The other day, I concluded the first of a four-part lecture series on the American Civil War for Brookdale. We started with the causes of the war and ended right at the start of the Peninsula Campaign. When it was over, a few participants came up to me to chat. Mainly a greeting, maybe saying they enjoyed it, or shared a trip they took to a battlefield. But the last person waited until everyone was gone. She said she had a question. “I didn’t want to ask this earlier because you know how people get, but do you see any similarities between now and right before the Civil War began?” My short answer was yes. She was no doubt referring to a few slides I had covering the antebellum years of our history, regarding differences in society. We seem to forget that the lines were not just drawn between pro and anti slavery, but the differences in lifestyles and views aside from that were just too great. Part of me wanted to relate it to now, but it was the first class and, well, you know how people get.
The Minions are cute. They’re adorable. They’re evil. Well, maybe not exactly evil, but through their stupidity and drive to serve the world’s most powerful master, they usually end up not working for someone you’d invite to Thanksgiving (except the first guy on the list). As seen in the Minions movie last summer, they have been around forever. They first sought to serve a gigantic T-Rex, the world’s biggest and baddest dinosaur since no humans were around. They ended up accidentally killing him by pushing him into a volcano. Then came Count Dracula, who by all accounts, they served well. Unfortunately, when it came time to celebrating the Count’s 357th birthday, they killed him too by allowing sunlight into his castle. Lastly, they ended up in Napoleon’s Army during his ill-fated invasion of Russia. Napoleon’s fate was left up in the air, but it didn’t look good: totally by accident they kind of blew up the general with a cannon.
The Minions then wandered throughout history searching for their next “Big Boss”. After struggling, next thing you know, they end up in the 1960’s. First in New York, then in England. But what happened in the meantime? What mischief, destruction, and evil-doing were the Minions up to between the Napoleonic Wars and the 1960’s? They’re not exactly the best workers because their stupidity and absent-mindedness almost always leads to the death of their boss or some kind of massive catastrophe for whoever they are serving (and no, I checked; they never worked for the US Government). After doing some serious research and digging, I have uncovered four other instances of them popping up throughout history. So, peel back a banana, relax, and enjoy.
I blame Andrew Johnson. Had Reconstruction in the post-Civil War era in American history not been such an abysmal failure, perhaps we would not be in the shape we are currently in when it comes to race relations in this country. Putting modern ignorance and our ability to be so easily distracted aside, Reconstruction was presented with a gaping wound that required surgery. Instead, they slapped a band-aid on it and called it a day. Over the last 150 years, that band-aid started to peel off, and the response has been to keeping pushing it back and rubbing it down, and maybe putting a piece of tape over the ends. Now, with various race-related incidents nationwide over the last year, we are confronted with the same situation. Are we finally going to go in for surgery, or do we just put another band-aid on it? I am not getting into the Confederate Flag debate on this blog. As a Civil War scholar, I will not allow myself to stoop down to discuss what a popularized notion of the flag is, and the history that attaches itself to that. However, if you are of the mindset that simply demanding what the masses believe to be a racist symbol to come down is the answer to ending racism in this country, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are seriously mistaken.
Due to the fact that I often blog about movies and history, I have decided to share this following article with you, which was written as a research paper for a history course I took this semester, called Boom and Bust: The United States, 1870-1940. We were allowed to research and write about any topic in that time period as long as we could tie it into the “boom and bust” aspect of the course, which is why it makes references to such terminology hroughout. If anyone would like the complete bibliography used for writing this project, please contact me and I would be more than happy to furnish it for you. I also left in the many in-text citations.
There are only two directors known to film-making who I consider to be artists before directors: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Stanley Kubrick, the latter of which is regarded among the greats of cinema for his achievements in storytelling and sometimes groundbreaking displays of visual effects or impacts left on a certain genre. This is a director, however, who only helmed 13 feature films in his nearly 50 year career, yet he left no stone unturned. He tackled WWI and corrupt army politics with Paths to Glory, a rebel slave in Ancient Rome with Spartacus, an illicit affair between an older man and a young girl, in the then-shocking Lolita, a dark comedy about the Cold War in the classic Dr. Strangelove, before dazzling us with the science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey—we haven’t even reached the 1970’s yet. With that new decade came a dystopian look at gang-ridden England with A Clockwork Orange before changing pace to direct the slower, richer, Revolutionary War-era epic Barry Lyndon. In the 1980’s, he left his mark on the horror film circuit, by turning the genre into a work of art with The Shining, before he directed the anti-war Vietnam film Full Metal Jacket. After taking a break from Hollywood, he made his return in 1999 with the ultra-mysterious and downright confusing-as-all-hell Eyes Wide Shut, before dying later that year. He left us with a wealth of incredible films, ones which are studied and dissected, but he also left us with a plethora of unfinished works as well.