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|Index||21 reviews in total|
I teach history for a living, so I wanted to watch America: The story of us to see if it would be a classroom resource worth buying. I watched 5 hours in and I simply couldn't take it anymore. The people they signed up to comment on history are simply bizarre... Sheryl Crow? P Diddy? Michael Douglas? Just because you played the President in a movie doesn't mean you're qualified to tell us about history. It looks like they spent a lot of money on CGI but chose the strangest things to produce graphics of. If you like to see graphics of hulls cutting through water, this is your show. I realize they have limited time and it's hard to get everything in there but they spent 50 minutes on the seminal moment in United States history (the Civil War) and 20 of those minutes were on embalming, photography and battlefield medicine. Ulysses S. Grant was mentioned 1 time in an advertisement, zero times during the show. Poor segues, little cohesion and little real history here.
I declare an interest. I am British, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, or tea, if you like. The history is more like propaganda for an idea of American history than an assessment of it. For example, General Colin Powell makes the pint that African-Americans fought in the Revolution, on the side of the colonists. True. But it is also true that more of them fought on the British side and for a very good reason. It was clear that the British were moving towards abolishing the slave trade and slavery itself, after the Sommersett case, whereas the colonists were clearly going to keep slavery. In fact the theme of the series is the "story of freedom", or rather the American project to achieve freedom for all, based on individual character, hard work etc. But why did it remain a "project" for so long, rather than the reality? The slaves worked hard, but they didn't get the reward. And the US was the last country but one in the West to abolish slavery, the last being Brazil. The film is no doubt well-intentioned and believes in its own theme. But history is always more complicated than simple narratives can convey. The truth is that the colonists were more concerned with breaking out of the 13 colonies to move West, taking the Indians land in the process. The colonists had been confined to the 13 colonies by the royal decree of George III which declared all other land to be native title. And the southern states fought to preserve slavery. And why contributions from actors such as Michael Douglas? because he played the president in a film? Why not have professional historians, even disagreeing with each other? And it curious that more he positive points are not made: that in the nineteenth century the US was the most democratic country in the world?
I was sorely disappointed with this highly touted History Channel
offering. At first, I was disturbed mainly by reenactments which were
too often grossly inaccurate, but as the series began to cover eras and
events that I was more familiar with, it became apparent that the
narrative was also misleading. (There are too many incidents to relate,
but was Lincoln REALLY "best known," prior to his presidential
election, for loosing two bids for the Senate? What a misrepresentation
of his political life--including two years in Congress--let alone his
reputation as a public speaker.) Some "talking heads" had an aura of
authority to speak on the events being covered, but too many were
simply "celebrities" with apparently no expertise, and sometimes,
little relevance to the current topic. One has to wonder why certain
events were chosen to depict an era or turning point in the Nation's
history for any reason other than their sensationalist value.
This is History for those who can only tolerate short snippets and catchy graphics. Worse than being over simplified, too much is simply misleading in the way it is presented. Alas, this is pretty much what the "New" History Channel produces now. It is sensationalism over substance; entertainment over education. Such a shame...
From the narrator mispronouncing names like Powhatan and Antietam to
repeating well-refuted legends such as buckets of blood and human flesh
at the Donner Party campsite, I spotted one factual error after another
in this series. The show even goes so far as to speculate that modern
day computers are based on 19th century textile machine "technology"
but states it as if it's fact. Add to that the annoying "shaky cam"
effects during action scenes and flashing camera cuts and it all adds
up to colossal disappointment which outweighs anything good the series
might have to offer.
I was pleased to see some attention given to the presence and contributions of free blacks early in our nation's history. Native Americans were also presented in a more even-handed manner than I've seen in other historic shows. Some of the special effects, such as the computer simulations of the growth of cities, were well done. Other special effects done in the manner of "CSI" were unnecessary and seemed out of place.
The commentators were a mish-mash of celebrities and "experts" with only a handful of them adding any kind of useful or factual insights. Again, so much of the information was incorrect or slanted to support certain modern day perspectives that it was difficult to know what was credible and what wasn't which, in my humble opinion, makes this a pretty useless history show.
