolia though.)

Temujin was a rather young man when he started to be called Genghis Khan. (He was never called that until he was in his thirties. Oh, and he was still conquering about the time at his death at 65.)

Borte was Genghis Khan’s only wife. (She was his first wife as well as his Empress but he took other women as wives and was certainly not a faithful husband. I mean we have DNA evidence showing he left a shitload of descendants {8% of males in Asia are said to have his Y chromosome}. If you’re Asian and the place your family came from was conquered by Genghis Khan {or his immediate family}, there’s a very good chance you’re related to him.)

Genghis Khan had a Fu Manchu mustache. (That style has never been popular among the Mongols and it’s fairly unlikely he had one. Also, Mongolians mostly depict him as having a full beard.)

The Mongol Hordes were groups of barbarian raiders on horseback. (Genghis Khan actually had a well organized army like the Romans. However, their large supply of replacement horses and habits of marching in divided columns certainly gave such illusion.)

Temujin made an alliance with the Chinese Emperor and stayed at his palace. (This never happened.)

Jamuga was Temujin’s main rival for control of the Mongol tribes and enemy. (Yes, but he was also his childhood friend and helped Temujin rescue Borte from a rival chieftain who kidnapped her {or possibly impregnated her.})

Temujin killed Jamuga in a duel who mortally wounded him. (Temujin had Jamuga executed by having his men wrapped in a rug and beat to death as well as lived to be 72.)

Borte was blonde or redheaded. (It’s very likely she wasn’t either. But she is in the Genghis Khan biopic starring Omar Sharif as well as the one starring John Wayne.)

Genghis Khan was a brutal warlord as well as a conquer. (Yes, Genghis Khan was a very brutal conqueror and history shows this in great detail such as systemic slaughters of civilians. He is widely seen as a genocidal ruler to this day by Iranians, Afghans, Middle Easterners, and Eastern Europeans. However, as far as his empire was concerned, Genghis cared very little of how his subjects led their lives as long as they accepted him as their ruler. In fact, he even encouraged religious tolerance {well, to an extent} as well as created a system of meritocracy as well as adopted the Uighur script for the Mongol Empire’s writing. He also explained his policies clearly to all his soldiers. Furthermore, he brought the Silk Road under a cohesive political environment.)

Genghis Khan conquered China. (Contrary to popular belief, this is only partly true if you’re referring to territory that’s part of China today like where the Uighur live who don’t consider themselves Chinese. But China at the time, no. Nevertheless, when Genghis died, his empire extended from the Caspian Sea to the Sea of Japan. His descendants would conquer China and establish the Yuan Dynasty as well as Persia along with parts of Russia and Eastern Europe.)


Austrian Heinrich Harrer only took the Nazi flag reluctantly. (Well, he’d call it a youthful mistake and never actually fought for the Nazis since he left Europe before the start of the war. But he didn’t join the Nazis reluctantly and was a committed SS NCO office. Hell, he even had a photo with Adolf Hitler himself.)

The two-year-old 14th Dalai Lama met a monk disguised as a servant entering his house as part of an entourage. (The Dalai Lama himself has said that the first meeting did not take place at his house. Rather he came outside and greeted the disguised monk and his companion. His mother said that two monks came and set canes {one belonging to his predecessor} at the side of the house and that he picked the correct one. He also asked the undisguised monk why was it taken from him.)

The 14th Dalai Lama’s choice of his Second Regent was Taktra Rinpoche was spontaneous and to the man’s surprise. (He was the main candidate.)

The 14th Dalai Lama met Mao Zedong in Beijing alone. (The 10th Panchen Lama was with him.)

Austrian Heinrich Harrer was always thinking about his son during his time in Asia. (Though he did have an ex-wife and son, unlike what you see in Seven Years in Tibet, he doesn’t mention them in his book. And his contact with his son was nothing what the movie shows. Also, the kid was raised by his ex-wife’s mother while his ex-wife’s new husband died in WWII. Not only that, but Harrer said there was little to tie him to his Austrian home as one of the reasons why he stayed in Tibet in the first place).

Before the Chinese invasion, Chinese Communists negotiators arrived in Lhasa on a Tibetan constructed airfield where they held a conference with the Dalai Lama that consisted of one of them destroying a sand mandala and saying that “religion is poison.” (None of these events occurred in Harrer’s book or in any of the numerous histories that have been written about the matter. The airport in Lhasa was constructed in 1956 and the Dalai Lama used an incomplete road system for his Beijing visit with Mao Zedong in 1954. However, the scene does illustrate exactly how the Chinese Communists viewed traditional culture and religion because they destroyed a lot of places in China that were of cultural and religious significance like temples).

The Dalai Lama was enthroned after WWII. (His enthronement ceremony took place in 1940. He assumed temporal power in 1950).


King Mongkut of Siam was a cruel, eccentric, and indulgent monarch who opposed Westernization and was controlling of his harem of women. He also died while the American Civil War was raging in the states and was succeeded by his ten-year-old son. (True Mongkut had 32 wives and 82 kids, but he and his successors embraced modernization while retaining Siam’s culture. He released numbers of concubines so they could find their own husbands and banned certain practices like forced marriages and wife-selling. Not to mention, slavery there was not like slavery was in the West either. For instance, in Siam, slavery was sometimes voluntary and there was no racial distinction. Also, Siamese slaves couldn’t be tortured and could buy their freedom. He may have been eccentric but he wasn’t self-indulgent for he had lived as a Buddhist monk for 27 years before becoming king and probably didn’t torture or execute anybody. As for his death, Mongkut died in 1868 and by then his successor was a teenager {though he did try to send elephants to the US but he wrote the letter to James Buchanan, not Lincoln but it was Lincoln who answered}. He also died when Anna Leonowens was in England. Nevertheless, The King and I is banned in Thailand because of the film’s inaccuracies as well as its depiction of the royal family the Thai thought disrespected Mongkut and his son who are still revered as great kings to this day.)

Louis Leonowens died as a child in a riding accident. (He outlived his mother as well as married twice and had children. Also, he died in 1919 at the age of 63 most likely from Spanish Flu. And as an adult, visited Siam himself on many occasions but he would be estranged from his mother for 19 years due to debts in the US.)

King Mongkut wanted Anna Leonowens to stay in his palace for some unknown reason. (He actually didn’t want her to live in the expat community because he didn’t want her to try to convert Siamese children to Christianity like the Western missionaries have done before. Of course, Leonowens was more enlightened about religion than most whites in the 1860s {since she was part-Indian herself}.)

Anna Leonowens was a mother hen over King Mongkut’s harem. (She described these ladies as her “sisters” as well as her intellectual and moral equals or betters.)

Anna Leonowens was born in Wales around 1834 to an upper-middle class family. (She was born in Bombay in 1831 to a poor teenage mother of mixed British and Indian origin according to a recent biography, though she claimed this. Also, she spent her childhood in India knowing English, Hindi, and Marathi and she never visited Great Britain until after she left Siam. Still, she managed to reinvent herself in Singapore as an educated Welsh gentlewoman and begged for a job at the Siamese court. Sorry, but the real Anna Leonowens wasn’t exactly a person she claimed to be and more likely didn’t look like Deborah Kerr. And she’s probably lived a story similar to The Great Gatsby before Jay Gatsby.)

Anna Leonowens had one son with her husband. (She had four children but two didn’t survive infancy. Also, she had a daughter Avis at a English school at the time she went to Siam. Interestingly, she was a great aunt to Boris Karloff.)

Thailand was referred by its present name in 1936. (Until 1939, it was called Siam.)

Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut were the same age. (In reality, Mongkut was about 60 years old while Leonowens was in her late 20’s or early 30’s. But I understand someone of Mongkut’s respective age would make the movie far creepier. Yet, even Yul Brynner’s performance makes Mongkut’s sudden death in the film far more shocking than it should’ve been.)


General Ne Win killed Aung San while he was standing. (He was sitting down and didn’t have time to stand before having 13 bullets through him. Also, his assassination plot was traced to a former prime minister U Saw back in 1947, not the guys leading Burma today.)

Aung San Suu Kyi was inspired to fight against the regime in Burma after she returned to see her sick mother, where the Burmese army cracked down on protestors weeks before she arrived. (Yes, but she also met many of the injured in the hospital her mother was staying.)

Aung San Suu Kyi’s first public speech was at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. (She had delivered one at the Rangoon hospital two days before.)

Southeast Asia:

Krakatoa was east of Java. (It’s west of Java and yet we have Krakatoa, East of Java instead.)

Singaporeans wore triangular hats. (Taiwanese do, but no one from Singapore does.)

Chinese Singaporeans spoke Cantonese. (They speak Mandarin, which is the main Chinese dialect there.)


Anyone in East Asia knew martial arts. (Kung Fu Hustle does a spectacular job illustrating and parodying this to hilarious dimensions.)

It wasn’t unusual for Asians and whites to intermingle even though their children showed no Asian features. (I went to school with a few guys with Asian and white parents, they looked more Asian than some of the Asians I’ve seen in classic Hollywood movies, even those who were mixed. Maybe that’s because they were played by Europeans with the exception of Yul Brynner in The King and I who had Siberian ancestry. For God’s sake, they had John Wayne play Genghis Khan!)

Buddhists and Hindus were vegetarians and nonviolent. (Not all Hindus and Buddhists were vegetarians and many of them fought in wars and their kings kept armies. Yet, there were Hindu and Buddhist rulers who were more enlightened than some of the western rulers of their day. Also, Buddhism was a big religion in China and Japan and both were rather violent civilizations. There were also well documented Buddhist uprisings in much of Asian history as well. Not to mention, Buddhism was widely practiced by Mongols and samurai and was the faith most practiced by the Vietnamese, especially those who lived in the North during the Vietnam War.)

Asians never spoke crudely nor engaged in any form of bathroom humor. (Some of the writings of Chairman Mao tell a very different story. Some of his sayings would make Howard Stern blush.)

Asia mostly consisted of East Asia. (There’s more to Asia than China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and India. You also have Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Central Asia.)

Central Asians were savages. (They had their own civilizations. It’s just that Europeans and Chinese kept encroaching their territory.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 14- India


Perhaps no movie defines the history of India in the Western mind than Gandhi. Perhaps he may be portrayed too much of a saint than he really was. Perhaps this movie isn’t 100% accurate. However, there are very few movies about Indian history that aren’t based on some literature written by Kipling so this one fits. Also, this features Ben Kingsley who’s actually part Indian himself (but you wouldn’t know it.)

India is perhaps one of the oldest known places of civilization as well as home to a variety of cultures, religions, languages, and peoples. From the old planned cities of Harappa and Mojengo Daro to Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehrus, Indian history has perhaps spanned for thousands of years, with it’s state base kingdoms to it’s vassalage under empires like the Magdhas, the Mauryas, Alexander the Great, the Guptas, the Mughals, and the British. There are also plenty of other empires India was under that Wikipedia lists which I haven’t heard of. Yeah, Indian history is complicated. Still, we know India is known for yoga, Hinduism, the notion of sacred cows, saris, modern Arabic numerals, yogurt, curry, and Buddhism. There’s a lot of ugly stuff associated with India but let’s not go there. And of course, plenty of Indian animals like elephants, tigers, and monkey as any other creature featured in a Rudyard Kipling story (sure he may be some British Imperialist, but whenever a Hollywood movie is set in India, it’s usually based on one of his stories.) Still, this doesn’t mean that movies about Indian history are being made, for they certainly are since they have a big film industry known as Bollywood (which actually cranks out more movies than Hollywood). Naturally, these movies are best known by westerners for their singing and dancing routines as well as their epic love stories. Of course, many of these errors I list do come from some better known Bollywood movies as well since they tend to have the old Hollywood notion of not letting facts ruin a good story, especially if it’s a romance containing music and dancing (just like Disney, well, not really).

Mauryan Empire:

Ashoka killed his half-brother Susima in a vicious rage. (It’s said he tricked him into stepping on hot coals. Also, he probably knew his half-brother was going to kill him anyway since Susima was the designated heir to the Maurya throne. Ashoka was his main competition. Killing relatives was the norm in many ancient civilizations.)

The vengeful and violent Ashoka converted to Buddhism and became the stable and peaceful Mauryan Emperor in his later reign out of his love for the warrior princess Karuwaki after finding her alive during the Kalinga War. (It’s said it had more to do with his profound sorrow for being responsible for having to slaughter hundreds while conquering the region. It may have had nothing to do with a love for a princess there, but simply out of being horrified over his actions. Also, it’s said Karuwaki was probably a fisherman’s daughter turned mendicant Buddhist convert before she married Ashoka {according to one historian} though she was from Kalinga but she wasn’t the love of his life nor was a factor in his conversion to Buddhism {that may go to his first and most beloved wife Devi who allegedly left him before Kalinga for a Buddhist convent}. )

Devi was a rebound woman for Asoka who he married while getting over his ex Karuwaki. (She was his first and favorite wife as well as perhaps the intellectual inspiration for his conversion to Buddhism.)

Ashoka was kicked out of the Mauryan palace for being too violent and wandered through India disguised as a common soldier. (This never happened. Seemed his dad used his ferociousness to his advantage like suppressing riots.)

Mughal Empire:

Jodhaa was a Rajput princess who was married to the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great and called Jodha Bai. (Akbar’s commissioned biography doesn’t list this, though he had a Rajput princess as his chief wife but her name was Heer Kunwari best known as Jahangir’s mother. Then again, Jodha might just have been a nickname. Also, some Rajput groups claim she was his daughter-in-law as well as Jahangir’s wife {and mother of Shah Jahan}. Historians note that Akbar’s wife was never referred to as Jodha Bai until the 18th or 19th century.)

Jodhaa was Akbar’s favorite wife. (His chief wife was his cousin Ruqaiya Sultan Begum who he married when he was fifteen.)

Akbar the Great was a great lover as well as only had one wife. (Like his predecessors and ancestors, he had a great lust for women. One of his many intentions of his wars of belligerence against several rulers was to gain their sister, daughters, and women. He’d even go after his Amirs’ wives {ordering these guys to divorce and send them to him}. He also had a harem of 34 wives {or mutah nikah meaning wives with no legitimacy or ceremony} and 300 concubines from different races and religions. So he was probably a guy women would want to avoid, not that his women had any choice. Still, he probably made Hugh Hefner look like a choir boy.)

Though Prince Salim was a heavy consumer of opium and alcohol from childhood, he was also a mischievous boy as well as a gentle and romantic hero. (He consumed a lot booze and opium from age 18, but he was a brutal drunk who would often beat servants {he beat one to death as well as castrated another}. Oh, and it’s said he had a writer flayed alive while he watched.)

Prince Salim lead a rebellion against his father Akbar the Great, tried to replace him as emperor, and had his dad’s friend Abu al-Fazl murdered in 1602 all because he wanted to marry a court dancer. (Yes, he did all that, but not because he wanted to marry a girl his dad didn’t like. As a side note, he’d later succeeded his father as Jahangir and his son would build the Taj Mahal.)

Anarkali was Akbar the Great’s court dancer and Prince Salim’s girlfriend. (She’s said to exist and may have been a dancer. Yet, she could’ve been a painter, courtesan, or one of Akbar’s wives making her Salim’s stepmother. She may possibly be the mother of Prince Daniyal. Whether the two were intimate in a relationship is based on legend, and therefore, has no basis in historical fact.)

Imperialism and The Raj:

Mangal Pandey’s prime motivation for attacking British officers in 1857 was because the new cartridges were cased in animal fat which violated religious taboos of Hindu and Muslim soldiers alike. (It also had to do with India being annexed by the British Empire and the general discontent of the sepoys. Let’s just say it was an accumulation of factors over time including one in Pandey’s regiment pertaining to a British officer attempting to convert the sepoys to Christianity.)

Mangal Pandey fought in the Anglo-Afghan War in 1853. (He joined up in 1849 as well as was part of the 34th Bengal Infantry which didn’t see action in Afghanistan and the Anglo-Afghan War ended in 1842.)

Mangal Pandey fell in love with a prostitute forced to work at a whites-only brothel. (This may not have happened though there’s a legend that Pandey had an affair with a married woman whom he rescued from committing suicide in the Ganges.)

