Why Do We Reenact? In Defense of Hollywood

There are many answers to the question: Why do we reenact?   There are probably as many answers as there are reenactors.   Most reenact at least partially because of a love of history, or at the very least love of something from the time period in question,  be it clothing or furniture or weapons or ideology.   If asked, most reenactors will tell you that they do it to educate the public.   A few brutally honest souls will tell you we do it so we can dress up and pretend to be from somewhere else for a while.

Reenactment as a hobby follows trends.   Some reenactors do one impression for their entire time in the hobby.   But many of us branch out into other time periods as the trends change.   As old favourites get less popular and there are fewer and fewer events, we’re almost forced to change time periods if we want to keep going to events.

As much as we shudder to admit it, these trends are often fueled by what’s popular at the box office.   Hollywood has long been the bane of reenactors’  getting myriad details wrong and often changing historical details to make a “better” story ? but it remains the driving force behind the trends in reenactment.   After Braveheart, everyone wanted to be in a kilt.   The Patriot did the same thing for Rev War reenactment.   Master and Commander made maritime reenacting the thing.   And of course the Pirates of the Carribean franchise has excited an interest in the Golden Age of Piracy.

As reenactors, are we mere slaves to Hollywood’s quasi-historical trends?   No.   But as particular time periods come to the notice of the general public, interest is per force generated in that period.   While this creates a plethora of Jack Sparrows at the Ren Faire, it has a positive effect as well.   Historical sites also want to capitalize on these trends.   This leads to the generation of more events and, therefore, more opportunities for us to reenact events from that time period.

Furthermore just like Jurassic Park generated an interest in archeology that lead to the discover of new fossil bones, effectively doubling the number of T. Rex skeletons extant, the general public’s interest in historical time periods ? engendered by movies ? increases interest in real historical sites and the events that occured at them.   This can only serve to stimulate much-needed donations to those often under-funded sites.

So the sites get more money, we get more events, and the public gets a chance to learn about the real history of the time period, not just the one perpetuated by Hollywood.

Not so bad, eh?

© 2006 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

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