When I first saw the ads for this program, I was highly interested in it and made plans to watch. After viewing the first few episodes, I couldn't stand to see any more. It would have been a really great series if they had taken it seriously and done a much better job on incorporating as much important US history as possible, even if it meant making the series longer. What they ended up doing is focusing and repeating a few events and completely leaving out others. They spent a lot of time on the Civil War and entrepeneurs such as Carnegie. It's not that those weren't important events,indeed they were, but by being so repetitive in their coverage they left out other events that deserved screen time. I never saw much mention of the War of 1812, good coverage of our forefathers and I could be wrong, but I don't think they even covered women's suffrage! If they were going to set out to create a program that truly encompassed the United States' history and its people then they should have understood what all in entailed and planned accordingly. What truly disappointed me was the face that they felt the need to use celebrity testimony instead of credible historical experts, educated people that are the backbone of this country. What do P Diddy or Sheryl Crow have to do with the study of history (other than their part in the *entertainment* aspect)? This is being shown in classrooms, I understand: is that what we should teach our children? If you want to learn history, look to our celebrities and movie stars? Completely ridiculous. I was wanting this to be an awesome series, which it could have been. Instead I ended up having my intelligence insulted and my time wasted.
"We are pioneers. And, trailblazers. We fight for freedom. We transform
our dreams into the truth. Our struggles will become a nation."
That is the quote that narrator Liev Schreiber uses to open up each episode of this six-part 12-hour miniseries from the History (formerly known as The History Channel). I watched it on Netflix, so my miniseries was split up into 12 40-some minute episodes. I'm not too sure if I could bare watching it with about 15 minutes of added corporate advertising.
I will admit that I was not one of those kids to pay close attention in my American History classes growing up. Sure, I did well with my grades, but that was only the result of general knowledge for the history of America. I can tell you right now that someone with a more sophisticated intelligence towards our country's history (i.e. a American History major) would most likely turn this off in a heartbeat. Or, perhaps they'd leave it on just to kill time or to play a drinking game with. So, with all that being said, I am no where near knowledgeable enough to critique the information in this documentary. Although intensely simplistic, I actually did learn a few things here and there (e.g. Hollywood use to be called Hollywoodland and the Statue of Liberty's construction). Having the knowledge of most of the facts already only strengthened my reasoning behind why certain things happened and almost gave me thought of gratefulness for those Americans that took risks.
I do hope people take this documentary with a grain of salt. Regardless to the accuracy of the events and dates that took place (which I assume are completely accurate), this documentary seemed to have a social and political rhetoric towards the corporation. I'd hope that a complete history of America in a documentary would be nonpartisan. A documentary that tries too hard to entertain with low-budget CGI, like this one, doesn't work. A documentary that utilizes the input of celebrities, professional athletes, political pundits, and television personalities doesn't generate much credibility, but instead conjures it. Besides the duration of the series, if this was a true historical documentary on the complete history of America, then it would have the input of professional historians and not celebrity figures. It's the exact same phenomenon as celebrity endorsement in advertising.
This documentary could also be called "The Rise of American Capitalism." It's truly a bittersweet economic system that has both fueled and hurt our American ways. The Story of Us seemingly concentrates on the entrepreneurial and private wealth. And, as the documentary concluded, we have only just begun. Besides the hippy Baby Boomers, not enough mention of the collective struggle for social justice as a whole is present. Although highly important, just the mention of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery is all the social justice we get. The Story of Us suggests that the Revolutionary War was won because of great generals and clever military tactics alone. The idea of anti-taxation, along with the right to bear arms, are presented as at the heart of the revolution. Thomas Jefferson's role in writing the Declaration of Independence is skipped and Thomas Paine is barely mentioned. Not even the struggle to create American Constitution is completely talked about. Just a few historical points that even I can point out.
I was also simply annoyed by the repetition of events mentioned after they had already been explained. Especially later on in the series did this occur. The documentary forcefully compared the innovation of the first settlers to those of today.
After I found out that schools can obtain a copy for free, I still can't decide if I'd want this to be shown to school children. I do think they'll learn something and generate some opinion of their own though. It's a tough call. I'm going democratic on this by deeming it necessary that the school board decides. Or, perhaps, even the teacher him or herself could. Also, note that this documentary does include some graphic material that could be inappropriate for real young children.
