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

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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.)

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

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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:

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.)

Zimbabwe:

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.)

Somalia:

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.)

Uganda:

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.)

Rwanda:

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.)

Libya:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.

Mongolia:

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.)

Tibet:

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).

Thailand:

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.)

Burma:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.)

Modern:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.)

Modern:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.)

Modern:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.

Islam:

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.)

Pre-Islamic:

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.)

Modern:

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.)