Realism in Medieval Fantasy Movies and TV Shows

Every genre of movie makes mistakes and spreads historical misconceptions whether intentional or not. So for me to nit-pick medieval movies and TV shows specifically is kind of bias, but I’m doing it anyway because medieval stuff is awesome and I’d love to see more realism in this genre of film.

I’ve been following a lot of other bloggers who specialize in this and they all seem to have similar things to say. They wonder why medieval movies and TV shows are still so inaccurate when we have medievalists and HEMA practitioners spreading truth about the subject. The average person couldn’t care less and even TV show producers have their excuses, but I still have mine, too, and won’t stop complaining because this is what I do best. After all, I’m the Complaining About TV Expert¬†here to make TV klickable again!

So here’s a list of six things I’d love to see more of in medieval-esque and pseudo-medieval drama across all boards:

  1. Castles that are plastered and painted.
  2. Armor that actually works against arrows and swords.
  3. Kings who have hundreds of officials doing the work for them.
  4. Historical farming and village structure.
  5. More dukes and counts with their own heraldic devises and not just kings ruling everything.
  6. medieval diet and customs expressed accurately.

So What’s Wrong With Historical Accuracy and Realism in Movies and TV Shows So Far?

First of all, I could have made that list hundreds of points longer but no one would read that. I could go into the architecture and clothing of medieval people and how they changed across time and place, but we need to focus on the basics first. Even such simple things as proper sword technique are highly disregarded in almost all medieval themed entertainment. It’s a shame that people who love to produce entertainment that’s trying to be medieval don’t actually do proper due diligence and research. Of course the same goes for every field where experts exist, but in historical TV shows especially it seems no one cares if what they’re watching is accurate and even worse other people actually think what they’re watching is true!

So let’s make more noise about this. On my blog I like to rant about all fields, but this is special to me because I find the medieval fascinating for whatever reason. If you find medieval stuff fascinating, too, and would like to see more realism in your entertainment then I suggest you start a blog of your own and rant your head off. The only other option besides trying to get across to the people who make this entertainment is producing entertainment of your own and most people can’t afford to do that unless they dedicate their whole lives to it. So join me in this quest to see more medieval realism on TV and let’s make a difference!

Reality vs. What Hollywood Thinks We Expect

The reasons why historical movies and TV shows are very unrealistic is because there is a big difference between reality and what producers expect we think is reality. They don’t want to show us what’s real. They want to show us what we expect to see in order to give us comfort. After all, if we saw true reality it might be uncomfortable.

But I want to argue this is backwards thinking and has been going on for too long. I demand more reality in my movies and TV shows because I desire to learn more about the real world. When I watch a TV show about cops in NY I don’t want to be fed a bunch of BS. I want to learn cool facts!

The reality might show real historical cases being solved accurately, but TV, of course,w ill show us some CSI: Miami-type nonsense that would make no sense in the real world.

So the more we expect to see actual facts in our visual entertainment, the more it will appear. Let’s help this go along faster by telling all our friends about this issue. So long as the masses continue to expect to see BS in their entertainment because it makes them comfortable, the more people like me will have less to watch. I’m really sick of seeing unrealistic stuff in my movies and TV shows and it’s about time for change!

The first post we did talks more about this if you’re curious.

Why We Need More Black & White Television Shows

I’m not an expert on early 20th century film, but I have watched enough black and white movies to know why more black and white shows today would be freaking awesome!

There are many things color films can do better than black and white films, like showing the flowers in a meadow for instance, but black and white films can also do things that color films can’t do!

My three favorite things that black and white films can do that color films can’t do are:

  1. Maximize the expression of hardcore, rugged faces.
  2. Add a level of coolness you can’t get another way.
  3. Make shadows pop like physical objects.

I’ve thought of some crazy ideas for black and white television shows over the years. But the people making it have to do it right. The people watching for the first time have to see all those cool things mentioned above that only black and white films can do. In other words, if a black and white show was to be successful today, it would need to be “optimized” to provide outlets for all the awesome aspects of black and white film. It would need to show a lot of shadows, a lot of grim faces with a range of expressions. Scruffy eyebrows and misty alleys. Lightning, mist and rain. Show only what looks good in black and white, like gargoyles on gnarly walls as mist drifts by, and swords clanging. Sparks flying. Black and white does that the best!

One of my favorite black and white films is Citizen Kane. The beginning scene opens up so beautifully! You could have a whole movie with that kind of grim cinematography you see in the first two minutes of Citizen Kane. Go and watch it and tell me it ain’t the most beautiful two minutes ever. Seeing the old building covered in mist behind the chain-link fence made me think of what an old castle covered in mist behind an epic, personal 1 vs. 1 sword duel would like look filmed the same way. If done right, a black and white film can be the dankest thing you’ve ever seen. The dank is good!