The British East India Company was a free market. (It was a monopoly and Adam Smith was one of its staunchest critics.)

British East India Company soldiers murdered and enslaved Indian civilians in 1857. (Slavery was already banned in the British Empire by this point, for over 20 years.)

British East India Company soldiers would massacre Indian villages if they refused to grow opium. (The British East India Company was the biggest drug dealer of all time but no historical record says they did this.)

British East India Company officers issued animal fat cased cartridges to the sepoys and threatened them with a cannon unless they agreed to use them. (One historian says that they withdrew the cartridges in light of the concerns and didn’t issue them to a single sepoy. Pandey’s colonel {Colonel Mitchell from The Rising} did order artillery to surround the sepoys but only after they had looted the arsenal, which was at night not day. Yet, Mitchell wasn’t in charge of his regiment unlike in the Mangal Pandey biopic.)

Mangal Pandey’s premature mutiny was prompted by the arrival of the ships from the Rangoon regiment. (It was actually brought on by the arrival of just 50 soldiers from Calcutta when he was under the influence of opium and bhang. And unlike The Rising, it wasn’t difficult to find anyone who wanted to hang him afterwards.)


Mohandas K. Gandhi was as much a saint in public as he was in private. (Gandhi was also difficult and demanding, a tyrannical and emotionally abusive father {he even disowned one of his sons}, obsessed with the workings of everyone’s bowels, slept naked alongside his female disciples, and subject to long bouts of depressing that he wouldn’t speak to anyone, which led to his closest associates to fight amongst themselves. He denied his wife medicine while she was dying from pneumonia because he didn’t believe in germs, thought Hitler could be redeemed, and believed rape victims weren’t “pure enough.” Not to mention, he viewed himself personally responsible for the Hindu and Muslim chaos that accompanied Independence. Also, he was killed by a Hindu extremist.)

Mohandas K. Gandhi and his wife Kasturbai had a loving relationship. (Gandhi’s autobiography tells a different story, especially pertaining to their early years.)

Mohammed Jinnah was a languid and malevolent fop. (Yet, like Gandhi he was British trained lawyer, yet he wasn’t a devout Muslim since he drank, had a non-Muslim wife, wore Savile Row suits, as well as spoke Urdu only with difficulty. However, he was all for Hindu-Islamic alliance for Indian independence and only called to form a separate nation of Pakistan in 1940. However, he thought Gandhi’s influence on the council was too dominating. Not to mention, the Congress Party committed many wartime blunders during the independence movement such as the precipitous withdrawal from the interim provincial governments {that might have led to a united Indian independence} and its demand that the British largely “Quit India” while the Japanese were closing on eastern India’s borders. Gandhi enthusiastically supported both of these which put him and the Congress Party’s leaders in prison. This left Muslim League Leader Jinnah and his fellow Muslims to whip up support for carving Pakistan.)

“Qaumi Tarana” was the original national anthem of Pakistan. (It was a different song {written by a Hindu only days prior to the independence ceremony} which only lasted for 18 months.)

Mohandas K. Gandhi and his associates were arrested and beaten by police for burning passes protesting the Pass Law in South Africa. (He was arrested but not beaten by police for doing this.)

The Indian flag was hoisted in broad daylight during the independence ceremony. (It was hoisted at midnight.)

Colonialism and imperialism were largely to blame for the Hindu and Islam hostilities following independence. (Gandhi claims this. However, it may go deeper than that. There’s considerable debate on this. However, British intrusion probably didn’t help matters.)

Mohandas K. Gandhi liberated India. (Most historians agree India’s independence was inevitable. Also, he was just one of several independence leaders and his civil disobedience was only a small part in the movement.)

Gandhi was above the social prejudices of his time and place. (He was more concerned with Indian welfare in South Africa than with the situation with the Africans, which he ignored. Also, sometimes could be paternalistic or even sexist.)

The country of Bangladesh was created in 1971 after a thirteen battle with India. (It was actually during an 8 month struggle between East Pakistan {Bangladesh} and West Pakistan {Pakistan} which cost 3 million Bangladeshi lives. India was just receiving collateral damage.)

Jinnah told Gandhi and Nehru to go to hell. (He never did that and always treated them with courtesy and respect. Also, he mourned Gandhi’s loss.)

India was independent in 1945. (It won it’s independence in 1947.)

Pakistan existed in the 1930s. (It wasn’t formed until the Partition of India in 1947.)


Kali worship was like Satanism. (Sure she was the Goddess of destruction, but she’s not Hinduism’s Satan since her realm is time and natural change as well as righteous destruction. She never really smiled at warfare, torture, and human sacrifice. Yet, Shiva was like God in a way since he’s considered a god of creation and rebirth but Hindus have a lot of them.)

In Nair tradition, caste was and family identity was inherited from the paternal line as far as the region of Kerala was concerned. (Both of these were inherited through the maternal line in the Indian region of Kerala. In these matrilineal societies with male dominance, ruler succession would be passed from the male ruler to his brother and eventually his sisters’ sons.)

Asian Subcontinent Indians didn’t have guns until the arrival of Europeans. (Some kingdoms did since the 13th century, thanks to the Chinese and Arab traders.)

Yogis and Buddhist monks were always wise and holy men. (Yeah, well, even eastern religious leaders have their problems.)

Siddartha Gautama was either Indian or Asian looking. (His aristocratic family was of Indo-Iranian ethnicity possibly from Central Eurasia and it didn’t mixed with the lower castes so the Buddha would’ve looked like them. He more likely had wavy black or dark brown hair, light reddish skin, and a long pointed nose. An artistic rendering of him with these features makes him look surprisingly European but good luck finding him looking like that in movies, especially made in Asia.)

Indians ate monkey brains. (No, and gross.)

Subcontinental Asian Indians were dark skinned. (There are also plenty of light skin Indians as well.)

India has been a monocultural society. (It hasn’t been. Look what I said in my introduction.)

Hindu temples were all filled with thousands year old working machinery and lots of booby traps. (Of course, only as far as Indiana Jones is concerned. I highly doubt this.)

Indians were kind and obedient servants. (Really? Have you heard of the Independence Movement or the Sepoy Rebellion? Perhaps this is just a British imperialistic myth.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 13 – Japan


No movie could be more appropriate in capturing the spirit of historical Japan than Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. Sure it’s not as colorful as Memoirs of a Geisha but at least it was made in Japan with Japanese actors as well as gets a lot more things right about Japanese culture. Of course, in this case, it’s all about samurai. However, Toshiro Mifune’s character technically is just pretending to be one which is considered a capital offense. Nevertheless, this inspired movies like The Magnificent Seven and The Three Amigos.

Believe it or not, Japanese civilization as we know it is actually a late comer in world history. I mean the Mayans were actually a flourishing civilization while Tokyo was still a backwater fishing village. Nevertheless, it is the culture we associate with samurai, kimonos, ninja, geishas, and Pearl Harbor. For much of its history, Japan has always been ruled by an emperor seen as a living god in the eyes of the people, but was really nothing more than a figurehead and real power was usually held by an entity like the Fujiwara clan of the Heian period, the shoguns, or other government infrastructure. Of course, many Japanese movies tend to be structured like westerns usually set in the time of the samurai, especially in the films of Akira Kurosawa since he was from a samurai family. Still, it’s also a culture known for producing one of the world’s first novels called The Tale of Genji written by a lady in waiting named Murasaki Shikibu, one of history’s early female authors. Nevertheless, there are plenty of aspects of Japan that are greatly mythologized in movies with aspects not really stack up to what it was really like. Whether pertaining to samurai and ninja, geishas, or modern times, here are some things that movies pertaining to Japanese history tend to get wrong.

Medieval and Shogun Eras:

Okita Soji was a youthful looking leader of the badass samurai group called the Shinsengumi. (He was seen as a tall, dark, and thin man with high cheekbones, wide mouth, and flat face. Also though the Shinsengumi once started as shogun bodyguards, they soon transformed into a ruthless secret police force with an extremely strict code of conduct and an unflinching readiness to kill. Though they were charged with keeping the peace, they could be occasionally seen as a threat with inter-factional violence and assassinations being frequent. Yet, these guys are heroes in Japanese media.)

Odo Nobunaga was a ruthless and brutal warlord. (Yes, he was, which is why he’s been the bad guy in many Japanese films ever since even though he’s also more like a Japanese Otto von Bismarck known for his genius and cunning. However, unlike Japan’s other leaders at the time as well as the xenophobic tendencies, he was a patron of Western culture and food as well as very lenient toward Catholic Christians and gave missionaries living space to set up churches. Of course, this might’ve contributed to his reputation. Still, he also tried to modernize the Japanese military, opened borders {perhaps to hire foreign mercenaries and buy rifles from Christians}, and attempted to start a Japanese Renaissance.)

Samurai and Ninjas:

Anyone in Japan could become a samurai. (Samurai were born from samurai families, not made. However, anyone could be a ninja.)

Ronin were traveling swordsmen and mercenaries. (Some might’ve been but they were mostly bandits and pirates.)

Ronin were usually nice to peasants and willingly defended them. (Though ronin occupied one of the lowest rungs of society, they mostly treated everyone beneath them like crap and refused to work like normal people).

Being a samurai was cool in any era. (Well, maybe at a time when Japanese nobles were at each other’s throats, yet it basically sucked during the Edo of peace and prosperity since they couldn’t change jobs or earn money {especially if they were ronin with no master, but many ended up becoming bureaucrats} and could only make a living with their martial powers. Also, the possibility of death was very high. And if they were daimyos, they had to spend six months away from their families in Tokyo, who were required to live there.)

During the events of the 47 Ronin in 1701, Lord Asano Naganori was a wizened old man while Lord Kira Yoshiniaka was a young upstart power hungry noble. (It was the other way around since the power-hungry Kira was 60 and the Confucian Asano was 34.)

It was perfectly fine for a commoner to don Samurai armor and pretending to be one. (Commoners who did this were executed. Even touching a samurai was a death penalty offense.)

A half-white Japanese man participated with the 47 ronin. (Sorry Keanu Reeves, but this wouldn’t be a realistic possibility since it’s very likely his dad wouldn’t be a samurai. Oh, and there’s no way in hell he’d have a romantic interest in Asano’s daughter because he died at 34.)

Samurai wives were usually of noble birth. (Any woman in Japan could be a samurai wife which mostly consists of being a sexually available maid 24/7. But a common woman wanting to marry one had to pay.)

Ninjas dressed in black. (Ninjas did not dress in black outfits. They were spies, assassins, contract killers, and covert agents. The last thing they’d want to do is to walk around in something that reveals them instantly. Instead, they dressed up as normal people of the time- anything that’d help them blend in. On occasions when they did need to move around during the night undetected, they wore dark blue, not black, which blends better with the darkness.)

The samurai were brave and noble warriors who followed the bushido serving loyalty to one’s master, self-discipline, respect, and ethical behavior. (Many of them were brutal thugs who used their higher power and social status to oppress the weak. Also, samurai adhering to the bushido varied considerably like how European knights obeyed chivalry {and European codes also had room for honorable suicide}. Basically it was a nebulous code of rules samurai kind of followed when they felt like it. Oh, and some of them practiced “shudo” or pederasty viewed as a very high and noble form of love {in their mind anyway}. Still, Bushido as we know it might’ve originated as a mistake made by a Japanese historian Nitobe Inazo in his 1905 book and it was used as a method of social control when Japan was placed under a military dictatorship between the 1920s and WWII.)

Samurai didn’t just kill anyone. (Actually they’d kill anyone under their domain for simply insulting them or meeting them in traffic as long as they could get away with it.)

Samurai were willing to die a honorable death and happy to die in battle than surrender. (While many samurai did commit suicide, most of the time they were forced to due to disgrace. Also, many of them were willing to surrender and be taken prisoner. Not to mention, apart from the samurai, most Japanese soldiers in general were conscripted by their warlords. Sort of like medieval Europe.)

Samurai would never betray each other. (Treachery and backstabbing among samurai was commonplace even it was over money or being sore losers.)

The katana was the standard weapon of the samurai. (The weapon didn’t come out until the late Middle Ages, and before then, samurai usually used the tachi or the uchigata. Also, for the greater part of Japanese feudal society, using a sword was usually a last chance weapon for the samurai and they didn’t start carrying swords around until after the fighting was over and usually used it as a fashion accessory to show off their status. Not only that, before the sword became the symbol of the samurai, the samurai were more or less identified as mounted archers and their symbols were a sword and a bow but during the Warring states period, most samurai couldn’t afford a steed. Also, for melee, their first weapon was usually a spear or a naginata. However, to us it would be impossible to imagine a samurai without his long badass sword, even in Japan. Actually as far as weapons go, samurai used just about everything at their disposal. One was known to kill a guy with a homemade wooden oar.)

Samurai thought using firearms was dishonorable. (Samurai were more than willing to use firearms and the Satsuma rebellion was so dangerous because the place was a manufacturing center for cannons. Paintings show Takamori had plenty of guns while the Imperial forces only had swords. Also, he even had a school including weapons training and artillery {which they had since the 16th century}. Not to mention, it’s said the Japanese were designing better guns than the Europeans by the 1870s.)

Samurai and ninjas roamed Japan chopping each other with katanas and shuriken at the slightest provocation. (They were much more disciplined than that. Katana duels were rare and even frowned upon. However, didn’t stop them from fighting butcherfest battles or publicly lopping off peasant heads.)

Ninjas were members of elite government special forces. (They’re more like invisible assassins, spies, contract killers, and covert agents. Think snipers.)

Ninjas got their reputation for invisibility and infiltration because they were very good at hiding as well as possessing mysterious powers like ninjitsu. (They obtained their reputation because they were willing to dress as members of a lower class when no one else in Japan would do such a thing. Peasants were ignored, dismissed, or noticed at all by the upper classes even though they had fierce travel restrictions. Thus, the “invisibility” was psychological. They also had to be expert in survival skills, actual stealth, poisons, assassination techniques, and unorthodox tactics. Not to mention, they used anything they could get their hands on as weapons. Still, many ninjas encouraged rumors of them having magical powers.)

Ninjas originated in Japan. (They may have originated in China. And Japanese ninjas called themselves “shinobi.”)

Ninjas could catch arrows in flight. (No they couldn’t. But they could lie in carp pools all night breathing with a blowpipe before shooting their victims with a poison darts the next morning {though this probably would be in a last ditch effort} and use their sword to deflect arrows shot 30 yards away.)

Ninjas came from the lower classes and were often hired to do dirty deeds honorable samurai wouldn’t do. (Most were actually samurai or mercenaries who worked for them so apparently they would fight in any way they could. And no, they weren’t born in hidden villages and trained to obey nindo.)

Anyone in Japan could own a sword between the 16th and 19th centuries. (Only the samurai were.)

Samurai wives did not have to kill themselves if their husbands royally messed up. (They were expected to commit seppuku.)

Ninjas would jump around on rooftops in ridiculous clothing. (Real ninja would more likely infiltrate the household staff and poison a meal.)

Daimyo lords had court jesters. (Contrary to Ran, they didn’t. But Ran is a feudal Japanese version of King Lear so it’s forgivable.)

Mori Motonari’s two oldest sons were real jerks. (Well, while Ran is somewhat based on the Motonari legend, his three sons were loyal and talented in their own way. And all were unable to break the 3 arrows together. Still, Motonari was a real guy and daimyo family disputes like in Ran did happen. So Akira Kurosawa didn’t need to stray too much from historical accuracy to set Shakespeare in Japanese history.)

Ninja fighters used nunchuku as well as hidden blades and clawlike weapons. (They never used nunchucks. They only used a clawlike Neko-te but only for climbing. And no, they probably didn’t use swords taller and wider than a grown man.)

The Ninjas outlasted the samurai. (Ninjas faded away in the 1600s after existing for 200 years while the samurai were abolished in 1868.)

Ninjas fought the shogun. (The shogun was their #1 customer.)

Ninjas were a single group. (There were various clans who had their signature techniques.)

