Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Category By Themselves

At Historical Fiction Online, there's a new discussion centering on History's new series about the Crusades.  For those who haven't seen the advertising, it centers on the statement that "Of all of the wars fought over religion, the Crusades belong in a category by themselves" - and this statement is the focal point of the discussion.

My post:

If the point of a tag line is to market a show about the Crusades, a sensationalistic and narrowly interpreted view of history may well be a must.  I've seen the ads too, and it's not exactly the stuff of dissertations; it's entertainment.  That doesn't make it okay, but to hold this statement to any sort of scholarly analysis is beside the programmers' point.  In any case, the statement itself is one of those technically-defensible declarations like saying to a bad actor, "your performance was *interesting*" or "such-and-such (whatever) is unique."
Depending on how one sets up the concept and determination of "category", sure, the Crusades (as K**** points out, there is more than one way to define that designation, too) belong in one by themselves.  So does any war, so does any ruler, so does any leaf or molecule or system of planets.  It's a pretty meaningless phrase, but it *sounds* heavy with import, so it sells a show.  Nothing new - over millennia now, popular perception still trades on certain stereotypes, facile (mis)interpretations, and misconceptions galore.  This one, being empty, is probably a less important statement than the hard-trodden regurgitations and tropes that will probably comprise most of the content of the programming itself.

The History Channel is a station which also touts a show called "The Men Who Built America" (because, after all, women hadn't been invented in 18th- and 19th-century North America (and that is the only period in which this country's history is relevant - hah)).  They also, not for nothing, rarely broadcast anything to do with history at all anymore, much to a lot of electronic "nyah-nyah"-ing discussion and sneering.

It's not like these folks are anyone's idea of a go-to resource for serious historical scholarship.  I may even watch - if only to encourage the brand (history over pawn-focused "reality" teevee) ...

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