So who wants to start a petition and complain with me: “Why isn’t there more black and white TV shows, huh?”

Let’s complain in all the forums till we see a change! Until TV is Klickable again!

Why are Tow Truck Drivers on TV Always Balding, Fat, wearing Overalls?

The complaining about TV experts have really found a strange subconscious trope in television here. When is the last time you remember a tow truck driver on TV being a normal skinny dude with nice cloths and a polite voice? Why do they always need to sound gruff with their belly button somehow showing even though they’re wearing overalls? This is a major science problem the masses need to handle at once for the benefit of the future of mankind!

It doesn’t cease to amaze me the kind of bizarre subconscious labels we can put onto a profession as a species. Most of the people who drive tow trucks that I’ve met didn’t wear overalls and chew on a rod of wheat. Maybe I’m thinking mostly of old black and white TV shows but even modern ones always have tow truck drivers looking like ex convicts who couldn’t fit in at the motorcycle club. A friend of mine from high school became a tow truck driver and she’s a normal skinny Asian lady. I’m so proud of her. She’s 4 feet tall and going around hauling the cars of real wheat chewing hicks out on the country roads of inner British Columbia, Canada. Why can’t TV tow truck people be more interesting like her? She also plays field hockey!

I swear, the next time I see a guy with half his hair missing and a stained set of overalls hanging loosely on his body swagger out of a tow truck on TV I’m going to eat another piece of pizza and laugh at how ridiculous this whole situation is. Can you really blame me for complaining about this on a blog? I’m mean, like … come on!

If you want to see what real tow truck people look like go find a random tow truck website. I did this for an hour before deciding to write on this serious topic, and almost died laughing. I found a bunch of good ones, but my favorite is:

You know, there’s just something I like about it. But back to the topic here. I mean, what are script writers dotting down when they come up with their stories. Do they just know that a scene wouldn’t make sense without a tow truck driver in it so they just close their eyes and every single one of them envisions the same exact thing–a balding, large, middle-aged gruff man who doesn’t speak all that well and likes to chew on things? What’s wrong with the world?

I always say this, but “when I write” about a tow truck driver, I’m going to do us true complainers a big favor and make the person female, dressed smartly, using an educated vocabulary, smells good, wears glasses, likes to collect delicate wine, reads at night, and confuse every single human in the universe by doing so! TV watchers will look at this tow truck driver and they just won’t be able to wrap their heads around it. Their heads might even explode. Only you, my lovely readers, will understand and your lives will be saved.

Once again thank you for tuning into a wacky night of complaining about TV. We’re the complaining about TV experts, signing off! Until next time, we’ll be working to make TV klickable again!

We Need HEMA in Medieval Movies and Shows!

If you enjoy medieval-esque movies then you’re probably familiar with Hollywood swordplay choreography and how awesome it looks. I must admit it can look pretty cool. But here I’m going to argue that that fancy swordplay doesn’t belong in a medieval movies. Sure, keep it in movies that aren’t medieval and have swords like Kill Bill and Deadpool, but medieval shows should sport HEMA if they wish to stay relevant in the future! Why? Because there is a “renaissance” in Medieval Studies and people are crying out loud for realism, authenticity, historical accuracy and lack of anachronistic multivalence. People want more verisimilitude, not hokey-pokey fake stuff, especially in medieval movies!

What’s being done about this? I did some research and found out that a lot is actually being done to see more HEMA in movies and shows. And in case you don’t know what HEMA is, it stands for historical European martial arts. It’s a rather new phenomenon, as students and practitioners look up translated copies of real medieval treatises on sword fighting and other forms of fighting like wrestling and axe-play. In forums you can catch the dumbfounded tone of inquisitors as they wonder out loud why in the world there isn’t a medieval movie with HEMA in it yet. After all, HEMA done right looks a lot better than fake Hollywood swordplay.

movies with HEMA

One of my favorite movements in this regard that I discovered quite recently is LitHEMA (fictional literature with historical European martial arts). I couldn’t find any LitHEMA books, but the blogger I found that talks about it hopes it will become a norm in popular media, and he makes good points about how it’s needed and why. But LitHEMA isn’t enough to settle this problem.

We need HEMA practitioners to be more outspoken if they wish to see their beloved art represented in movies and shows. I believe Game of Thrones would be a lot more popular among the academic type if it had HEMA. Hollywood swordplay is very unrealistic as it sacrifices function for artistic appeal by implementing big heavy telegraphed sword cuts and fancy spin moves. Real swordplay is very conservative, but it looks awesome when people use the real sword techniques like the squinting cut and various historical stances and guards.

