Overcoming Criticism / by Chris Weigl

With the same certainty that I put pen to paper I equally understand that amateur historians, talking heads, wide-eyed pundits, and blind party loyalists will both attack and defend this show with the utmost vigor. They will assail my fictional creation because of its connection to history. History is, after all, in the title. We have an obligation to the historical to be honest and fair with the facts and fair to the players. The issues of historical accuracy and artistic license may appear at a crossroads in this show. Indeed, some may see the two issues as diametrically opposed. I do not believe that this needs to be the case. I believe in a world of imagination, creativity, and interpretation. It is my belief that we should not try to conform our world in such a way that one side gets to control the message of the past to fit their view of the future. Since no one can know for certain what someone from the past would do in the present just as we cannot know how we will act in future circumstances any commentary about this subject matter is entirely heresy. No one can be right because there is no way to prove them wrong.

Some will suggest that because they cannot be expressly proven wrong that they are almost as if by default, right. Such errors in logic need little explanation to the normal inhabitants of the Earth, but the conservative is another matter. The cacophony that passes for reason and logic amongst the conservative apparatus is such that their arguments hold little in the way of weight that most people require to make informed judgments or opinions like facts or evidence. In short, those who should listen too often speak and those who should speak too often listen. My chief concern is not that people are debating the historical. I think it is wonderful that we’re having a discussion about our history, but therein lies the catch. It is our history. Not yours. Not mine. History is something that we share.

I understand that this idea of sharing is naturally at odds with the conservative ideology of free markets or freedom or whatever but sharing is a crucial part of what it means to be human. Thomas Aquinas once said that: “taxes ought to be collected from the common goods for the common good.” Note that he did not specify who the “takers” were or who the “makers” were. The sentiment and logic was simple: we all have a price to pay if we are to live together in harmony. It was the conservative Oliver Wendell Holmes who said: “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” After reading these last couple of sentences the conservative machine will no doubt note that I mentioned the word taxes twice, but it would be of equal and perhaps even more important use to notice that the word “for” was also used in each of those sentences. They serve a purpose.

It is because of the basic truth that no one owns our history anymore than anyone else and because history is so open to interpretation that we find ourselves fighting over it. It is because we can fight about it that we do find ourselves fighting about it. The foundation of Living History is essentially a what if? scenario using actors who believe that they are the human incarnation of historical characters. These characters, driven by their own sense of justice and propriety, are what makes the show function. Many will ask: who am I to interpret past events? That’s the thing that some do not understand. I’m not interpreting past events. I’m telling a story. The role of the storyteller is vastly different from the role of the historian. This isn’t to say that a storyteller can take complete and total license with their work: that is most certainly not the case, but we approach people, places, and events though a different lens. The historian must set out much like the scientist with his concern first and foremost being the truth and perspective of those who lived through the time. The storyteller looks at what the most compelling case is for the audience and is based entirely on perspective. 

What Hollywood lacks right now is interesting and compelling stories and is it our jobs as storytellers to provide the American people with content that they can look forward to watching.  Not all of our content will be politically correct, but no true art should be.  Our solution to the current content problem in Hollywood is not without its problems, but Hollywood is a place right now that is running low on solutions.