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Is Hollywood's Revisionist Take on Historical Facts Engaging or Confusing Kids?

Tara McNamara, editor of KidsPickFlicks.com, guests on our Fandango Freshly Popped Blog with her take on the movie industry changing historical facts to tell stories.

With America celebrating its independence this weekend, the multiplex has a multitude of patriotic choices in film. That’s because Hollywood is fascinated with U.S. history, especially when it comes to changing it.

For instance, X-Men: First Class teaches that mutants were actually the ones who averted the Cuban missile crisis. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon it turns out NASA sent a mission to the moon to explore an alien spacecraft. And, in Super 8, Americans finally find out what really went down in Area 51.
 
Revisionist history is a trend sweeping the movie industry because it’s fun and ups the stakes for fictional characters to be involved in real history. But, is it messing with our kids’ minds? If Hollywood gets its facts wrong, will the next generation really believe that Captain America helped bring an end to World War II?
 
In the case of ridiculously fictional characters, any kid old enough to see a PG-13 movie should be able to recognize that superheroes and Autobots don’t exist, therefore, they didn’t impact history.  However, what about movies that are more realistic in their approach, like the PG-rated National Treasure movies? After all, thanks to The Da Vinci Code and JFK, many adults now think Opus Dei is a shadowy organization and that Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy, even though the filmmakers admit many of the “facts” in the movie are fiction.
 
Potentially more concerning is another filmmaking technique on the rise: “found footage.” Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield may have been messing with the viewer, but those films weren’t messing with history. That changes with August’s Apollo 18 which has Dimension honcho Bob Weinstein claiming the footage, which reveals an alien infestation brought an end to U.S lunar missions, is all real.
 
As a parent, Hollywood taking liberties with history as a plot device is fine with me. I’m ecstatic if a popcorn movie gets my kid to ask questions and seek the truth by cracking open a book (or more realistically, looking it up on Wikipedia). The movie serves as a conversation starter between parents and kids and stirs up pop culture (specifically, the History Channel) to talk about the historical accuracy. I’m not sure I’m ready to call Michael Bay “Educator of the Year,” but I believe the revisionist history trend in film may be one of the few times Hollywood does more good than harm.
 
What do you think? By changing historical facts, are filmmakers creating a generation of more engaged or more confused kids?
 
To see what kids think about movies, go to www.KidsPickFlicks.com.
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