Lies Agreed Upon looks at how Hollywood uses history to talk about today. Hosts Lia Paradis and Brian Crim explore the plots and themes of movies and tv shows and discuss how they were influenced by the historical events of the moment.
Revolution! The Musical
In this third and final episode on the American Revolution, we look at the momentous events through an entirely different genre - the musical. You didn't think we could get away with not talking about Hamilton did you? But first, we travel a bit further back in time to appreciate the historical context of the first of the first musical about the revolution - 1776, which was the Tony award winner for best musical in 1969, and then a 1972 movie with almost the same cast. Hamilton was first staged off-Broadway in 2015. It’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, worked on it for years however, inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton. 1776 came out amid great political turmoil inspired by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. Hamilton was itself revolutionary - a hip hop musical about the Founding Fathers with a cast made up almost entirely of non-Caucasians. As you might expect, each musical had a lot to say about their respective moments in history. As Lin-Manuel Miranda stated, “This is a story about America then, told by America now.”
History from Below
In episode two we continue to examine the American Revolution, but we look at two series that focus less on the famous Founding Fathers and, instead, highlight the experiences of "ordinary people" people forced to negotiate fast-moving and complex events. They are Turn: Washington’s Spies and The Book of Negroes . We really want to emphasize how Turn and The Book of Negroes bring the stories of ordinary people to life, but in very different ways. When the Founding Fathers do make the occasional appearance on screen it works to reveal the contributions of those who are the invisible movers of events - farmers turned spies, for example, or enslaved people caught in the middle of a dispute that, if anything, could only worsen their plight.
The Adams Family
This season, we’re going to be looking at the general theme of rebels and rebellions, revolutionaries and revolts, insurrectionists and traitors, freedom fighters and patriots. All of these are terms that have come up a lot over the past year, particularly since January 6th, 2021. So we’re going to take a long look at how Hollywood responded to contemporary events in the 20th and 21st centuries by retelling the stories of rebels and revolutionaries, and the rebellions and revolutions they were part of. Along the way, we’ll also be exploring what gets called a revolution, and who gets counted as a revolutionary. Spoiler alert - sometimes those labels are compliments and sometimes they’re accusations. In our first episode, we compare and contrast the HBO prestige miniseries John Adams, which solemnly recounts the life of our founding father and second president, and the History Channel miniseries Sons of Liberty, which reshaped revolutionary history into an action-packed adventure tale starring his cousin, Sam.
SciFi and 9/11 Part II
In this second of two discussions about SciFi and 9/11, we look at 3 tv series: Battlestar Galactica, Falling Skies and The Leftovers. This is the last episode of Season 1. We will return later in the year with Season 2, in which we look at how Hollywood has represented revolts and insurrections over the years, and how current events influenced those depictions at the time.
Bonus: SciFi and 9/11 Part I
In our final 2 episodes of Season 1 we’re doing something a little different. Our focus has been on how historical events are portrayed on screen after 9/11 - from Antiquity to 9/11 itself. But if we confine ourselves to film and tv with historic narratives, we’re actually going to be ignoring where we find the most commentary on the 9/11 and its legacy - science fiction.
We had so much to say that we've broken our conversation into 2 parts. So in Part I this week, we're talking about films, most notably War of the Worlds (2005) and Cloverfield (2008). In Part II next week, we'll be talking about TV series, focusing on Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008) and The Leftovers (2014-2017).
Moments after the planes hit, dozens of CIA and FBI officials had their worst fears confirmed. They each knew separate pieces of the story, but enduring and vicious turf wars over counter-terrorism prevented any meaningful cooperation. Part I of this week's episode looks at Hulu's 2017 miniseries, The Looming Tower to see how Hollywood answered the question: How did we fail to see what was coming when we have the largest and richest military and intelligence agencies in the world? Part II of The Reckoning confronts the choices we made in a cloud of fear and shame after that failure. Dick Cheney casually let it be known that there would be no “tying the hands of our intelligence community” and famously urged the country to welcome a turn to the “dark side” in an unprecedented war on terror. We discuss Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Zero Dark Thirty and Scott Burns’s 2019 The Report, and their very different attitudes towards those policies.
Grounded and Nuanced Film Reviews/Critiques
In the vein of Heather Cox Richardson, Paradis and Crim provide historically grounded critiques of events—in this case, cinematic events. At a moment when public conversation around cultural productions is understandably fraught, and when culture itself is a battleground, they do a great job of situating individual films in a long-term historical perspective, and in the context of their production. They nuance analyses of popular films by shedding light on historical facts that could enrich viewers’ experiences of the films and the critical conversations surrounding them. I would recommend this podcast for movie buffs, historians of both the academic and armchair variety, and for anyone looking for cultural reflection that extends beyond the tweet.