Friday, September 28, 2007

Historians Weigh in on "The War"

History News Network asked historians for their views on Ken Burns' new documentary The War, and they are responding. Stanley N. Katz finds it "a feel-good, filiopietistic account that manages to avoid all of the hard issues, either historical or aesthetic. This is just poor documentary film making, with a voice-over that is shamelessly soft-headed. Burns has not developed a single new documentary technique in more than a decade. A big, but predictable disappointment." William B. Rogers defends Burns, noting that the scope of World War II makes a documentary about it especially difficult to produce. Robert Lee Gaston thinks PBS "missed a great opportunity because WWII brings up some questions still needing serious historical analysis. Not the least among these is what was it about twentieth century European culture that produced the monsters that governed Germany, the Soviet Union and Italy."

Most comments are critical, leading Raymond Frey to complain, "I can't believe this. Ken Burns brings the war alive for a generation of Americans who badly need to know what happened back then, and all the commenters can do is moan, nitpick, and criticize. No good deed goes unpunished in the history community." Tom Clark is a critic, but says "hope springs eternal, so I'll watch the rest nonetheless."

I will have to opine later -- my copy is waiting patiently on Tivo.