Ninjas used suriken and swords. (Samurai used the former. However, historians believe ninjas used a standard wakizashi or chokuto type swords of the period.)

By the 19th century, samurai had been “protectors of Japan” for 900 to a 1,000 years. (They originally started out as rent collectors and estate protectors for the Kyoto nobility and later evolved into an aristocracy in its own right. Also, they were only considered protectors of Japan during the two thwarted Mongol invasions. Oh, and they only became prevalent in Japanese society in the 11th century.)

Japanese people were still frightened of samurai by the 1870s and bowed to them en masse. (Urban Japanese had gotten over treating common samurai as lords for a long time.)


In the late 19th century, the Japanese government hired American advisers to modernize their army and these consisted of Civil War veterans. (The Japanese in the late 19th century did hire foreign advisers to modernize their army, but they were mostly French and German, not American. That is because they looked to France and Prussia as their military models {though other countries did have American military advisers after the American Civil War}. Oh, and five chose to stay and participate in the Satsuma Rebellion and the inspiration of the Tom Cruise character actually didn’t surrender to the Emperor {though the Japanese government would unsuccessfully demand extradition to punish him for 12 years}.)

Saigo Takamori died from Gatling gunfire. (He committed seppuku which was ritual suicide or hari kari.)

During WWII, Japanese kamikaze pilots were ordered to use their planes as missiles because it was disgraceful to face defeat. (Actually the kamikaze pilots were ordered to run their planes into American ships during WWII because it was the first time that Japan ever used planes in war and the training the pilots received was hardly adequate. In other words, running a plane into something was just an effective way to use the plane.)

The Japanese samurai sword was easy for Americans to master. (It’s doubtful that a 40-something alcoholic Civil War vet, even one with great hair, would master chopsticks much less the samurai sword. And I’ve tried chopsticks which are very hard to master.)

The geisha coming of age in Pre-War Japan was much more of a makeover, it also involved her getting intimate with a client and wowing patrons with dancing prowess using platform shoes, fake snow, and strobe lights. (From Moviefone: “The geisha coming-of-age, called “mizuage,” was really more of a makeover, where she changed her hairstyle and clothes. It didn’t involve her getting… intimate with a client. In the climactic scene where Sayuri wows Gion patrons with her dancing prowess, her routine – which involves some platform shoes, fake snow, and a strobe light – seems more like a Studio 54 drag show than anything in pre-war Kyoto.”)

Commodore Matthew Perry was given a sword by the shogun which was stolen by Japanese isolationists. (Not a likely story.)

Samurai fought the Meiji modernization out of noble goals. (From Wikipedia: According to History professor Cathy Schultz, “Many samurai fought Meiji modernization not for altruistic reasons but because it challenged their status as the privileged warrior caste. Meiji reformers proposed the radical idea that all men essentially being equal … The film {The Last Samurai} also misses the historical reality that lots and lots of Meiji policy advisers were former samurai, who had voluntarily given up their traditional privileges to follow a course they believed would strengthen Japan.”)

The Meiji Emperor was referred as Emperor Meiji in his lifetime. (He wasn’t called Meiji until after his death. While living, he would’ve been called Emperor Mutsuhito.)

General Omura Masujiro was still alive by the 1870s. (Sure he developed a Western-style army during the Meiji Restoration, but he was killed by a conservative samurai in 1869.)

The Americans agreed to sell their guns to open trade with Japan. (This is utter fiction.)

Rebelling samurai during the Meiji Restoration would be perfectly willing to wear their own traditional armor. (They’d actually be wearing more modern style garments like western-style uniforms.)

General Bonner Fellers had to convince General Douglas MacArthur to exonerate Emperor Hiriohito. (Exonerating Hirohito and the Imperial family was originally MacArthur’s idea though it was a far more complex issue than portrayed in Emperor. Oh, and the process to investigate him took five months instead of 10 measly days.)

General Bonner Fellers had an affinity for Japanese culture and was in love with a Japanese foreign exchange student during his college years. (He was actually a commie-fearing member of the ultra-right John Birch society. There’s no evidence whether he had a romantic relationship with any foreign exchange student in college {the Japanese exchange student he met at Earlham was only a mere friend and probably a guy} but he was more of a psychological expert who designed MacArthur’s strategy to demoralize the Japanese people. Oh, and his wife accompanied him on some of his visits {who he’d been married to since 1925}. Also, his effectiveness as an intelligence officer was questioned during the American Occupation of Japan.)

Emperor Hirohito and his family were exonerated from being tried as war criminals because they were innocent. (Their exoneration had more to do with American post-war planners fearing that executing him would cause cultural and political chaos across Japan.)

General Douglas MacArthur had his photo taken with Emperor Hirohito as a diplomatic expression of Japanese-American cooperation. (It was also used as American propaganda to convince the Japanese people that the Emperor was a very small man {who many considered a god}. He also convinced Hirohito to renounce his status as a god-on-earth.)

The Meiji Emperor spoke English, had people see him without invitation, and made important political decisions at the spur of the moment. (Only the most senior advisers were allowed to see Emperor Meiji without invitation, everyone else no way. Also, he didn’t speak English nor make any important spur of the moment decisions.)

Japanese industrialists had the Emperor’s ear and Imperial advisers conducted job interviews in other countries. (Imperial advisers did no such thing. Also, industrialists had no need of the Emperor’s support since they had close ties to samurai oligarchs anyway.)


Kimonos were easy to remove. (Modern kimonos, yes. However, many Pre-modern Japanese aristocrats would wear layers upon them. A stripper in a Heian period court kimono style would have a long time taking the whole outfit off.)

Geishas fully painted their lips in historical Japan. (They’d either paint only the top, bottom, or center of both. Fully painting of lips didn’t come into Japan until after WWII.)

Geishas were prostitutes. (Sort of but not anymore, they were primarily entertainers, hostesses, and conversationalists at teahouses where men went to unwind after a day at the office, though love affairs and sex trades did occur. Still, until Japan banned prostitution in the 1950s, it was only just one of their many services but they spent most of their working time playing music, dancing, storytelling, and reciting poetry.)

Geishas wore a beehive as their traditional hairdo. (The wrapped their hair in a bun and wore a large wig over it. Maiko wear it in a very different fashion.)

Only women were geisha. (The earliest were men.)

Carrying weapons in the Emperor’s presence was perfectly all right. (No one was allowed to bear weapons in the Emperor’s presence in historical Japan.)

Seppuku was completely voluntary and common in historical Japan. (Sometimes samurai were ordered to commit ritual suicide if  one failed miserably and brought disorder to the clan. Still, it was very rare.)

Japanese men didn’t do any housework. (Many did a great deal around the house and rarely referred themselves as a collective, particularly on cultural matters.)

Most Japanese ate fluffy white rice. (This was only a regular grain staple for the most wealthy. Rural samurai and commoners probably would’ve eaten rice gruel and other grains such as barley, millet, and buckwheat, either as porridge or noodles.)

Tokyo had its name in the 17th century. (Tokyo wouldn’t be referred by its present name until 1868. At that time, it was called Edo.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 12- China


Perhaps no western movie encapsulates Chinese history more than the Award-Winning film, The Last Emperor, which accounts the life of the boy emperor Puyi whose life was profoundly affected by the governmental changes that embarked China in the early 20th century. Interestingly, he ended his days as a gardener under the Communist regime.

In many ways, Chinese history is about as old a civilization itself since it has existed with much of its culture intact for thousands of years though developed separate from Mesopotamia. However, this has not been the same in recent years with imperialism, the collapse of the last dynasty, the time of the republic, Communism, and whatever China has now. However, China is nevertheless consists of a rich history with dynasties, invasions, intellectuals, scandals, wars, and court intrigue. Two of China’s dynasties have been under foreign rulers such as the Yuan of Kublai Khan and the Ching under the Manchurians. China has also been credited with inventing things like paper, gunpowder, and fireworks. Still, movies about Chinese history tend to reflect that of a very large country that resides a billion people on earth. And yet, China is home to so many other cultures, traditions, and languages than what the Chinese government would like to admit. Nevertheless, many movies based in China aren’t a stickler for accuracy since they tend to be based on historic legends chronicling real life incidents (like Romance of the Three Kingdoms.) Still, even movies about a country with a glorious past still has inaccuracies which I’m willing to list.

First here’s a guide to the Dynasties to determine the time periods (and that everyone understands what I’m talking about):

Xia (c. 2100 B.C.E. – c. 1600 B. C. E.) -may be mythical but it’s inscribed in Chinese historical records.

Shang (c. 1700 B. C. E. – 1046 B. C. E.) -earliest Chinese Dynasty as far as archaeologists are concerned.

Zhou (1046 B. C. E. – 256 B. C. E.) – longest dynasty in Chinese history as well as the one where a lot of Chinese culture aspects are based. Also, Confucius, Sun Tzu, Laozi, and many of the early Chinese thinkers lived in this period. Many of their ideas would soon influence later Chinese thought in years to come.

Spring and Autumn Period (722 B. C. E. – 221 B. C. E.)- Zhou power is decentralized and wanes as feudal lords vie for local power in their own region sometimes with the king being ruler in name only.

Warring States Period (476 B. C. E. – 221 B. C. E.) – China is divided and local entities are fighting against each other. Zhou Dynasty falls, while the state of Qin eventually takes over.

Qin Dynasty (221 B. C. E. – 206 B. C. E.) – mostly encompasses the reign of Qin Shi Huangdi, first Emperor of China and builder of the first Great Wall. Fell a few years after his death.

Han Dynasty (206 B. C. E. – 220 A. D.) – one of the defining Chinese dynasties which established the Han Chinese culture. Confucianism becomes China’s official philosophy as well as saw the invention of paper and advances in metallurgy. Had a brief overthrow for 14 years but was later restored. May have had contact wit the Roman Empire. China was divided for decades after collapse.

Three Kingdoms Era (220 A. D. – 280 A. D.) – China is divided into three kingdoms and a period of feuding warlords. Romance of the Three Kingdoms covers this and is seen as a very famous time period in China.

Jin Dynasty (265 A. D. – 420 A. D.) – ruled Northern China and is famous for its decadent court, defeats by nomads, and line of incompetent emperors. Area was soon divided into sixteen kingdoms after it fell.

Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 A. D. – 589 A. D.) – a period of civil war and division but saw the development of Chinese Buddhism and pagoda. Han Chinese heavily colonized and developed the south while the north was constantly at war.

Sui Dynasty (589 A. D. – 618 A. D.) -united the country after centuries of fragmentation, set up a long lasting government system and coinage, and extended the Great Wall. Fell after two generations.

Tang Dynasty (618 A. D. – 907 A. D.) – encompasses China’s Golden Age of civilization as well as when gunpowder is discovered. Becomes a cultural influence in Korea, Vietnam, and Japan with embassies as far away as the Byzantine Empire.

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907 A. D. – 960 A. D.) – another period of unrest and civil war. Former based in the north, latter in south.

Song, Liao, Jin and Western Xia Dynasties (960 A. D. – 1279 overlapping) – though one of contending dynasties, war, and eventual Mongol Conquest, was a period of great technological innovation as well as economic and cultural prosperity.

Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368) – basically this is Genghis Khan’s family and founded by his grandson Kublai Khan. Of course, they wanted to run China their own way so brought their own bureaucrats from the West who were mostly Muslim (though western Mongols brought Chinese administrators). Great period  for Chinese literature and drama.

Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) – last ethnically Chinese dynasty which built the most current Great Wall standing today. Famous for novels, porcelain, isolationism, and flourishing economy and urban life. Yet, marred by political troubles, national disasters, civil unrest and corruption by eunuchs.

Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) – China’s last dynasty founded by the ruling family of Manchuria. China takes it’s largest form. Early years mark great conquest and prosperity. Later years marred by European Imperialism, opium, civil unrest, delusions of nationalistic grandeur, failed policies, and other things. Still, this is the dynastic period most covered in movies since documentation was more readily available.

Dynastic Periods:

The Forbidden City stood in Beijing around the time when China was under assault by the Huns. (The Forbidden City was built during the Ming Dynasty and by that time the Huns were integrated in Chinese society. Also, Mulan existed during the Han Dynasty.)

Fireworks were used in China during the Han Dynasty. (It was during the Sui.)

China was fighting the Huns during the later Han Dynasty. (The Huns were invading Europe at the time and hailed from Russia. The “Huns” depicted in Mulan were probably Mongols who were habitual invaders anyway and they were called the Xiongnu. However, they wouldn’t take over China until the 1200s.)

Chinese Imperial horsemen rode using stirrups on their horses. (They would’ve done no such thing. The Mongols, on the other hand….)

The Chinese Imperial Army rode on Arabian horses. (Maybe but no common peasant would own one. Mulan could never have such a majestic horse like Khan.)

Gunpowder existed during the Han Dynasty. (It was invented during the Tang.)

Chinese people were free to hug the Emperor. (No one would really be permitted to hug the Emperor, since his subjects had to keep respectful distance.)

Mulan was discovered as a woman after she was wounded and was kicked out accordingly. (She’s actually said to expose her breasts willingly to her fellow soldiers who were totally cool with it. Oh, and she had been a general for a while, served in the army for 12 years gaining great respect, and had literally saved the Empire before that, too. Of course, while China has had a reputation for treating women harshly, this only comes later since the Chinese had no law to execute any woman impersonating a man to join the military, at least during the Han Dynasty.)

Marco Polo actually went to China. (There’s some debate about this. The Yuan Dynasty kept pretty meticulous records even of those of foreign visitors far less important and illustrious than the Polos, and he’s not in them. However, there were other non-Chinese explorers who went to China during the Middle Ages. Still, Polo never mentioned things like foot binding, chopsticks, tea, gunpowder, or the Great Wall {though it might’ve disintegrated by that point}. Not to mention, they said that he didn’t understand much of Mongolian or Chinese at all such as the units. Thus, he may just have been a “conman” who might’ve tried to pass the stories of other foreign travelers as his own.)

The Eight Nation Alliance put down the Boxer Rebellion which wasn’t really about imperialism. (It was so about Imperialism and though the Boxers were violent and attacked civilians, they really had something to rebel against. I mean it was imperialism that basically got much of their country hooked on opium as well as make China a ruined mess, basically.)

Those who took part in the Siege of Legations were actively chose to stay in order to make a principled stand during the Boxer Rebellion. (They were more than willing to get the hell out of there but couldn’t because the countryside was swarming with Boxers.)

Chinese men had to shave their hair in a pigtail during the Mongol invasions. (This isn’t until the Qing Dynasty. Before then, they wore their hair long and bound it together on the top of their head or under a hat.)

Marco Polo was the first European in China. (He was the first to write a detailed account of it, assuming he did visit it. Also, he’s said to have traveled with his father and uncle {who weren’t there first}. There’s said to be Roman embassies in China during the 3rd and 4th centuries, but its fuzzy. )

Marco Polo only traveled from Venice with a servant. (He traveled with is father and uncle assuming he did go to China.)

Kublai Khan was a single dad with a daughter. (He’s said to have 4 wives and 22 sons. He’s also said to have at least 2 daughters, one who became a Buddhist nun and another who married a king of Korea. Neither ran off with Marco Polo, however.)

Everyone in Song China spoke Mandarin Chinese in what is now Central and Western China even by non-Chinese. (Only in Manchuria. Mandarin Chinese wouldn’t be spoken in mainland China until the Qing Dynasty. And those living in present day Central and Western China who aren’t Chinese would speak a Turkic dialect.)

Cao Cao was a scheming chancellor who ran China with an iron fist through the young Han Emperor. (Though he’s represented in Chinese media as a cunning and deceitful man, he was said to be a brilliant ruler who did a lot of good in the realms of education and agriculture. He also wrote poetry.)

Liu Bei was a compassionate and righteous leader endowed with charismatic potency who built a state on the basis of Confucian values though he was kind of a weeping wreck. (He was actually a competent commander while some of the strategies in popular media attributed to Zhuge Liang were actually his own. Not to mention, he was warlord and more Legalist than Confucian though he came from modest means rising through the ranks. And though he’s depicted as a loyal servant to the Han Empire, he probably would never have ascended to becoming emperor of his own state without the Han collapse. Also, he’s said to make a lot of mistakes like irrationally leading a disastrous attack on Yi Ling, slamming his infant son to the ground which doomed his future empire. Nevertheless, he’s a popular folk hero in China as well as has a cult following as a deity.)