As an expert about complaining about TV, I have to say this here is one of my biggest annoyances. Why isn’t there any HEMA in shows yet? I have two major answers to that question:

  1. HEMA is still fairly young and unheard of for most people. Since movie makers are older and still have yet to be replaced by younger generations for the most part, they’re used to doing things the way they’ve always been done. Movie makers don’t care as much about being historically accurate as they do about giving their audience what they believe they want. That’s why we need more people who WANT realistic swordplay in movies to raise their voices more often.
  2. The way things have always been done since the first black and white sword movie is using 19th-century fencing techniques in lieu of HEMA because at that time HEMA didn’t exist yet. Scholars were aware of medieval combat treatises but this sports culture centered around them hadn’t been established yet, and many scholars had yet to translate these Old German manuscripts into the vernacular, which meant they weren’t accessible by the average person or even a dedicated movie producer. 19th-century fencing was and still is an Olympic sport, and so it’s not strange that they would use what they know rather than what they didn’t know to represent swordplay. As movies developed, 19th-century fencing techniques merged with the art of creative choreographers and Hollywood swordplay, akin to a dance, was invented.

I hope things like LitHEMA and HEMA in general as a popular sport “take off” so to speak, because together they could raise an awareness of not only what medieval swordplay really looked like but Medieval Studies as a whole. I hope you learned something by reading this, and if you’re still unsure of what HEMA is I’d recommend typing it into YouTube and watching some videos. It’s rather quite extraordinary to watch. Tournaments like Swordfish capture the techniques in a competitive context. After learning more about it, you, too, will agree it would be amazing in movies!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more from the complaining about TV experts! We’re here to make TV klickable again!


What Is Your Biggest Pet Peeve On TV? Mine Is Black Leather!

There is always something to complain about on TV. Whether it’s cheesy romance, unrealistic action or just plain stupidity, it’s good to get it out of the system. As a fan of TV and someone intelligent enough to spot out everything stupid, I feel obliged to inform my readers.

Today I pose a question: what is your biggest pet peeve on TV?

Maybe you don’t know the answer to this question yet and so you need to think about it. If you love TV as much as I do you might be glad to know that deciding what you don’t like about TV and complaining about it has the potential to reach abroad and effect television in the future forever. What do I mean by this?

I mean that if you can spot a trope that is so stupid and complain about it enough, say on a YouTube video or a blog of your own, it can catch on and other people might start complaining about it too. If enough of this happens there’s a good chance that someone in the power to fix this stupid trope in TV may agree with you and eventually your actions result in a real change. Isn’t that cool?

This works even better if you write into the television station and get your family to write in too. TV is my passion and I want to see it grow and prosper, and so while some people write to politicians complaining about oil spills I complain about stupid tropes and why they should be replaced with sensible solutions and I can’t begin to comprehend the effect my complaining has had on TV over the years.

Perhaps you do know what your pet peeve is. Maybe you’re tired of seeing dirty clothes on medieval peasants or slick leather suits on action girls who know how to fight like I am. Why can’t a girl who knows how to fight dress like any other girl? Why do they always have to wear black leather? Faugh, good question!

So think about this and share your pet peeve in the comments below. Together with our complaining powers we may be able to do something about it!



Since When was Realism Overrated on Television?

Lately I’ve been finding myself watching old black and white films from the forties, not because the cinematography is way better, but because overall everything is a lot more realistic than the sappy shows on Netflix nowadays.

Realism seems to be a lost quality in TV and movies today, as Hollywood tries to satisfy all the stupid tropes that young people love so much. Classic tropes have always been somewhat unrealistic, even in ancient Roman literature, like committing suicide to avoid capture EVERY SINGLE TIME for instance, but with that said I can’t deny that tropes today are getting even more ridiculous, like Vikings wearing eye-shadow for example. At least committing suicide to avoid capture is practical.

Some recent examples of unrealistic nuisances in today’s television:

  1. Knights stabbing through each other’s armor as if the armor was made out of paper.
  2. Shootouts being so cheesy that bullets never hit and heroes can run through bullet-storms while extra bad guys die instantly from a wound to the arm.
  3. Romance being so drawn out and exaggerated that people fall in love within days of meeting each other.
  4. People in space with zero gravity having hair that doesn’t blow around like it should.
  5. Medieval kings doing petty work themselves and not having hundreds of officials throughout the realm doing it for them.
  6. Cars doing flips through the air and spiraling after crashing into each other.

If I didn’t want to rip out my brain I would try to think of more. To save myself some time I’ll share this YouTube video that explains some pretty stupid unrealistic tropes so common on TV and in Hollywood: Lindybeige Fire Arrows

I love YouTubers and other outlets that try to debunk a lot of the silly things you see commonly in entertainment, because people who are too lazy to the research themselves will sometimes take the untruths as reality and then spread these misconceptions even further.

If you know of any other annoying unrealistic things you see in movies and TV, feel free to complain in the comments below and we’ll complain alongside you!