With all the criticism being said, I still do wish that EVERY American watches this series. That couldn't hurt. Some still think we have 48 states or other crazy ignorant statements like that.
But, like with everything, please do keep an open-mind.
I suppose I should stop complaining and just look up some books by historian authors to read. I will also be looking to PBS for some real American history documentaries real soon.
Don't bother. The commentaries kept getting more and more ridiculous. I couldn't care less about Melissa Etheridge's take on US history. The history itself was disjointed and boring. There are so many interesting aspects of United States history. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to make US history more boring than my high school teacher. I was wrong. Who did their editing? I love history. I was really looking forward to this series. I expect great things from the History Channel. I couldn't have been more disappointed. Watch American Experience on PBS. It will show you events in American history you never knew happened. It will also be commented on by people who actually know something about history.
I agree with the other reviewers that commentators like Sheryl Crow, P
Diddy, and Michael Douglas are absurd. And while these people are far
from being "experts," I have an even greater objection to people like
Al Sharpton and Sean Hannity. These two, despite being on the opposite
sides of the ideological spectrum, can be grouped together as because
unlike the other non-experts, these 2 are dangerous; they closer to
enemies of the state then "experts." Al Sharpton is an instigator,
fabricator and inciter (remember Tawana Brawley?). Sean Hannity, as a
high-school drop-out is undereducated and divisive figure who
represents the worst of what America has to offer. In my opinion, this
man (and I use the term loosely) is one of the most un-American figures
in today's society. He incites racism, division, and elitism which are
completely at odds with the American narrative and ideals. What in the
world could they be thinking by including a man whose values are
professed to be purely American, but in reality are antithetical to the
core American values of charity, equality, liberty, and justice. He is
what the Father of our Country, George Washington, warned us about when
he warned us to be wary of "the impostures of pretended patriotism."
Hannity is a self-ordained patriot who cloaks the invective he spews in
Americanism and distorts what true Americans, like those who HAVE
served our Country, know America is about. I would have liked to use
this to stimulate historical discussion with my young daughter, but the
inclusion of Sean Hannity is a deal-breaker for me. I wouldn't let this
fraud teach my kids to floss, let alone let him comment about what it
means to be an American. And what's the deal Margaret Cho and the guy
from Pawn Stars? Cho is a comedian and one of the worst ones at that.
She has no business in any history production. I don't know if the
producers were desperate, to find 'celebrities' to comment, but in any
case these 2 certainly don't qualify as celebrities. They should have
gotten Kathy Griffin-she is head and shoulders above them, making at
least to the height of the D-List.
Bottom line: Save yourself time and frustrationavoid this show and read a history book.
The beginning was actually quite promising. Unfortunately by the 5th
episode I started wondering why I am wasting my time. Inaccurate,
incredibly chaotic, choice of events that shape the nation and the
country is at least stunning. Important events are omitted, completely
useless events are presented as crucial for the history. All wrapped in
a tale that a mom reads to her 4yo child to make him sleep. As somebody
said - sesame street history.
I am disappointed. It's supposed to be targeted to young American kids but seriously I wouldn't want my kid to learn from such shows, it might be not that bad for foreigners for whom the real history of the US is not that important. It has very low educational value and not much higher entertaining value. Long story short - if you have nothing better to do then go ahead, watch it but bear in mind that it's not as much the exact history as the grandpa's tale for kids.
Why have commentary from actors, mayors and former mayors? Why not use
actual historians even if they have conflicting views? There are no
sources cited, only opinion and the constant referring to the
Continental Army as a 'band of rebels' reduces the importance of the
Continentals to being just blithering rabble-rousers. Paul Revere was a
political extremist?... as were John Adam, Thomas Jefferson and Ben
Franklin. Really? Far too much Progressive propaganda in this waste of
film for my tastes, especially when the claims made by this series are
so easily refuted by reputable sources that go well beyond the dubious
opinions presented as fact.
This series is a vast waste of time. Try John Adams (the series) or even the fantastic and epic The Patriot (Mel Gibson) as they deal with more fact than the ridiculous show reviewed here in.
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