Zhuge Liang was a wise and competent administrator who can perform fantastical achievements like summoning advantageous winds and devising magical stone mazes. (Sure he was a brilliant guy but he wasn’t the supreme tactical and strategic genius he’s depicted in Chinese media. He was actually more of a top political and domestic administrator.)

Zhang Fei was a blundering drunkard with a short temper who can be of hindrance on the battlefield though still smart enough to utilize great strategies. (He was the most strategically accomplished of Liu Bei’s main generals.)

Guan Yu was a righteous and loyal warrior. (His image is perhaps one of the most altered and aggrandized in Chinese pop culture, especially in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is like the Chinese equivalent to the works of Homer.)

Xiao Qiao was a badass who walked right into enemy territory and had tea with Cao Cao. (We don’t know much about her and it’s very unlikely this ever happened.)

Qin Shi Huangdi was a ruthless despot who ruled China with an iron fist making the country a cyrpto-totalitarian legalistic dystopia. (Of course, this is China’s first Emperor and mostly responsible for what makes China the country it was during the later Dynastic years. However, he’s depicted as such villain in Chinese media that his would-be assassin and a concubine who conspired against him are shown in much more favorable light than he is. Still, his reputation may have to do with the fact that his dynasty was overthrown three years after his death despite the fact that archaeological findings relating to his dynasty may reveal that the Qin Emperor may not have been as brutal as previously thought. Nevertheless, his fear of assassination may be perhaps justified.)

Kung Fu broadswords and jians were often used in a lot of Chinese battles. (These swords were first made in fairly modern times. Neither were used in ancient Chinese combat.)

Guan Yu used a Gundao during the Three Kingdoms Era. (He more likely used a dagger axe since these weapons came out in the Ming era.)

Dowager Empress Cixi was a dominating and power hungry evil matriarch. (She’s certainly no saint and certainly did a lot of morally reprehensible things, there’s still debate on whether certain things about her are true or just stemmed from Chinese politics using her as as scapegoat.)

The Tang Emperors lived in the Forbidden City. (It wasn’t built until the Ming Dynasty.)

Emperors were all noble, wise, and grandfatherly. (Sometimes they were anything but.)

Big hulky brocade wearing brutes used to mow down peasants by the thousands with flashy musou attacks. (I’m not sure this is possible.)

Fair maidens were either skilled enough to kick butt in martial arts or supernatural creatures in disguise. (Hey, didn’t they have something called footbinding? I’m sure the latter is certainly not true. Still, how did some of these women managed to learn kung-fu after having their feet crushed? I mean some of these films take place after the Song Dynasty at least. Seriously, footbinding could really get in the way with a young girl’s martial arts training. And it doesn’t help that many of these martial arts wielding waif fus are from prominent families where footbinding would definitely be practiced. Of course, most Chinese families were peasants, but if a family could afford a well off lifestyle without doing manual labor, you can bet the girls would have had their feet bound.)

Tang Empress Wu Zetian imprisoned Di Renjie for eight years for opposing her rule. (She had him demoted to a province for three over another official accusing him of contempt. He later helped run the government under her, which makes him more of court favorite than anything. Of course, this guy is best known for getting his own western detective series.)

Empress Wu Zetian was a ruthless tyrannical ruler willing to off family members. (Maybe but she was probably no worse than her male counterparts. Chinese historic record tends to be biased against strong female rulers.)


Chinese villages were ruled by wise and benevolent landlords who were loyal to their country during World War II. (Actually, they weren’t nice guys to China’s vast peasant population and exploited them whenever they could. Also, many of them did cooperate with the Japanese during World War II.)

The Ip Man was a bourgeois martial arts teacher who escaped from the mainland to flee the Japanese during the invasion as well as worked as a laborer. (He was actually a police officer who supported the Kuomintang and fled to Hong Kong to escape the Communists. Also, he never worked as a laborer before becoming Bruce Lee’s teacher. However, this doesn’t stop the Chinese from portraying him this way in the movies.)

Simplified Chinese characters came in around the 1930s. (They were introduced after the Communists came into power in order to improve literacy.)

British journalist George Hogg led 60 orphan boys through China fleeing from the Japanese secret police and nationalists who wanted to conscript some of them with an Australian nurse. (He was actually assisted by friends from New Zealand, particularly a known Communist named Renwie Alley who’s absent from a film relating to this incident.)

Puyi was a playboy and had a lot of sexual interest in women. (Evidence in his romantic interest in women is scant {to the point he was rumored to be gay} though he had five consorts which he referred to as his wives “in name only.”)

Puyi was a tragic hero, especially in his private life. (He flogged eunuchs as part of his daily routine by age eleven. During his reign in Munchukuo, he went nuts, became obsessed with consulting oracles, injected himself, and beat servants for trivial offenses.)

Traditional Chinese music was endorsed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. (Traditional Chinese music was illegal in China during the Cultural Revolution considered as one of the four “Great Olds.” Western music was considered “bourgeois.”  Actually the only music allowed in Maoist China were Socialist slogan songs. How horrible.)

Mao Zedong was depressed about his legacy as well as bored with his political life by the 1970s. Yet, he was more interested in why Henry Kissinger was such a ladies’ man. (Contrary to Nixon, he may have been more optimistic about his legacy than how it turned out, yet he had a good reason to be depressed about his legacy since so many people in China got killed under him and the fact that he left China in terrible shape. Not only that but his wife would be jailed after his death. But at least China was unified and the Chinese people had better lives so he remains a controversial figure. As for Kissinger, yeah, I’d probably wonder the same thing. Yet, we need to understand that Mao was married four times and had terrible hygiene habits like not brushing his teeth and going 25 years without taking a bath according to one account. He was also a chain smoker. Yet, he’s said to have a lot of sexual partners.)

Bruce Lee started taking martial arts lessons after having a childhood nightmare. (Contrary to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, he started training at 13 after being beaten up by a street gang. He would also get into a lot of fights as a teenager that his mother decided to ship him off to America. Also, he had been taking occasional acting jobs since he was a child since his dad was an actor and singer in the Cantonese Opera Company. Yes, one of the biggest martial arts stars ever had a dad who was an opera singer.)


China has always consisted of homogenous Han Chinese. (Han Chinese usually live in the southeast of China and even they were a mixed lot before the Sinicizing Han Dynasty. China is also home to Manchurians, Muslim Uighurs, and Buddhist Tibetans. Actually China has been quite a bit multicultural than it usually makes itself out to be.)

Older and/or wealthy or noble Chinese women could walk in a normal fashion unassisted by a cane. (Since their feet were bound as children, they couldn’t without wobbling unassisted. Also, some of those women who could walk unassisted were Manchurian, not Chinese.)

Chinese traditionally wore a qipao that opened at that side. (The Manchurians did. Chinese robes open at the front. The modern qipao doesn’t look like something pre-20th century Chinese would wear at all.)

The Great Wall has always looked the same. (It was renovated several times from the Qin to Ming Dynasty.)

China has always been a unified entity. (There have been times when it hasn’t, particularly between dynasties.)

Chinese people had good hygiene and dental care. (It depended on status naturally. Since most of China has comprised of poor peasants for most of its history, this wouldn’t be the case. Also, Mao Zedong was notorious for having poor personal hygiene {he had green teeth} as well as certainly didn’t practice safe sex {most of the women he slept with got infected with STDs because of him}. Oh, and every day he used to take a swim in one of China’s major rivers {take it what you will}.)

Chinese people were very polite and courteous prudes. (Just because their Confucian ethic encourages them to be nice to others doesn’t mean the country has exercised in polite behavior in society at least by Western standards. I mean there’s a No Spitting campaign there and some of their literature can get quite spicy. Also, some of the things Chairman Mao once said can put Howard Stern to shame.)

Chinese aristocrats had Fu-Manchu mustaches. (Well, maybe some did.)

Chinese people didn’t eat any weird things. (Uh, much of what you see in a Chinese restaurant doesn’t really consist of what someone in China would eat.)

Kung-Fu fights were a common occurrence. (Of course, most of the movies set in historical China are kung-fu movies despite it being a culture of intellectuals. You were more likely to hear government officials staging Chinese philosophy debates than kick punching each other. Seriously, how often would kung-fu fights occur during that time?)

China was an isolated entity for much of its existence until Europeans arrived there. (It’s said that the West knew of China’s existence for centuries even before Marco Polo {even if he didn’t actually go there}. Sure China was isolationist at times but it also engaged in foreign policy with other entities, just not European. Then you have the Zheng He voyages during the early Ming Dynasty.)

Family and filial piety was the most important thing in Chinese society. (Yes, but apparently there were emperors who didn’t see it that way. And then there’s Dowager Cixi poisoning her nephew.)

Funerals were modest affairs in China. (Actually Chinese people spend much more on funerals for family members than most Americans spend on weddings, especially in Taiwan. Oh, and it’s not uncommon to hire strippers for those occasions either.)

China had samurai in the 19th century. (Samurai were exclusively from Japan. However, China did have ninjas though.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 11- Middle Eastern and Islamic History


Though I don’t get into Lawrence of Arabia until World War I, I think this is probably the best movie about Middle Eastern history to post since it’s basically the only movie about the region that many people have seen which doesn’t have genies or magic carpets in them. Also, it’s a film that takes place at a very transitional time like WWI between the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East of today.

Of course, Hollywood history has usually been biased toward Western Civilization with the later years strongly focused on Europe and later the Americas. Prehistory is geared to pretty much the world, ancient history usually toward the Middle East and Mediterranean, and medieval history mostly focuses on Europe. However, there were so much other things happening elsewhere in the world but Hollywood just doesn’t seem to pay much attention to them. For the next several posts, I’ll devote to discussing the historical inaccuracies set in the Middle East post-biblical times, Asia, Africa, and the Pre-Columbian America. Of course, I’ll get into things based in modern times but I’ll also cover earlier aspects as well (except with Pre-Columbian America). Nevertheless, many of these places still contain important history worth mentioning which has changed the world. Also, I am talking about “world history” which should include other areas not under the Western radar. Still, anything relating to Oceania or Australia will be under colonial history since people there don’t have much of a history to begin with. History of the Caribbean will be under Latin American history, Pre-Columbian America, or Colonialism depending on era.

Of course, the best place to start with non-Western history will be in the Middle East. When we left off from there in Ancient History, it was the cradle of civilization as well as a place of biblical events. Sure much of it was part of the Roman Empire but by the time the Western Empire fell in the 400s, the Eastern Empire would continue to exist for another thousand years until Turks sack Constantinople in 1453. Yet, during the Middle Ages, what we call the Byzantine Empire was very much in decline by the Crusades. However, the Middle East would continue to be dominated by empires until recent times mostly by outsiders like the Turks, Mongols, and the British and French. Yet,  during the Middle Ages, the Middle East also saw the birth of a new religion called Islam founded in 622 A. D. by Muhammad which would later become a dominant faith in much of the world alongside Christianity. Of course, movies about Muhammad will never show him in accordance with Islamic custom. Still, this area was a great place of civilization while the Europe was being beseiged by German invaders but it has become a shithole in modern times (well, by our standards). Still, here is a list of errors I shall list from movies set in the Middle East post-biblical times.


The crescent moon and star was a Muslim symbol from the Crusades. (It wasn’t adopted until the 14th century. During that time, Muslims armies would usually carry black, green, and white flags.)

Mullahs wore Quran inscriptions on their clothes. (Islam forbids writing Quran verses or “Allah” on clothing but permits it on flags.)

Muslim women wore transparent headscarves. (See through headscarves are forbidden in Islam.)

Muslim women were treated as objects, confined to their homes, and serve their men. Not to mention, there weren’t many notable Muslim women. (Actually though Muslim women didn’t have as many rights as men but not all Muslim women were harem girls, princesses, or housewives and they weren’t really considered as property. They also had more property rights than other women during the Middle Ages and could inherit and earn money. They had rights to be educated and even teach. They also had a right not to be punished if she had been raped and was permitted to kill her rapist should the creep go after her again. Female infanticide was banned as well. As for notable Muslim women, there were a lot of women in Islam who made considerable contributions. There’s a women who started the nursing profession in the Middle East, a woman who founded a university, one of Muhammad’s wives was a businesswoman, two others were scholars, one a poet, and another a nurse, a couple women were war leaders, and some were regents and queens. Also, before Islam, many women in the region had no legal status at all and were considered proper and many of Muslim women had their rights constrained more by tribal custom than Sharia Law.)

Muslims address their god as “Father.” (They use “Allah.”)

Byzantine Empire:

The last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI was a hedonist. (He was celibate.)

In 1453, Constantinople was a magnificent city. (It had been far from it, especially since it was sacked by the Crusaders in 1204.)

In 1453, the Byzantine Empire was one of wealth and power whose rulers lived in decadence and luxury. (This wasn’t really the case since it had been on a long and drastic decline since the Middle Ages.)

The Byzantine Emperor resided in the Great Palace in 1453. (The Great Palace wasn’t in use at this time.)

Giovanni Giustiniani was killed in a single combat while defending the walls of Constantinople from the Ottoman Turks. (He was wounded by cannon or crossbow bolt. He died of the effects later in June 1453.)


The Pre-Islamic Sassinid Persians wrote in Arab script. (The Sasssinid Empire predates Muhammad.)

The Hashashins were a sect of crazed and chaotic assassins that resided in the city of Alamut and a vizier named Nizam was the very first man they killed, which was during the Sassinid Empire. (Yes, but their presence in history begins as an esoteric Islamic cult -an offshoot of the Isma’ili sect of Shia’ Islam and they were seen as protectors of the Nizari in other communities as well. Oh, yeah, and their existence began during the Crusades and were even allies of the Crusaders {since they had common enemies}. Also, they were said to be quite friendly towards the common folk since their killings were carefully targeted and planned. However, there’s no evidence whether they drugged their recruits with marijuana {well, other than for medicinal purposes}. Not to mention, they met their downfall during the Mongol conquest of Persia.)

Golden Age:

Saladin’s was the Islamic leader’s original name. (It was actually his nickname by the Christians. His actual name was Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub.)

Saladin snuck into a Christian camp to cure Richard the Lionheart. (He would’ve done no such thing.)

Saladin was an honorable man. (By the standards of the day, sure. Yet, he only behaved this way when it suited him. Once he had 200 Knight Templars and Hospitallers executed by Sufis and Islamic scholars {who were unfamiliar with weapons}, which led to a clumsy and agonizing death to many prisoners. Not to mention, he intended to sack Jerusalem but didn’t when Balian threatened to destroy Islamic holy sites and execute thousands of Muslim prisoners. Also, before beginning his conquest in Jerusalem, he put down a Sudanese revolt in Egypt by burning down their Cairo quarter with their women and children still inside their homes. After the Sudanese troops surrendered, he promised them safe passage up the Nile only to have them massacred when leaving Cairo in smaller disorganized groups.)

Saladin was a well-known figure in Middle Eastern history who was willing to negotiate with the Christians and was respected by both sides. (Until the late 19th century he was mostly forgotten figure in the Muslim World because the empire he created barely outlived him and the fact that he was a Kurd. Also, modern lionization of him flows from the Europeans.)

Saladin knew nothing about the existence of ice prior to the Crusades. (The people in the Middle East knew well of the existence of ice and used it in drinks. Also, Saladin is known to give King Guy Lusignan ice water at the battle of Hattin, which led to the killing of Chatillon.)

Sultans were usually idiots who were only preoccupied with their toys and harem girls while the evil Grand Vizier basically ran everything. (History tells us that this wasn’t true part of the time and Grand Viziers weren’t always evil either.)

