… R-Truth interrupts Vince and Austin. Truth comes out dressed like a Confederate soldier and is singing a tune about Little Jimmy. Truth says he’s supposed to apologize for what he did last week. Vince shows us a clip of Truth berating fans last week. Truth says he’s a good little Truth and apologizes to Big Jimmy, Little Jimmy and the soda he threw. Truth repeats that he’s sorry. Austin says he should be sorry for dressing up like a jackass. Truth says he’s dressed like this because he knows where he’s at – Richmond, Virginia. Truth calls it the capitol of the Confederacy and rambles on, calling the people inbred rednecks. A “you suck” chant breaks out. Truth says the Confederacy “succeeded” from the United States, so tonight, he is “succeeding” from WWE. Truth says they can keep the title match. After tonight, WWE won’t make anymore money off him. Vince asks Truth if R is his real first name and asks how to spell it. They go on when The Miz’s music hits and out he comes. Miz asks “really?” as he walks to the ring.
We all know that certain Civil War narratives die hard, none more so than the black Confederate myth. While it will continue to spread on the Web and rear its ugly head from time to time in various popular forums it will never gain legitimacy in our most respected private and public historical institutions. This fact has nothing to do with a conspiracy to conceal the facts from the general public or some vaguely defined liberal bias and everything to do with what we know about this subject.
I say half-hearted because I only made it through the first hour of the movie. It was much worse than I had anticipated, but before proceeding. Of course, I understand that I was not the target audience for this documentary film. The problems for me started with the opening scenes, which placed the viewer on the battlefield on the morning of the first day without any context whatsoever. I didn’t find such a move to be dramatic in any way, just confusing. It goes without saying that I didn’t learn anything new about the battle, but I did appreciate the attempt to highlight the experiences of eight individuals; unfortunately, the script was so disjointed that I found it impossible to identify with anyone in the film. At one point the issue of escaped slaves was raised and a moment later was dropped. It seemed completely removed from the broader narrative.
Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, GETTYSBURG strips away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War to present the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in a new light–a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men who put everything on the line in defense of their vision of the American future. Cinematic in scope, GETTYSBURG is an information-packed look at the turning points, strategic decisions, technology and little-known facts surrounding the battle. Developed in collaboration with highly esteemed Civil War historians, GETTYSBURG reflects hundreds of individual accounts of the battle–the unique voices of struggle, defeat and triumph that tell the larger story of a bitterly conflicted nation. [Click here for a preview.]
Will this movie really highlight what was a “visceral, terrifying, and deeply personal experience?” Wasn’t Ted Turner’s Gettysburg an example of just such a movie or is the difference here that the special effects will set the Scott production apart? I guess in the end I have trouble believing that any Civil War movie can strip away “the romanticized veneer of the Civil War” entirely. Our memory of Gettysburg is wrapped up in all kinds of romantic memes from “Brother v. Brother” to “A Battle that Decided the Fate of a Nation.” We don’t have a Civil War apart from our romantic notions that define its continued significance and meaning.
I’ve taken a great deal of heat for much of my commentary on how Civil War battlefield preservation is typically framed for public consumption. The most recent example can be found here. This morning I read John Hennessy’s description of a recent NPS event that marked the anniversary of Stonewall Jackson’s wounding at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. Some background for the event:
The program had its genesis in an article that appeared in one of the Civil War magazines (I believe Blue and Gray, but could be wrong). The writer had earlier done celestial calculations showing how and why the tides at Tarawa had been so exceptionally and disastrously difficult during the amphibious landing there in November 1943. His latest calculations showed that the arrangement of celestial bodies on May 2, 1996 would match precisely those of May 2, 1863, the night of Stonewall Jackson’s wounding at Chancellorsville–same moonrise, same moon phase, etc. Though amazed that anyone had the time to figure such a thing out, the park staff–atuned to subtle connections like that–thought it was all pretty cool, and so we decided to do a program at the site of Jackson’s wounding that night, May 2, 1996. We issued the standard press releases about the event and prepared for it like a hundred others.