Hatfields and McCoys

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I loved the History channel’s mini series Hatfields and McCoys. I enjoyed it as an entertainment enthusiast, as a history buff, heck – I even enjoyed it as a PR professional, thinking about how much fun the History channel PR team must have had, touting the show’s ratings successes and promoting the show’s celebrities. Prior to its debut, I read something about the feud that existed between the show’s star Kevin Costner and the show’s director Kevin Reynolds (they had a falling out when Waterworld sunk) and feared for a minute that the show would be nothing more than a pathetic attempt by Costner to get back in the spotlight. Nothing could be further from the truth – the acting, production value, writing and overall experience of watching this masterpiece was a pure joy and I’m sad it is over.

Now that the show has wrapped its 3-night series – don’t worry, I won’t give anything away should some of you plan to catch it on repeat – I do want to talk about how well the program captured the essence of American life in the post Civil War era. It’s hard to imagine what life was like for our parents growing up, let alone what our country was like over a hundred years ago as it tried to heal from the wounds of its most devastating war. The character’s dedication to religion and their obsession with honor is portrayed in every scene, as is the time’s brutality and tendency towards violence. Sure does make me happy to live in a modern age where I’m not at risk of being scalped by a bounty hunter come to collect the ransom put on my head by a rival family. But that is what happened back then, and pretty routinely I might add. But I digress. It was a well done mini-series, one that I hope gets some recognition come awards season (maybe H&C will be this year’s Temple Grandin). And I always admire a TV show/movie/mini series that tackles a real historical event with accuracy. We all know that sometimes, the powers that be have to bend the truth ever so slightly in order to up the entertainment value. Here are some classic examples where the truth was slightly overlooked:

Gladiator – In the movie, Maximus (Russell Crowe) kills the Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) during an epic battle in the Colosseum. In real life, Commodus is killed in the bath by a wrestler named Narcissus.

Pocahontas – In the movie, Pocohontas (voiced by Irene Bedard) throws herself on John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) to save his life after the two become romantically involved. In real life, Pocohontas is only 10 or 11 at the time of her intervention only later to become romantically involved with and marry a different English settler, John Rolfe.

Braveheart – In the movie, William Wallace (again, Mel Gibson) beds the daughter-in-law of his enemy, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau). In real life, at the time the movie is set, Princess Isabelle was a baby.

Bottom line, sometimes it’s wiser to pick up a book and read the facts about a historical event, rather than trust that Hollywood has given you the whole story. Now, while you’re thinking of all the historical events you need to look up to ensure you have the whole story, tell us which actor from History’s Hatfields and McCoys is your favorite.

Kevin Costner
Bill Paxton
Tom Berenger
Mare Winningham

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