Grand Vizier Ja’far ibn Yahya of the Barmakids was a powerful and evil Grand Vizier. (He could possibly be the greatest Grand Vizier Persia had ever had. He was also a polymath who sponsored building libraries and introduced the use of paper in Baghdad {which helped start the Golden Age of Islam}. Unfortunately, because many film Grand Viziers tend to be named Jafar in movies {who are evil}; his name will live in infamy. He’s seen as a bad guy in Sunni tradition as well as an inspiration for villains. The fact he was depicted as evil in some of the Arabian Night Tales is that his boss Caliph Harun al-Rashid killed him and his family because Jafar allegedly had an affair with the Caliph’s sister Abbasa {though it had more to do with Harun fearing that the Barmakids had become too influential for their own good. I mean why execute a right-hand man and his entire family for shagging a Caliph’s sister?})

Arabs in the early Islamic era used curved swords. (Curved swords are Turkish {and wouldn’t be used until the Turks arrived from Central Asia} not Arab. They’d more likely use straight swords at the time.)

Arabian princesses were only children. (Jasmine probably wouldn’t be the only female member of the sultan’s family living in the palace and most definitely had other brothers and half-brothers vying for the throne so Aladdin probably wouldn’t become sultan anyway.)

Arabs sold tomatoes in their marketplaces during the 13th century. (Tomatoes are a New World plant and wouldn’t be known to anyone in the Old World until at least the 15th century.)

The Arabs knew of the existence of gunpowder in the 1100s. (It wasn’t known to the Arabs until at least 1240.)

Caliph Harun al-Rashid was a loveable adventurer who traveled in and out cities in disguise as well as led a great empire. (Sure he’d go in and out of cities in disguises nor was he an extraordinarily bad ruler {dates are from 786-809, which means he ruled a good twenty-three years}.  He killed Grand Vizier Jafar and his entire family, which led to a political crisis taking years to resolve.  He wasn’t an extraordinarily good ruler either and is usually depicted in the Arabian Night Tales as good guy because of the greatness of his empire {which was due to the efforts of many} not the man himself. Still, he was good to his workers except maybe his right hand man as well as attracted poets. Yet, in Hollywood, he’s played by Rock Hudson.)

Omar Khayyam romanced a sultan’s bride and saved a sultan’s son from an assassin sect. (Sure he was a poet and invented a calendar, but it’s highly unlikely that he’d thwart assassins or romance a sultan’s bride. Also, I’m not sure if Persia even has sultans.)

Ottoman Empire:

All Ottoman Army soldiers were Turkish Muslims. (The Ottoman Army was very diverse which included Balkan converts to Islam, Christian levies, and armies of the sultan’s Christian vassals.)

Sultan Mehmet entered Constantinople right after it was sacked by his army. (He entered three days after the looting of his army.)


Shah Reza Pahlavi was a corrupt, uncaring fool who tried to escape his country to avoid Iranian civilians. (Sure he was a dictator but he also tried to grant equal rights for women and modernize Iran’s economy.)

Shah Reza Pahlavi was installed as Shah of Iran in the 1953 coup by the UK and the CIA. (He was already Shah at the time of the coup. The coup began when the Shah dismissed Prime Minister Mohammmad Mossadegh and replaced him with Fazlollah Zahedi.)

During the Iranian hostage crisis, both British and New Zealand embassies refused to help American embassy staff. (Contrary to Argo, they sheltered Americans before passing them to the Canadians. The British ambassador in Iran at the time was commended for his actions.)

It was through the help of Congressman Charlie Wilson that the Afghans were able to drive the Russians out of their country. (It was also through the help of Charlie Wilson that some of these Afghan freedom fighter who received American weapons helped launched al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which also led to 9/11.)

Getting the US Embassy hostages out of Iran was mostly an American effort. (Actually the Canadians {90% of the time} and the British helped, too, a lot. As for the airport scene in Argo, well, the Canadians actually bought the tickets well ahead of time and the escape went off without a hitch.)

The Israeli government used “an eye for an eye” retaliation with a hit list of eleven suspects after the 1972 Olympics Massacre in Munich. (The events in Munich relating to anything other than the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich has been subject to much controversy. Also, there’s no way of knowing whether the Eric Bana character was a reliable source of information.)

Giving weapons it Middle Eastern nations always worked out in the end. (Yeah right.)

The US has always been able to solve Mideast problems. (Sometimes it has made the whole situation worse.)

It wasn’t unusual for Mossad agents to have any doubts hunting down the Munich assassins. (It may be difficult to establish but according to author Aaron J. Klein, “”In interviewing more than 50 veterans of the Mossad and military intelligence, I found not a single trace of remorse. On the contrary, the Mossad combatants thought they were doing holy work.” Then again, they could be trying to come to terms with what they did. But of course, there’s the blunder of mistakenly shooting a Moroccan waiter in Norway thinking he was a Black September mastermind named Ali Hassan Salameh. Six Israelis were arrested while five were convicted. Spielberg doesn’t include this in Munich.)

There were 53 American hostages during the Iranian hostage crisis. (There were 53 hostages that were held until the end in 1981. Also, they were released in January of 1980, not March.)

Saddam Hussein’s name struck fear into the Iraqi people. (To tell you the truth, there are plenty of people in the Middle East {including Iraq} that carry the name of Saddam Hussein. It’s very common in the region. It’s just that the Saddam Hussein who ruled Iraq for over 2 decades managed to attract notoriety to be in the Western news media. Not to mention, Arabic names are very long as Saddam Hussein’s real name is Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.)

Middle Eastern and Islamic Life:

All Muslim terrorists were violent Islamic extremists. (Sure there is religious terrorism in every religion and Islam is no exception but there are also Muslim terrorists whose motivations are purely political and not all violence is religiously motivated either even to Westerners.)

Muslim countries were usually ruled under theocrats or strongmen dictators. (There are plenty of Muslim nations that have fully functioning democracies or at least most of the time. Nevertheless, there was very little separation of church and state in the early Islamic era because much of the state structures derived from it.)

Most Muslims were Arabs. (Actually Muslims are a very diverse group consisting of Asians, Eastern Europeans, Central Asians, Indians, and Africans. Not to mention, the biggest Muslim nation in the world is Indonesia, and many people from the Middle East and North Africa don’t consider themselves Arabs even though they’re Muslims and speak Arabic.)

The Harem consisted of the sultan’s love nest where he was feted on by his beautiful concubines. (Sultans did have concubines but that was more for ensuring the birth of competent sons than fulfilling sexual pleasure. And for the sultan, monogamy wasn’t optional for the notion of having multiple sex partners was part of the job. The harem wasn’t just home to his concubines either but also his family along with female servants who weren’t very attractive and eunuchs. Most of the women consisted of the sultan’s older female relatives. Also, the women there weren’t just lounging around all day either. Sure the sultan did have a lot of women to sleep with but the Harem wasn’t the Islamic version of the Playboy Mansion as depicted by Hollywood. As for odalisques, they were servants to the older inhabitants, not concubines and most of them were left to wither on the branch due to the sultan being too old, too drunk, or too disinterested to make use of them.)

Muslims were cruel to their slaves. (Actually they treated their slaves better than the Europeans and Americans treated theirs {in some ways though sometimes they could be cruel to them}. For one, they didn’t use slavery to subjugate a whole race of people. Second, slaves actually had certain rights that slaves in the West didn’t have. Third, slavery in the Muslim world was more or less like indentured servitude than the kind of slavery we’re familiar with since there were more ways for a slave to gain his or her freedom.)

Sultans usually had dark hair. (Because of the Ottoman sultans’ preference for Eastern European women in their harems, there’s a good chance that a sultan would have blond or red hair as well as European features.)

It wasn’t unusual for an Islamic ruler to offer his daughters to marry a man of a different religion. (While Islam allows men to marry up to four wives and concubinage, it doesn’t allow men to marry two closely related women at the same time. Also, Muslim women can’t marry guys of a different faith than their own, if the guy doesn’t agree to convert. Muslim men, on the other hand, can marry women outside their faith though.)

Muslims have been hostile to those outside their religion. (Well, occasionally but during much of Islamic history they’ve been pretty tolerant of other religions {for they sometimes had to be and to a certain extent}. For instance, Muslim Spain was a haven for Jews during much of the Middle Ages. Not to mention, many of the non-Islamic invaders actually ended up adopting and expanding the religion throughout Asia {which actually brought the end of Christianity in Central Asia}. Still, they wouldn’t kill Christians unless they absolutely had to. Also, many Muslim nations have a significant population of Christians today like Lebanon and Egypt.)

People in the Islamic Middle East actually wore turbans, harem pants, sheikh outfits, and Jasmine set up. (We’re not sure what people in the Middle East wore during that time period. though we’re kind of sure about the turbans and veils. Also, Aladdin caused a lot of controversy among Muslims. Then again, movies set in the era of genies and flying carpets tend to consist of people dressed in a mishmash of Islamic clothing anyway.)

Every old time Mideast ruler was a sultan. (Some were caliphs. Also, in Persia, the old rulers didn’t go by sultan.)

The Muslims were a radical and fanatical sect. (There have been plenty of Islamic notables who contributed a lot to science, medicine, architecture, and mathematics. They also helped translate Greek Classics as well as had institutions of learning.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 10- Life in Medieval Europe


I couldn’t post anything about medieval France without posting a picture of Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc of 1928 by Danish director Theodore Dreyer. This is a very historically accurate film yet also a very emotionally intense one as well. Definitely one of the last masterpieces in silent film.

Finally, the Middle Ages, I’d like to devote this post to medieval life as well as to history in other medieval countries. Whenever medieval movies, don’t take place in England, they’re usually set in France, since England has history with it. However, unlike medieval Scotland, which is presented fairly inaccurately on the screen, movies on medieval France don’t have as many historical errors on screen. Of course, Joan of Arc is a popular subject who existed in the later Middle Ages (where the medieval outfits and weaponry are depicted more accurately) and that much of the script for Joan’s trial is usually taken from the actual transcripts. Still, there’s also a movie called The Advocate which recalls the story of pig being accused of murder during the 15th century, which actually happened. In Medieval Spain (which you wouldn’t call it yet), you have the subject of El Cid, one of the great Spanish heroes played by Charlton Heston. Also, in this post, I’ll talk about the historical errors in movies on medieval life, which have been shaped by popular perceptions in the media.

Medieval France:

King Philip II Augustus was hot. (Sorry, Lion in Winter fans, but he in no way resembled Timothy Dalton. He was hunchbacked and ugly. However, unlike his handsome but ineffectual dad, he was an admirable warrior and wily politician who annexed to France most of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine’s lands. In Lion in Winter, it’s correct to assume that Philip II is spending Christmas with the Plantagenet because he knows that once Henry II dies, his sons won’t measure up to him, making it the perfect time to take over their lands, which he did. Also shared a bed with Richard the Lionheart, but this doesn’t prove anything about their sexual orientation since bed sharing was a common historical occurrence.)

Giles de Rais was one of Joan of Arc’s companions, an all-around man’s man, and a successful soldier. (Yes, but he was also known as a serial rapist and killer of children which did him in at the end and was an inspiration for Bluebeard. However, some historians claim he was framed though.)

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a witch. (Officially she was burned at the stake for relapsed heresy like cross-dressing and even though she agreed to wear a dress, her captors stole her skirt and replaced it with pants as part of a set up. In reality, she was burned by the English {the English side, she was actually burned by the Burgundians} because she led the French to victory during the Hundred Years’ War, so the English were just looking for any excuse.)

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the English. (She was burned at the stake by the Burgundians. However, the heresy charges were very much trumped up.)

French King Philip Augustus tried to invade England. (Actually his goal was to retake French soil from the English. Thus, unless you count the French lands England occupied at the time, he didn’t. However, his son did when King John broke the terms of the Magna Carta.)

Notre Dame had a full flight of stairs from the square to the front entrance. (It has always been level with the square.)

Joan of Arc’s gender was her downfall. (Her downfall was political and would’ve happened whether she was male or female. Being a woman just made it easier for her enemies.)

Horseshoes were used in France in the 12th century. (They were first used in France a century later and shoeing horses didn’t become practice until the 17th century.)

Charles VII was a foppish prince who fought at Agincourt. (He actually didn’t fight in Agincourt and wasn’t really a fop or mocked by a constable of France behind his back. Also, he’s the one who enlisted Joan of Arc so he was probably doing something right.)

Joan of Arc actually fought in battle. (Yes, she served on the front lines to rally her troops to victory but she never killed anyone as well as functioned more like a mascot than anything else. Still, she did help reform the army by expelling prostitutes and mandating confession {probably the closest thing her troops will ever have to therapy} and Mass attendance, banning swearing, looting, and harassing. She also played a major role in her army’s tactical decisions as well.)

When Joan of Arc was 8, she saw English soldiers burn her village as well as raped and kill her sister. (This is in The Messenger but this incident has no basis in reality. However, Joan’s village was raided in 1425 and 1428. The raid in 1425 was carried primarily by Burgundian soldiers in which they burned a church and stole some cattle. The 1428 raid forced the d’Arc family to flee to another village. Yet, as far as we know, Joan’s family went unmolested in both incidents.)

Joan of Arc was a borderline psychotic. (Joan may have been a saint but she wasn’t known for being polite since she was known to be rude to clergy, royalty, and military commanders alike. She was a teenage peasant girl after all. Yet, unlike her depiction in The Messenger, Joan was also brave, quick-witted, and charismatic. Milla Jovovich’s portrayal doesn’t show these qualities. Still, no one in the 15th century thought she was nuts.)

Joan of Arc was a true saint. (Well, as lovely as she was Joan wasn’t above threatening her enemies with massacres and actually carried it out on one occasion with hundreds of civilians killed in the process. Also, she told at least one woman to stay in the kitchen. And one of her confidantes would later become a famous medieval serial killer. No Mr. Rogers, but Joan certainly would qualify as a living saint by 15th century standards.)

Joan of Arc was pretty. (I think the Maria Falconetti portrayal is probably the closest to what you’d expect a 15th century teenage peasant girl to look like. However, she certainly looked nothing like Ingrid Bergman for she was said to be quite short with dark hair.)

Medieval Spain:

Alfonso and Urraca were an incestuous couple. (Historians still debate that. However, their father King Ferdinand did manage to have five kids who fought each other, made Muslim allies, shagged Muslim princess, hatched world domination conspiracies, and assassinated each other. So their family life was like Game of Thrones.)

El Cid was selfless and hostile to Muslims. (The historical El Cid was said to be more self-seeking and less hostile to Muslims than his legend. Actually he was willing to work for Muslims if they paid them he enough and actually fought both sides equally. Still, he was a mercenary who was more interested in establishing his own fiefdom in Valencia as well as cared more about being paid than in anything relating to Christendom and war.)

Navarre was a poor kingdom. (It gave Richard the Lionheart an impressive dowry when he married Berengaria, which wouldn’t have happened if it was poor. Also, Richard could always use the money.)

Castile and Leon were a united kingdom in the 1180s. (They were united in the 1230s.)

El Cid called victory for Spain. (Spain didn’t exist until the 1400s, and El Cid lived in the 11th century.)

Emir Yusuf al-Mutamin of Zaragoza wanted to conquer Castile and Leon. (He didn’t attempt to because he was at war with his own half-brother. Also, he didn’t give Rodrigo Diaz the nickname of El Cid and they didn’t become close until Diaz joined Yusuf’s army as a mercenary.)

Dona Jimena hated Rodrigo Diaz for killing her father but she married him anyway. (This may not have happened but it’s in the poem about El Cid, so I’ll forgive the filmmakers for it.)

El Cid took Valencia by giving bread to its people. (Aw, that’s sweet but it’s bullshit. He actually ransacked the surrounding villages, starved the city, took it by assault, and seized all its riches. Still, he didn’t offer the crown to Alfonso but ruled the area himself.)

El Cid died in agony on the battlefield. (He died in 1099 during peacetime of some unknown cause.)

Yusuf ibn Tashufin was defeated at Valencia. (He managed to lead the Almoravids to victory at Valencia in 1102. Not bad for a 96 year old man.)

Medieval Scandinavia:

Flagellantism was prominent in Sweden during the Black Death. (It never made it there.)

Medieval Russia:

Gavrila Alexich participated in the Battle of Ice. (He was killed in 1241 while storming the fortress of Koporye.)

