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Burriss on Media: Movie Reality

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  I remember back in high school I had to do a report about Julius Caesar, and for one of my references I used Shakespeare’s play. My teacher gently pointed out that Shakespeare was a poet, not an historian, and in the future I should limit my references to authoritative sources.

In this light, many critics are complaining that two recent movies, “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty” don’t actually represent reality, and in the case of “Zero Dark Thirty,” may, in fact, cause substantial damage to American prestige. So I guess we need to make sure everyone understands the role of reality in the production of entertainment.

Even if the introduction to a movie says it is based on real events, that is no reason to think the movie is representing reality. After all, does anyone really think all of the dialogue in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” on in Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” is what all those people really said?

Let’s take another example. I was recently talking with some people from NASA about the Apollo program, and the movie “Apollo 13.” They all agreed the movie was very accurate, but not one seemed to question the validity of the conversations among the astronauts which were, for the most part, made up.

Then there is the notion that somehow movies such as “Zero Dark Thirty” should be sanitized so as not to provide what might be termed “aid and comfort” to our enemies,” particularly since there are accusations the movie has significant factual errors. Of course, what is “factual” and what isn’t is open to debate.

I have in front of me three different books dealing with killing of Osama ben Laden. All three were written by so-called experts. And all three contain significant differences, including such things as how and where ben Laden was shot, where the helicopters were, and how the compound was entered.

Are movies real? Well, that is an interesting question. The events portrayed in a movie may be based on reality, but as for the interpretation, that’s up to the director, and the audience.

I’m Larry Burriss.