Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cuddly Goths and Cute Little Vandals

I've just finished watching the awkwardly titled "Terry Jones' Barbarians," a series that challenges the traditional (Roman & Catholic) conception of barbarians as vicious, uncivilized brutes.

During four episodes, Jones introduces us to seven different groups that were labeled "barbarians" by Rome: the Celts, Goths, Dacians, Greeks, Parthians, Huns, and Vandals. In each episode he explodes the myths that most of us have been taught in school, showing that all of these groups were much more civilized and inventive than Roman scholars would have had us believe. This isn't a surprise when it comes to the Greeks, but it certainly is when you're reading about -- say -- Atilla the Hun.

This could be a lot of fun to watch but it comes across as a wildly skewed presentation, partly due to Jones' obnoxious snarkiness, partly due to the manipulative music and editing, but mostly because the facts presented are a selective laundry list of "good barbarian traits" versus "bad Roman traits." Never once does he say a nice thing about Rome, and whenever he mentions a repulsive action by the barbarian tribes he does so as a "goofy aside." Because torture and mutilation is sort of funny when the Huns do it, I guess.

I suppose you're meant to recognize the snarkiness as a joke and the selective details as balancing out a terribly one-sided history, but coupled with the otherwise serious tone, the traumatic "WHOOMP-WHOOMP" editing, and the camera that zips around like a terrified housefly it begins to sound like propaganda...which is pretty silly considering the issue is hardly a burning one at the moment.

I learned some interesting things. I am skeptical about some of the details. I was annoyed by the overall style.


Anonymous said...

Well, the Romans do have that massive time-dreadnought, and have been getting pretty uppity about not having cable. Who knows what might happen?

Adam Thornton said...

But they COULDN'T have had anything as sophisticated as a time dreadnought...Terry Jones told me the Romans were STOOPID!

I bet they stole it from the Gauls.

Anonymous said...

Those who can, do. those who cannot, pillage!