Alexander Nevsky refused to ally himself with Batu Khan of the Golden Horde. (He actually did enter into a controversial alliance with him, but only 10 years after the Battle of Ice. Of course, Sergei Eisenstein knew this and wanted to put it in, but the Soviet government wanted none of that.)

Alexander Nevsky clashed with the boyars over proletarian revolution and redistribution of wealth. (Yes, he did clash with the boyars but not over concepts that would be as authentic to them in the 13th century as electronics. Obviously, Soviet propaganda here.)

Holy Roman Empire:

Alberto da Giussano killed a boar just before it gored Frederick Barbarossa. (Alberto da Giussano was said to have been a great warrior of the Guelph faction leading the Lombard League to victory at the Battle of Legnano in 1176. That is, if he ever existed, which there’s no firm evidence for that.)

Frederick Barbarossa was an old man when he married his 13-year old wife. (Yes, he married a 13 year old girl but he was 34 at the time. However, in his biopic he’s played by a 65 year old man which makes the relationship much creepier than it really was.)

The Battle of Legano was a decisive battle. (It wasn’t. Frederick Barbarossa was considering a truce during it.)

During the siege of Milan Frederick Barbarossa strapped prisoners on the siege towers so the Milanese couldn’t attack him without killing their fellow citizens. (He actually did this but not at Milan. Rather it was at the siege of Crema in 1159. And he only did this because the Cremese were hacking imperial prisoners in front of his army.)

Medieval Life:

Medieval Europeans were dirty, smelly, and rarely bathed. (This is only true in towards the end of the Middle Ages when it was rumored that bathing mad e a person more susceptible to disease. Yet, for most of the Middle Ages, people usually washed their hands before and after dinner and took communal baths so they probably didn’t lead the most sanitary lifestyles but they didn’t smell like shit either.)

Life in the Middle Ages was nasty, brutish, and short and peasants worked nonstop for lords who cared nothing about them. (This only partly true considering the high child mortality, wars, and lack of medicine but if a person managed survive childhood and if other things didn’t kill him or her first, he or she could managed to live to his or her seventies. Also, peasants worked eight hour days and were off the third of the year including Sundays.)

Everyone except nobles and clergy wore rough brown clothing. (Actually, even ordinary people were skilled and knowledgeable in making clothes that some authorities had to ban certain dyes were only reserved for royalty and nobility. They were also well made, had buttons, and pockets.)

In the Middle Ages there were only two classes that consisted of nobles and royals and peasants. (The Middle Ages also saw the formation of a middle class which consisted of traders, skilled tradesmen, performers, artists, and investors.)

Women were treated as second-class citizens whose place was in the home caring for household and children as well as making babies on demand. (Though women weren’t allowed fight in battle, run for office, or become a priest, this didn’t mean that women were just baby making machines since most women did almost the same thing their husbands and fathers did and even ran estates and businesses. There was even a woman who ran England’s entire beer industry. They also became nuns which allowed them access to education that even kings didn’t have. Not to mention, they didn’t wear chastity belts either. Also, read the Wife of Bath’s Tale. Yes, people in the Middle Ages were sexist but not to the degree that is depicted in movies. Still, there was much more discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, and social class than on sex.)

People in the Middle Ages were prudes. (Actually, these were the days when a whole family would sleep naked together in one room and even little children knew where babies came from for there wasn’t much privacy at the time. Not to mention, most people would assume any couple living together was married whether that was true or not. Also, even though priests were expected to be celibate, most people wouldn’t be shocked if their priest fathered an illegitimate child with his housekeeper which was not uncommon either. Then we have Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which isn’t the most family friendly literature out there. Oh, and fart jokes are some of the oldest ones in the book.)

Real Men Don’t Wear Dresses. Costume designers often fear that actual male medieval clothing looks like a dress and will confound the gender expectations of their audience. Medieval tunics and robes can end up morphed into short jackets, smoking jackets (Knight’s Tale) and dusters (Timeline). Hosen tends to turn into pants (Knight’s Tale) and trousers (Branagh Henry V) [From A Common Place Book]

Bad Hair. The modern filmmaker is really reluctant to put their characters, and particularly protagonists, in hairstyles they think their audience will find unflattering. (Thus the unmedieval bangs in Timeline and the ’30s mustaches in the Errol Flynn Robin Hood. Olivier’s Henry V and The Warlord show rare courage in putting their heroes in appropriate haircuts that look unflattering to many modern eyes.) [From A Commonplace Book]

The antagonists are Yucky. Cardboard Villains can be unattractive in other ways, to make them even less sympathetic. The Edward II in Braveheart is a weak and mincing effeminate. (The historical Edward II was physically strong, well-formed and vigorous, whatever his moral faults.)The Commodus in Gladiator was a dark, puffy faced dissolute. (His historical model was an athletic blond.) Alternatively, the Cardboard Villains can have bad teeth or other deformities. (The Messenger) [From A Commonplace Book]

Droit de Seigneur, the legal right to deflower unwilling virgins would have been a great way to be a Cardboard Villain if the institution had actually existed in the Middle Ages.  [From A Commonplace Book] (Well, if it did, it was called feudalism in which nobles and royals could do anything they wanted to the commoners. And no Lords wouldn’t claim any right to “rape” another man’s wife {saying this could mean excommunication and a peasant revolt}, they would just simply pressure the woman to have sex with them or he’d have her loved ones killed {which he could actually do}.)

The king had the right prima nocta which was the right to sleep with any man’s bride on her wedding night. (Actually, this may be true if it referred to his own right but he also had the right to screw any woman he wanted, regardless of the woman’s marital status. And women had no right to say no to him. Also, lords can do the same thing to their subjects.)

If you are a princess, you always have a favorite lady in waiting, and you always send her to warn the hero of the evil king’s intention just in time. [Movie Cliches List]

Corollary: the lady in waiting is never quite as beautiful as the princess; however, she still always catches the eye of the hero’s sidekick. [Movie Cliches List]

Horses never get winded, throw a shoe, etc., until the pursuing sheriff is right behind the hero. [Movie Cliches List]

Corollary: the wagon that breaks an axle or gets stuck in the creek is always the one carrying the king’s entire treasury, which he totes around with him every time he goes gallivanting through bandit-infested countryside. (Kings would never carry their entire treasury with them.) [Movie Cliches List]

Everyone in the Middle Ages lived in a lovely half-timbered house with two bedrooms and a stone fireplace.

Noblewomen were passive and were never taught how to fight. (Just because noblewomen were taught to stay at home didn’t mean that they were passive damsels in distress either. Noblewomen actually did learn the basics of combat and siege defense. You wouldn’t want the lady of the manor be unprepared in case the enemy attacked when the lord wasn’t around. So this means Merida and Fiona were more like real medieval princesses than Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Eowyn only deviates from the norm because she wants to fight with the boys in battle.)

Trial by ordeal was a common judicial practice in the late Middle Ages. (Since Pope Innocent III and the Fourth Council of the Lateran had banned clergy from participating in the practice, it had been in decline since 1215 as well as been used rarer and rare in the official capacity. Compurgation or “wager of law” was more often used in which an accused would swear an oath and get at least 12 people to swear that they believed them was more or less the standard practice in the Late Middle Ages.)

The Black Death first came to Europe in the 1300s. (Actually there were plague was behind many major epidemics in ancient times. So, there probably was a plague around the time of King Arthur.)

Almost every medieval state was a monarchy. (Venice was a republic while a good chunk of Italy was ruled by the Pope.)

Everyone in the Middle Ages was an uneducated moron. (Actually the reason for the lack of education was because most people in that time were peasants and books were expensive for they were copied by hand {making universal education almost impossible}. They didn’t have extensive trade and travel infrastructure either. Also, most people during the Middle Ages were just as smart as anyone else in any other time period of history.)

The Iron Maiden was a medieval torture device. (It was invented after the Middle Ages, and there’s no record on whether it was used even though Uday Hussein had one.)

No one ever had sex outside of marriage or before marriage. Also, that all marriage ceremonies — even of peasants in small outland communities– were performed by priests in a church. (Cohabitation was common in the Middle Ages that some couples got married in a church before middle age. Also, most women didn’t have any right to refuse sex from their resident lord if he wanted it regardless of the moral standards of the time.)

The drapery not only kept the draft out of the castle but was often used for people to hide behind while eavesdropping on a conversation which was usually about them.

Medieval outlaws were generous Robin Hoods who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. (They were more or less self-serving rogues who caused a lot of trouble in their local towns and skipped trial. Still, many outlaws in England did manage to become knights. Yet, they usually came from all walks of life.)

Medieval people had no table manners. (From Medievalist: “While food was eaten with hands, spoons, and knives (forks weren’t popular in most of Europe until the seventeenth century – they were considered “too Italian” and effete), then, as now, eating was a communal activity, and (since people most often shared plates and cups) was not enjoyable if your companion had no manners. Entire treatises were written on correct etiquette, and encouraged things such as offering the best of the food on your plate to the lady, wiping your fingers on cloth, and wiping your mouth before taking a sip from your shared cup, so that you did not leave a slick of oil on top of the wine.”)

Men tried to control their women with chastity belts. (There’s no evidence chastity belts were ever made or used in the Middle Ages. Rather there’s no evidence of chastity belts until the 18th century.)

People used spices to cover up the taste of rotten food. (From Medievalist: “I suppose this might have been useful when there was very little food to be had (although, in that case, why would you have expensive spices hanging around?), but it was by no means the norm. Most people at this time were involved in agriculture – they knew when food was good and when it wasn’t. There was little point in eating food that had gone bad, since it was risking making yourself dangerously sick, or worse. It is much more likely that spices, if used for camouflage, were used to make staple foods more interesting (much like ketchup).”)

Druidism still existed in Western Europe during the 11th century. (Paganism had largely been eradicated by the 8th century there while druidism died out in Pre-Christian Imperial Rome.)

Paper was a standard medieval correspondence material in the 12th century. (It was invented in China in the 2nd century and didn’t make it to Europe until the 13th century.)

Syphillis existed during the Middle Ages. (Didn’t make its first appearance in Europe until 1494 and wasn’t coined until 1530.)

People in the Ages could accurately tell time. (Mechanical clocks weren’t around until much later.)

Condemned criminals had tomatoes thrown at them. (They didn’t exist in Europe until after Columbus.)

Some people in the Middle Ages wore glasses. (They were invented in the 16th century.)

Torches were used a lot in the Dark Ages. (From Policy Mic.com: “Torches were certainly used now and then, no doubt about that, but they were not used anywhere near as liberally as Hollywood would have you believe. First of all, most torches would not be able to be lit for more than an hour, ruling out having them lining the walls of castles to provide light. Secondly, having torches inside would be a terrible idea given the small issue of smoke.

“Most importantly, torches do not really provide much light. Movies are full of mobs carrying torches as they run through the darkness looking for someone, or people using torches to light their way. While a torch can certainly help you see the area immediately around you and cast light on large objects, it is not all that great for seeing more than a few feet ahead. If you were looking for someone outside in the dark, you would be better off ditching the torch, using the moonlight, and letting your eyes adjust to the darkness. If trying to get around your castle at night, a simple candle would suffice.”)

Medicine was mostly best on superstition. (Yes and no. Sure it was bunk, dangerous, as well as depended on humoral theory and astrology. But you also had some effective treatments and some of the first medical colleges.)

Executions were used for almost every offense imaginable. (From Policy Mic.com: “In reality, the Middle Ages typically saw the death penalty reserved for only serious offenders who committed the crimes of murder, treason, or arson. Torture was not really widespread. The most common forms of punishment included public humiliation and fines. Repeat offenders were usually exiled. The Middle Ages also maintained trials for those accused of crimes; verdicts were not strictly the decisions of kings and noblemen.”)

The most frequent form of execution was beheading. (From Policy Mic.com: “Beheadings were usually reserved for the noble classes and done in the privacy of courtyards rather than in the town square. Also, it was very rarely one swing and done; the typical beheading took 4 or 5 swings to decapitate the head. If the executioner was unable to kill the convicted by that point, the person usually just ended up bleeding to death.

“The most common form of execution in the Middle Ages was hanging. It was easy, it did not cost much, and you could let the bodies hang out for a bit as a warning to others. If a criminal was particularly hated, he would be hanged, drawn, and quartered, a very unpleasant form of punishment that popped up in 14th-century England as a penalty for high treason.”)

Turkey legs were a favored medieval dish. (People in the Middle Ages would know nothing about turkeys since they lived in North America. Diets usually consisted of eggs, bread, fish, cheese, oats, vegetables like cabbage and turnips, and ale.)

People in the Middle Ages thought the world was flat. (No one in Medieval Europe ever believed this.)

People ate off of pewter plates and threw bones to the floor. (Peasants ate from wooden plates while nobles usually ate from silver and locked since it was a good way to carry if one needed to make a hasty departure. Also, no they didn’t throw bones to the floor for the dogs to eat.)

Blacksmiths made horseshoes and swords. (Most of the time, they’d be making farming implements.)

Most people didn’t eat rats in the Middle Ages. (This was a common meat among poor people.)

Noblewomen were sent as diplomats in the 14th century. (Royal women had little privacy even under the best circumstances and would certainly not be left alone with an enemy {unless they were her relatives, but still}. Of course, they were sent as diplomats {well, as marriage partners in political alliances} usually in circumstances where they’d be related to the family. As for noblewomen, they were more or less needed to take care of the home like protecting it from invaders.)

Nobles raised their own children during their school years. (The kids would normally be sent to somewhere else for their education like another noble’s home, convent, or monastery. Fostering was very common back then.)

Courtly love was a popular theme in the Middle Ages. (Yes, but so were stories of war, religious stories, and ones that may not be suitable for children. Also, medieval women also loved their filth, too.)

Feudalism was a hierarchical and harmonious way of living. (It was anything but because royal power was rather decentralized and the nobles usually fought amongst themselves. Also, it’s not unusual to put feudalism as another reason for the Crusades.)

Skilled craftsmen can end up impoverished if unemployed. (Skilled craftsmen had guilds to help them out and usually didn’t face much poverty. And if a master craftsman died, his wife may run his business for him or one of his journeymen might marry her.)

Primogeniture was the rule in medieval society. (Only in the later Middle Ages.)

Kidnapped women were often damsels in distress. (Sometimes women would arrange their own kidnappings to get out of an arranged marriage. Sometimes they may even do the kidnapping, which is how Robert Bruce’s parents ended up together.)

All servants were peasants. (High ranking nobles had high ranking servants, especially when primogeniture was the main inheritance rule. Many of these were younger sons of nobles. Also, they were overwhelmingly male.)

People ate with forks since the 12th century. (Only for a few Italy and in the Byzantine Empire, they were teased mercilessly for it. They didn’t become more in style until the 16th century.)

Medieval men wore practical and functional clothing. (Aristocratic men’s fashion of the era could get pretty ridiculous in the later years).

Cremation was a common practice in medieval Europe. (It wasn’t and in some place it wasn’t even legal.)

Inns were public houses with big common rooms below and rooms above. (It’s more complicated than that. Some inns had bars. Some didn’t. Some had only a single room with several beds that could fit 3 people each. Only upscale places had rooms with one or two beds. You also had alehouses where you can have some drink as well but no rooms. Yet, they can function less like the fantasy inns you see and more like the Mos Eisley Cantina. But a tavern can also be someone else’s home. People can even stay at other people’s houses or at a hospital.)

Medieval castles had bare stone walls inside. (A lot of castles had murals inside since nobles wanted to impress visitors with their wealth.)

Most people stayed home during the Middle Ages. (This is true for a lot of Medieval people. However, some did go on pilgrimages and participated in war. So that counts.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 9- Medieval England


Of course, no post about medieval England is complete without a picture of Laurence Olivier who’s very much identified with such films of this time and place. This is him playing Richard III in his adaptation of the eponymous and highly historically inaccurate play by William Shakespeare. Sure he may look evil but he doesn’t seem to a good job being grotesque since he still looks pretty hot. Nevertheless, he may actually look closer to the real Richard III than in other portrayals though he was much older than the late king could’ve been.

If you ever see a movie set in the Middle Ages, chances are it will take place in England mostly because it will focus on Robin Hood, King Arthur, or something by William Shakespeare. Then sometimes there are movies based in the Middle Ages produced in Great Britain and most of the time, they’d like to do their own history. Yet, since Hollywood is situated in a place where there was no medieval history, then England usually has to do. Of course, there’s a lot history covered in medieval England, especially when it pertains to the royal family. There’s Henry II with his mom Empress Matilda who tried to take the throne from her cousin. Then he has a wife named Eleanor of Acquitaine who’s very much a formidable woman like himself who incited a rebellion among her sons and ended up in prison (only to be released when she outlived him but she also outlived most of her kids, too). Then you have Henry II’s sons Richard and John who were as different as night and day as well as at each other’s throats. Oh, what great family soap opera that would be. Then you got Henry II’s relationship with Thomas Becket which would later lead to his murder in Canterbury Cathedral and Philip Augustus who’s bitter about Henry stealing lands under his dad (and Eleanor’s ex-husband). After that is the post-Magna Carta era usually consisting of kings Henry III, Richard II, and the first three Edwards (many movies errors from this category will also be from Braveheart). After that, is the Wars of the Roses when England becomes engaged in civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York after Richard II is deposed. You get kings like Henry IV, Henry V (“We happy few, we band of brothers.”), Henry VI, and Richard III (who wasn’t as evil as Shakespeare depicted him, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”). Nevertheless, historical errors will still abound in these movies, which I shall list here.

English was spoken in the same way as it is today despite the fact that you had to get version of Canterbury Tales with a translation for you didn’t understand what the hell Chaucer was saying in its original form.

English commoners were still resisting their Norman overlords at least a century or two after the Norman Conquest. (This was started by Henry V during the Hundred Years’ War as Anti-French propaganda and it was also picked up during the Reformation. Also, William the Conqueror and his fellow Normans didn’t really invade England since he had been promised the throne by the previous King Edward the Confessor who was his cousin but was passed on in favor of the late king’s brother-in-law.)

English nobles and royalty spoke English. (Between 1066 to 1453, English was considered a language for peasants. Most English nobles during that time spoke French.)

Lady Godiva rode naked through Coventry in order to get her husband Leofric to lower taxes. (Godiva was a real noblewoman but she never did this.)

Sons and daughters could inherit at the same time. (Daughters were forbidden to inherit anything unless they didn’t have legitimate brothers living.)

English marriage ceremonies were set to the Book of Common Prayer. (It would’ve been conducted in Latin.)

English kings were addressed as “Your Majesty.” (That title wouldn’t be used until the 1390s. So this is part right.)

There was an actual King Arthur of England. (Well, if you count Geoffrey of Brittany’s son Arthur as Richard’s successor maybe {who King John later had killed}, but that’s as close to an actual English King Arthur as you’re going to get. As for the Arthur of Camelot, very much a mythological figure.)

The English had no reason to start the Hundred Years’ War. (Read your history books. Many of the early English kings since 1066 were French of some sort of another. Also, The Lion in Winter would’ve been more historically accurate if you have the English royal family speaking in French. Heck, you could’ve easily called Henry II as the real king of France during his kingship because he ruled almost all of it. Not to mention, it even takes place in France.)

English civilians could freely hunt in the forests. (Hunting game in the English forests later in the Middle Ages might carry a harsh punishment.)

Henry II and Co:

Richard the Lionheart was a good king and John was a bad king. (Actually Richard was anything but a good king at least in peacetime, hated England, and saw it was only good for financing his coffers so he can go on Crusade and fight the French. John, by contrast, probably wasn’t the best king England ever had and wasn’t a nice guy but at least his interests were in running England even though he managed to piss off everyone that he ended up putting his seal on the Magna Carta. He also did good things as write many books on law and was considered a legal expert before his kingship. Oh, and he treated the Jews better than his brother. But since Richard the Lionheart was often away, the nobles had free rein, which put up resistance when King John tried to take control. Not to mention, Richard the Lionheart had a better personality and he wasn’t stupid either. Nevertheless, their dad Henry II was a far better king than either of them put together who’s remembered as England’s greatest Medieval King {as well as his portrayal by Peter O’Toole.})

Thomas Becket and Henry II had a platonic homosexual relationship prior to Becket’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury. (There’s no historical data that they were more than just friends. Besides, Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine out of love {and her lands that consisted of half of France} as well as had a succession of mistresses {though Eleanor was probably the love of his life}. Also, Becket was said to be celibate.)

Henry II slept with Richard the Lionheart’s fiancee. (There’s no definitive evidence of this though Richard later resisted marrying his fiancee on the basis of the claim.)

Thomas Becket was a Saxon and Henry II was Norman. (Becket was a Norman and Henry II was Angevin on his father’s side. However, his mother was Norman.)

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket didn’t desire special legal privileges for the clergy. (Many people said he did, especially if clergy members committed secular crimes, which was one of the things he and Henry II disagreed on. And Henry II was quite justified and has been known for replacing trials by combat with jury trials.)

Empress Matilda was an annoyance to Henry II. (Actually she was instrumental for shaping her son, Henry II into the fierce warrior and skilled administrator he was and was the sole parent for much of his childhood. Also, Henry II adored his mother and relied heavily on her guidance and advice until her death in 1167. Not to mention, she was the reason why Henry II was able to get the throne and is best known for her war against King Stephen after she was passed over when her father Henry I died.)

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s father was alive when she was married to Henry II. (Her dad died when she was 15 years old, which made her Duchess of Aquitaine as well as the most eligible bride of the 12th century.)

Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had four children all boys. (They had eight children that included five sons and three daughters. Also, Eleanor had two daughters while married to King Louis VII and Henry II had at least eight illegitimate children to several long term mistresses.)

Richard the Lionheart died immediately from a crossbow wound from a cook. (He lived for more than a week and died from gangrene. Also, the guy responsible for shooting him was a boy with a crossbow and a frying pan whom he ordered to be set free, forgiven, and rewarded 100 shillings for a lucky shot. However, the pardon was retracted when he died by a mercenary captain and the boy was flayed alive. Jesus Christ!)

Richard the Lionheart was very fond of England. (He had no attachment to the place and only spent six months of his reign there. Most of his ten year reign was spent in either on Crusade or in France fighting Philip Augustus. Also, he forgave John for running England for him.)

Richard the Lionheart was a wise old king. (He was only 41 when he died.)

King John signed the Magna Carta early in his reign. (It was actually near the end.)

Isabella of Angoulmene was a young woman when she married King John. (She was twelve. Don’t worry; it’s very likely that he waited until she was sixteen to have sex with her which was normal in such marriages.)

King John had a title called Defender of the Holy Sepulcher.  (He was offered the title but his dad turned it down for him and sent the boy to Ireland.Also, it was the title of Godfrey de Boullion, a Christian ruler of Jerusalem who had nothing to do with England at all.)

Henry II referred to himself as Plantagenet. (The name didn’t come to use until close to the end of the dynasty and was first used by the father of Edward IV and Richard III.)

King John had brown hair. (He was a flaming redhead like his dad and brothers.)

King Henry was ten years older than the pope in 1183. (The actual pope at the time was 36 years older than him.)

Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre for love. (He more likely married her for money and lands. It was more of a political marriage. Though they went on Crusade together and she tried to raise money for his ransom, we’re not sure whether the marriage was ever consummated. Also, Richard spent so much time away from her that the Pope had to tell him spend time with her, which he did by taking her to church. Not to mention, she was very much overlooked as Queen of England and Cyprus during Richard’s reign.)

Richard the Lionheart had an affair with Philip Augustus. (There’s little evidence supporting this though Richard might’ve went both ways. Also, he had at least one illegitimate son as well as had a reputation as a womanizer while Philip had two. Either way, he was certainly not faithful to his wife. Historians are divided over his sexuality and the gay allegations began in the 1960s. As for Philip Augustus, well, he was much closer to Geoffrey than Richard {he was bawling in Geoffrey’s funeral after he got trampled by a horse}. Not to mention, he was absolutely furious with Richard when he broke his engagement with his sister.)

King John was middle aged during Richard the Lionheart’s reign. (These two kings have been played by middle aged men in the Robin Hood films but both died in their forties {Richard died at 41 while John died at 49} and John ascended the throne at 33. At least The Lion in Winter gets their ages mostly right.)

King John and the Knights Templar were bitter rivals. (They were buddies. He exempted the Templars from all taxation and gave them extraordinary protection of property. In return, the Templars let John use their New Temple in London headquarters as a treasury.)

King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was young. (She was 30 at the time.)

Post-Magna Carta:

King Edward I was a brutal conquer who oppressed his subjects and was a pagan. (King Edward I was a Christian {who had been on a Crusade} and didn’t oppress his English subjects nor did he kill his son’s lover by throwing him out the window {he was said to be a great husband and father as well as a charitable man}. Edward I also set up Parliament as a permanent institution, set up a working tax system, and ushered in a more progressive system seemed radical in most European circles. Even today he’s seen as one of England’s best kings and even well thought of by Dante. Still, he was a brutal conqueror {which is why the Scots and Welsh don’t like him}, ruthless with his enemies{killed his noble prisoners at the Battle of Evesham which was taboo at the time}, and hated the Jews.)

Edward II was sickly looking and gay. (He probably went both ways {had at least one illegitimate child as well as four kids with Isabella} but he was said to be rather athletic and handsome {not a walking stereotype}. Also, during the time of William Wallace {at least at his death}, he was most likely a teenager.)

Edward I planned to cause the racial death of Scotland. (He didn’t. He just wanted to control Scotland. Also, his getting control of Scotland was partly the Scottish people’s fault since they agreed to relinquish their independence until a new king could be appointed after their designated child queen died on the way there from Norway. Yet, the divisive Scottish noble families made it difficult to select a satisfactory candidate as every option seemed to lead to civil war. And when an appropriate candidate was selected by the name of John Balliol who proved to be a weak king {as well as wouldn’t cooperate with Edward I}. He was later captured during a war with the English in 1296 as well as forced to abdicate. The Scots just didn’t bet on Edward Longshanks backstabbing them since he probably felt sick over the business end and thought the only competent candidate Scotland had available was himself though he never claimed the crown.)

Edward I was the first king to name his son Prince of Wales. (First record of this comes from the 16th century.)

Isabella of France was the first Princess of Wales. (She married Edward II when he was already king and she never met her father-in-law.)

Edward I treacherously hanged Scottish noblemen. (Never happened.)

Edward I wanted to sleep with Princess Isabella. (This would never have happened. Also, he opposed the marriage between her and the future Edward II, explaining why they tied the knot after he was dead {granted the marriage was a disaster}. Still, her conspiring to kill her husband did help bring Scottish independence.)

Edward II was unable to impregnate his wife. (Apparently he was at least able to impregnate somebody and she was able to have kids so you may figure it out {though she had a lover named John Mortimer}.)

Queen Isabella of England was ashamed of the English cruelty toward the Scots. (She had her husband King Edward II imprisoned and murdered for refusing to advocate in favor of their son and launched her own invasion of Scotland.)

Queen Isabella of England was a sweet and kindly princess. (She was called the She Wolf of France and plotted to kill her husband as well as considered invading Scotland as a nice mother and son activity.)

Edward I reinstated prima noctis in Scotland. (He never did this.)

Edmund Mortimer was Richard II’s true heir. (It’s very likely Henry IV was but he and and Richard had a massive falling out resulting in Richard being deposed and imprisoned.)

Edward the Black Prince was married to Lady Joan Holland who was kidnapped by the French. (Actually his wife’s name was Lady Joan Holland but she was also the Countess of Kent and a widow. However, she was never kidnapped by the French, and no, Edward never had to rescue her. Interestingly, he was known as Edward of Woodstock. However, he and Lady Joan did love each other for his parents opposed the match since she was once their ward.)

William Wallace killed the Duke of York. (It wasn’t a title for a younger son at the time of King Edward I.)

Edward II abdicated the throne. (He was more likely imprisoned and killed.)

Edward II was disemboweled with a red hot poker. (He more likely died from being smothered in his bed.)

The Wars of the Roses:

King Richard III was a terrible king who imprisoned and killed his nephews in the Tower of London, had his brother drowned in a vat of wine, poisoned his wife and bumped off her father and first husband, bumped off two cousins and planned to marry a third, had a crippled arm and a hunchback. And his last words were, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (He actually wasn’t grotesque looking and didn’t do anything that I just mentioned {with the possible exception of imprisoning his nephews in the tower}, which was cooked up by the Tudors. The only physical deformity he had was real bad scoliosis which isn’t as recognizable. Though Prince George did drown in a vat of wine {allegedly, but it’s more likely he starved}, it was on King Edward IV’s insistence not Richard’s. And as how Richard III became king, he simply said that his nephews were illegitimate because Edward IV married his wife while engaged to another woman which was very much like being married {and since King Edward IV was such a horndog and everybody hated the Woodvilles, he could get away with it easily and Parliament would just give the crown to him}. The English were also no fans of child kings at this point as well and the prospect of having another one terrified the country. And he was already running the country anyway so he might as well take the throne while at it. Any king would’ve done the same thing. He also had George’s kids declared illegitimate as well. Also, he was said to be a rather reasonable and competent king with a reputation of bravery justified by his death in battle in which he went down fighting at thirty-two. He was probably not much cruel or ruthless than most kings of his day and was well thought of by his contemporaries. Rather, he was said to be loved by the lower orders and improved conditions in Northern England {especially York} though he didn’t make many friends among the nobility. Oh, and he liked to use an ax. Shakespeare may be one of the best writers who ever lived but he’s about as good of a historian as Mel Gibson.)

King Richard III was an unpopular king. (Not only did he have one of the best attended coronations in years, he had quite a following in York where the people mourned his death. Still, what did him in is that he was king during a civil war, reigned 2 years, and died with no surviving legitimate children).

King Henry V was a wild vagabond when he was heir to the English throne. (He was always the same, duty bound, serious man his whole life. Also, had a nasty scar on his face which explains why his portrait is usually in profile.)

King Henry V was a badass warrior king and a great hero. (He also captured enemy knights {but had some good excuse since it was Agincourt, he was heavily outnumbered, and could’ve opened the battle on two fronts resulting in a massacre of his own men}, burned proto-Protestant heretics alive {including the inspiration for Falstaff but this was done to unite Catholicism under one pope after a series of antipopes as was the case in Europe}, doomed both sides into fighting a pointless war {which was an age old war he could’ve won if he hadn’t died so early}, and had a nasty scar across his face. Still, like any medieval king, he was ruthless when he needed to be and didn’t tax his subjects to the highest bitter to pay for his conflicts. Actually he doesn’t come worse off than most kings of the time.)

Henry VII effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. (Yes, but there were still major revolts against him which he tyrannically suppressed. This made him very unpopular and many nobles were glad to see him go. Yet, he did marry Elizabeth of York which helped secure his throne as was a rather intelligent woman in her own right. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare didn’t write a play about Henry VII. Then again, any king would do the same and Henry VII was a rather competent king that England needed at the time and did whatever needed to be done. Still, despite the fact he has a small role in Richard III doesn’t mean that he was a boring guy.)

Richard III killed the Duke of Somerset. (The guy died when Richard was three.)

Hotspur was a childhood friend of King Henry V. (Actually he was three years older than his dad.)

Henry V was the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. (It’s said he had little charm, no sense of humor, and was truly terrifyingly convinced he was an instrument of God. Still, he really did care about his soldiers yet Shakespeare’s portrayal of him is a reasonable break from reality. It’s unlikely Princess Catherine of Valois would’ve found him entertaining. Interestingly her second husband was Owen Tudor, the keeper of the Queen’s wardrobe from Wales. Of course, we know what that family amounted to.)

The Duke of Buckingham rebelled to have Edward V on the throne. (He wanted to put himself on the throne but ultimately decided to join Henry Tudor instead. Besides, he’s suspected of having the Princes in the Tower killed to begin with and probably knew the kids were dead).

Duke George of Clarence was a doddering fool. (He was an opportunistic bastard who switched sides. There’s a reason why Edward IV had him killed).

Richard III tried to marry himself to Elizabeth of York after Lady Anne Neville died. (While marrying your niece wasn’t unusual in some royal families at the time {as in the Hapsburgs}, Richard was actually trying to arrange marriages for both himself and his niece with the Portuguese royal family. Also, he was suffering a succession crisis since Lady Anne and his son had both died during his reign).

Richard III had Lady Anne Neville’s first husband and father killed. (Her father died in battle. As for the first husband, he was either slaughtered with his army or executed on Edward IV’s orders. They were Lanscastrians and Richard marrying Lady Anne wasn’t an advantageous match since she was known as a daughter and widow of traitors. Still, he wouldn’t be trying to woo her over her dad’s corpse.)

Duke George of Clarence was drowned in a vat of wine on Richard’s orders. (He was more likely smothered on Edward IV’s orders because of his backstabbing behavior, armed rebellion, lunacy, and murdering a servant girl. In fact, despite previous feuds, Richard argued against George’s execution and left court during the verdict but Edward was simply sick of him that he wanted him dead. So you can probably say that George was the bad brother from the trio, not Richard).

Edward IV was a frail old man when he died. (He was in his early 40s and his death was unexpected).

Richard III’s wife Anne Neville reviled him. (Contrary to Shakespeare, it’s said that their marriage was a love match and they were childhood sweethearts {and he obviously didn’t kill her her dad or first husband who were most likely not executed at all}. Besides, though he had 2 illegitimate kids, he waited to marry her. Not only that, but he was said to be a man of unimpeachable moral character who shared none of Edward IV’s vices. They also had a 10 year old son by the time he was crowned. However, Richard’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Woodville despised him. Oh, and contrary to Olivier’s portrayal, he was only 5’8.”)

Richard III drove his oldest brother Edward IV to an early grave. (He was out of town when Edward IV died).

Richard III died on the field. (He had his head sliced off from the back while surrounded by soldiers in a swamp. Still, he killed a lot of Henry Tudor’s best men and almost killed the guy himself.)

Henry V spent a lot of his early life in a tavern with his drinking buddies. (It’s not very likely.)

Hotspur was killed by a single combat with Henry V at the Battle of Shrewsbury. (He was killed by a single arrow. Still, Hotspur was a traitor since he was on the side of Owen Glydwr of Wales.)

Henry IV killed Richard II. (Richard II died in prison and more likely starved, yet he may have been murdered by his cousin.)

The Earl of Richmond was the battlefield commander at Bosworth Field. (He confined himself to politicking and left the fighting to the Earl of Oxford.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 8- Medieval Scotland


Braveheart: How Mel Gibson killed history for the sake of entertainment. Sure it has inspirational tidbits like “You can take our lands but you’ll never take our FREEEEEDDDDDOOOOMMMMMM!” Yet, it’s notoriously one of the most historically inaccurate movies ever made, which is sad considering that there aren’t a lot of movies about medieval Scotland. Yet, use any image of Mel Gibson in a kilt and blue paint, and medieval historians will scream in absolute horror. A historic travesty of 1995.

While most medieval movies usually take place in either England or France, movies on medieval Scotland deserve special mention since the most historically accurate movie on anything related to Scotland in the Middle Ages is a Disney Pixar film. Yes, you hear me. Scotland during the Middle Ages may not get much attention in movies, but when it does, they usually tend to be very historically inaccurate. Of course, most historians don’t mind when it comes to filming Macbeth because it’s a notable Shakespearean play with great literary value (though it makes Richard III look historically accurate in comparison). Besides, most people don’t know that Macbeth was a real guy. However, Macbeth was a real Scottish king who did come to power through killing his predecessor Duncan as well as ended up dead when Duncan’s son Malcolm challenged his rule. However, the historical Macbeth was never the guy depicted by Shakespeare nor were some of the characters either. Also, who knows what Lady Macbeth was like for there’s little information about her. Still, though a more historically accurate Macbeth would merit a very different story, most people don’t watch the play on its lack of historic merits anyway. Besides, Shakespeare probably had some excuse to depict such events as inaccurately as he did like James I, for instance. And then you got Braveheart which managed to win Oscars despite being one of the most historically inaccurate movies of all time that most of the errors I will list come from this very movie. And no other movie has ever made medieval historians cry in sheer anger and disgust over what Hollywood would ever consider such historical disasterpiece as something worthy of critical acclaim, let alone film awards. Many historians would think that Monty Python and the Holy Grail has more historical merits than this. And when you’re historical epic has more inaccuracies than a movie with killer rabbits, you have a problem. Sure, Gibson probably wasn’t aiming for historical accuracy and used the screenplay from a guy who claimed descent from William Wallace. However, now that this historical piece of shit may now be on its way on becoming a classic, most people unfamiliar with William Wallace and the Scottish Wars of Independence may now actually take Gibson’s vision of Scottish history seriously. Yes, unfortunately, people tend to believe things presented in historical movies regardless of the weight of inaccuracy. At least the guys making Spartacus had some concern for accuracy which is why the 1960 film is actually more historically reliable than the Howard Fast novel it’s based on. But you don’t see the concern for authenticity in Braveheart. And this it will be forever by trashed by medieval and Scottish historians as well as anyone who actually cares about history in general. I mean, I don’t expect historical movies to be 100% accurate, but not with an inaccuracy level like Braveheart. Nevertheless, here’s what Hollywood gets wrong about Scottish history.

Scottish men like William Wallace wore kilts during the Middle Ages. They also painted their faces and all armies wore uniforms in battle. (William Wallace’s men actually wore saffron shirts, not kilts for they didn’t come around until much later and so did army uniforms. Not to mention, they haven’t painted their faces since the Dark Ages.)

Prior to the 13th century, Scotland had always been subject to English rule. (Actually it had enjoyed a century of peace before Edward I tried to take it for himself when Scotland was in a messy political crisis regarding succession. The English were backstabbing encroachers, not overlords.)

Banquo and Fleance are the ancestors of the Stuart monarchs. (Shakespeare made up these guys to satisfy James I who was descended from Duncan.)

Bagpipes were outlawed in 13th century Scotland. (They weren’t and were very popular in England.)

There was no Stirling Bridge in the Battle that bears its name. (There too was a bridge, but Gibson wanted to save money. Also, Andrew Moray, the man instrumental in that battle is absent from the film.)

There were Irish conscripts at the Battle of Falkirk. (There’s no record of this.)

Most noblemen in Scotland were Gaels. (They were culturally similar to English nobles and would’ve dressed more like their English counterparts. Also, many of them were related to English royalty, spoke a Scottish dialect of English and/or Anglo-Norman French.)

The sons of Scottish knights dressed in rags. (Even poor Scots would know how to sew or at least was related to someone who did. Even poor people couldn’t afford to have their clothes disintegrate for being unhemmed.)

13th Century Scottish men had long hair they braided as well as tied bits of fur and feathers even though it was messy most of the time. (There’s no reason to think this.)

Pikes were used against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. (They were at Falkirk though.)


Macbeth was only King of Scotland for two years after he killed Duncan in his bed just to get his throne. (For one, Macbeth ruled Scotland for 17 years {which proves he wasn’t a weak ruler} and even spent a several month trip to receive a blessing from the Pope. He was also known as a good king known for his charity, not a bad king who slaughtered his friends {he was actually good to his friends}. As to Duncan’s death, Macbeth killed Duncan in battle because Duncan was encroaching on his territory so the motive was self-defense after a failed invasion in England. And it was Duncan who was the young, violent tyrant but Shakespeare couldn’t say that because King James I was descended by him. As for Lady Macbeth, she is almost a complete fabrication in which nothing is known about her than her name {Gruoch}, the fact she was married before, and that she had at least a son from that marriage. And that son would later succeed Macbeth before Duncan’s son Malcolm gained power and killed him mostly because he didn’t think the guy was a legitimate king.)

King Duncan was a wise old king. (Duncan was younger than Macbeth and was a worthless wastrel who the latter killed in a fair fight in battle on his land. So in reality, Duncan got what he deserved.)

King Malcolm III:

Everyone in Scotland seemed to accept Malcolm’s kingship. (He was able to seize the throne of Scotland because England was able to support him. Scotland actually resisted his rule because their standards differed considerably from England on what consists of royal legitimacy. Also, Macbeth’s stepson and friends also campaigned against Malcolm.)

King Alexander III:

King Alexander III died in 1280 without a son. (He died without a son in 1286 after falling off his horse {since the Scottish throne went to his young granddaughter Margaret of Norway [so the country was ruled by regents] until she died in 1290 on the way there} but he and his two sons were still alive by 1280. It was only after Margaret’s death in 1290 when his brother-in-law King Edward I got involved because the Scottish noblemen couldn’t trust each other and Scotland was in a political crisis as well as headed for civil war.)

William Wallace:

Scottish men like William Wallace wore kilts during the Middle Ages. They also painted their faces and all armies wore uniforms in battle. (William Wallace’s men actually wore saffron shirts, not kilts for they didn’t come around until much later and so did army uniforms. Not to mention, they haven’t painted their faces since the Dark Ages.)

William Wallace grew up as a poor man who became a great liberator and had an affair with English  Queen Isabella, which resulted in Edward III. He ended up captured by the English because of Robert Bruce’s betrayal and was hanged drawn and quartered. (Actually, William Wallace was a well-educated minor aristocrat whose dad actually fought for the English and owned land {though we don’t know who he was} and might have been a scholar or been on his way for a career in the Church. He may have used a longbow as a weapon of choice {unlike the sword he’s usually depicted with in Braveheart}. He briefly served as a Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland {it’s kind of like being a Steward of Gondor except that they didn’t rule by themselves} until his military reputation tanked at the Battle of Falkirk. He engaged in diplomatic correspondence with Lubeck and Hamburg as well as went on a diplomatic mission to France and Rome before returning to his home after the Scottish surrender in 1302. Not to mention, he was said to be Welsh since his name either means “Welsh” or “foreigner” so the notion of growing up a Scottish highlander is out of the question. Also, he certainly didn’t have an affair with Queen Isabella of England for she was ten and wasn’t even living in England yet {and younger than that during the Battle of Falkirk}, didn’t father Edward III who was born seven years after he died, Edward II was only thirteen, and he wasn’t directly betrayed by Robert Bruce either. And as for his method of execution, Wallace was hanged, cut open, castrated, chopped to pieces, and finally beheaded. And before that, he was stripped naked and dragged by a horse carriage by a rope around his ankles and afterwards dipped in tar and put on public display.)

William Wallace had easy access to large quantities of gasoline. At the battle of Falkirk, he apparently has a tanker truck parked behind the lines, so that he can wet down a broad stretch of the front-line as a death trap for the enemy. It was then set alight by flaming arrows, to set the enemy stuntmen on fire so that they can run around screaming while the flammable stunt clothing blazes merrily over their Nomex jumpsuits. William Wallace can also generally get his hands on fire starter whenever he wants to burn English soldiers to death in a cottage. [From A Common Place Book](You should know this isn’t true at all.)

William Wallace was called Braveheart. (Actually that was a nickname of his contemporary, Robert Bruce who would become Scotland’s eventual king and he only acquired the nickname after his death when his heart was carried by a general around his neck into battle. It was Robert Bruce’s heart that led the Scots into battle not Wallace’s.)

William Wallace was the architect of Scottish independence and was an all-around nice guy. Robert Bruce is overrated. (Wallace also raped women and burnt down schools with kids and monks still inside. Not only that, but he used conscription and was willing to hang those refusing to serve. As with Robert Bruce, he’s still one of Scotland’s national heroes and was far more successful than Wallace ever could be {though he still could be brutal to his enemies and manipulative if need be as well as got excommunicated for murdering his rival in a church}. Not to mention, Bruce never personally betrayed Wallace, ever because they never met in the first place. Also, Wallace didn’t initially support Bruce’s claim to the throne and backed the exiled Scottish King John Balliol who was held prisoner in the Tower of London {and later sent to France} who Bruce and his family considered an usurper. Not to mention, Bruce was originally playing on both sides for a while {for personal reasons} until the Battle of Stirling Bridge and didn’t establish full claim to the Scottish throne until after his Carlisle governor father died in 1304.)

Malcolm Wallace had two sons named John and William in 1280 in a town of Paisley. (He had three including his eldest also named Malcolm and he wasn’t a commoner either, assuming that Sir Malcolm of Elderslie was William’s father. Then again William Wallace’s dad could be named Alan of Ayershire {yet no contemporary evidence links him to either location}. Still, William Wallace only appears on the historic record from 1297 when he killed an English sheriff in Lanark {said in order to avenge his wife’s murder} to his death in 1305. So how many kids William’s father had was anyone’s guess.)

William Wallace’s father and brother John were executed by the English when William was a boy. (William lost his father as an adult while his brother John was executed a year after him.)

William Wallace returned to Scotland in 1296 after spending his adolescence abroad. (He never stepped foot out of Scotland until his 1297 invasion of Northern England.)

William Wallace carried out large-scale raids in the north of England and killed Edward I’s nephew in York. (While he did stage long scale raids in Northern England, he didn’t make it as south as York.)

William Wallace’s wife Murron died shortly after their wedding. After this, he killed the English Sheriff by slitting his throat. (It’s said they had two sons, if he had a wife which is very likely. Yet, legend says her name was Marion Braidfrute, though there is no solid evidence if he was married. As for the Sheriff, Wallace cut him to pieces with a sword while his men proceeded to burn two houses with English guards inside of them.)

William Wallace’s best friends were Hamish and his dad Campbell as well as Stephen of Ireland. (The first two are fictional characters while the latter’s existence is questioned. Also, Andrew Moray may be a better candidate though he’s absent in Braveheart though they did join forces before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.)

William Wallace was executed around the same time Edward I died. (Edward I would live for a couple more years and would die on campaign {not in bed as depicted in Braveheart}.)

The Irish fought with William Wallace. (Most Irish fought against him and certainly didn’t switch sides at Falkirk {though the Welsh archers threatened to but only out of fear}.)

Scottish nobles deserted William Wallace. (There’s no report of this happening, well, maybe with John Comyn and his supporters who did abandon him there but there’s no solid evidence. Oh, and he was opposed to fighting at Falkirk because it didn’t offer the advantages at Stirling Bridge.)

William Wallace was captured by the English at Edinburgh after being betrayed by Noble Craig and Robert Bruce’s old man. (The old man Robert Bruce was dead by Wallace’s capture while Craig never existed. Also, he was captured near Glasgow after being betrayed by Scotsman John Menteith.)

William Wallace had no intention to fight the English to free his country until his wife was killed by them. (He was already an outlaw against the English since he refused to sign the Ragman Roll from the very beginning. The English killing his wife would’ve angered him even more. Oh, and William Wallace would’ve never whipped out a concealed nunchaku, which is from China for God’s sake!)

William Wallace was clean shaven. (He had a beard and was at least 6 feet tall. But he’s played by Mel Gibson so I’ll let this slide.)

William Wallace was knighted after Stirling Bridge. (He was knighted a few years later.)

Robert Bruce:

Robert Bruce disowned his leprosy afflicted but dominating father. (There is no evidence Bruce’s old man had ever contracted it though it’s thought that Bruce himself might’ve suffered from it. Also, there’s no evidence whether Bruce disowned his father or whether he was dominated by his dad. Still, he was quite capable of making his own decisions and choices.)

The Scots won their independence when Robert Bruce changed his mind about a peace parley. (It was at the battle of Bannockburn after an English army arrived to lift the siege at Stirling Castle, nine years after Wallace’s death while engaging in guerrilla warfare for years, though Bruce would be crowned king a year after Wallace’s execution {though he was dead by the time actual independence would be won}. Also, Scottish independence didn’t last and Edward III managed to conquer more of Scotland than his grandfather ever had.)

Robert Bruce was the 17th person with the name in his family. (He was the 7th with the name and the 7th Lord of Annandale.)

Robert Bruce was present with King Edward I at Falkirk. (It’s likely he wasn’t there or at least did nothing significant. He was more likely at home in Carrick.)