, 15 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
1|Good evening! My name is Barbara and I am a PhD student in Austria. In the following tweets I will tell you more about the British memory discourse on #WWI in current television period dramas. First, I start with some information about the previous discourse. #LegaciesFWW2019
2|Before, it has to be noted that in modern, complex societies the collective memory is influenced and changed through media. Media representations never (!) show reality, just media constructions of reality that are influenced by many factors. #LegaciesFWW2019
3|Previous media products (e.g. novels, memoirs, movies) are especially important, because narratives are always part of a bigger network of already existing stories. The Battle of the Somme (1916) was the first popular propaganda film about #WWI in GB. (pic. PD) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the black-and-white film The Battle of the Somme, first aired in 1916. It is set in France in 1916. An exhausted British soldier is looking directly into the camera and is carrying a seriously wounded comrade on his back. The cameraman is looking from above at the soldier, who is walking in a trench. Other comrades are walking behind him in the extremely narrow trench.
4|At the latest in the mid-1920s the idea of #WWI was shaped by the film. Productions like Tell England (1930) and Journey`s End (1931) present this conflict as a futile slaughter. The myth of futility and more complex narratives reinforced after #WWII. (pic. PD) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the black-and-white film Journey`s End, first aired in 1930. Two British soldiers are sitting in a shelter at a table, each with a drink in their hands. Another soldier is standing next to them. One of the sitting ones and the standing soldier are looking at another comrade, who is sitting at the table. They seem to have some serious conversation.
5|Other #WWI myths and narratives (e.g. sacrifice, western front) were passed on in the following decades in films (e.g. King & Country (1964)) until they were finally accepted uncritically by next generations as accurate representations of reality. (©BHE) Films #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the black-and-white film King and Country, first aired in 1964. It is 1917 at the western front. Captain Hargreaves (actor: Dirk Bogarde) is sitting at a table opposite two military officials, whom he is having a conversation with. Behind him is standing Private Arthur James Hamp (actor: Tom Courtenay). Hargreaves has to defend Hamp at his court-material. He is accused of desertion.
6|Blackadder Goes Forth (1989) stresses several stereotypes and clichés regarding #WWI. The successful sitcom still plays an important part in the British collective memory. In the 1990s several media products started to deal with psychological traumata. (©BBC) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth, first aired in 1989. In 1917 Captain Edmund Blackadder (actor: Rowan Atkinson) and his British comrades are standing side by side in a trench at the western front and are waiting for the signal to go over the top. Blackadder is loading his pistol in the meantime. He says to his comrades: “Not even our generals are mad enough to shell their own men”.
7|The #WWI 100th centenary resulted in many war-related tv-films and -series (GB), e.g. Parade`s End (2012, pic.), Birdsong (2012), Testament of Youth (2014) and The Crimson Field (2014). The following developments in #WWI memory discourse were identified. (©BBC) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv mini-series Parade`s End, first aired in 2012. A high-ranking officer (actor: Roger Allam), two comrades and an elegantly dressed woman (actress: Rebecca Hall) are sitting at a table in an occupied villa in Belgium ( First World War) and having a conversation during dinner. Two magnificent chandeliers are standing on the table.
8|Currently there is a trend towards micro-history. Many series (e.g. Downton Abbey) focus on one family and their social environment. This trend is often accompanied by a focus on the ‘home front’ and is also reflected in the titles (e.g. The Village). (©ITV) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv series The Village, originally aired 2013 to 2014. This one was taken from the opening credits of the first season. It shows a decrepit farm on the right side and a couple of trees on the right side. An extensive, rural landscape can be seen in the background. The picture seems to be a little gloomy, because large dark clouds are hanging over the scenery.
9|The western front and the Battle of the Somme (07-11/1916) still dominate the British memory discourse about #WWI in period dramas, e.g. Birdsong. Therefore, #WWI is presented as a solely West European conflict and is losing his international dimension. (©BBC) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv movie Birdsong, first aired in 2012. It is the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Stephen Wraysford (actor: Eddie Redmayne), the main character of the film, is in a trench, standing on a ladder with a pipe in his mouth. Dozens of British soldiers are standing behind him in the trench at ground level, waiting for his signal to go over the top.
10|Today, almost every #WWI tv-film or -series has to contain a shell-shocked soldier. Symptoms of shell shock include e.g. anxiety disorders and paralysis. At the end of the 20th century shell shock became a symbol for the horror and injustices during #WWI. #LegaciesFWW2019
11|The interest in the life of women during #WWI reached a peak. Even though they took over many tasks (e.g. farming, charity work), women are still mainly portrayed as VAD nurses, like in Testament of Youth, which is based on the memoirs by Vera Brittain. (©BBC) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv movie The Testament of Youth, first aired in 2014. The main character of the film, Vera Brittain (acress: Alicia Vikander), is in the picture centre. She is wearing nurse clothes, because she is serving as a VAD nurse in a British hospital. Patients, a doctor and a nurse can be seen in the background. She is having a serious conversation with a superior.
12|The 1920s myth of a ‘lost generation’ is still present in current period dramas, like Downton Abbey. It is connected to the myth of futility and sacrifice as well as the image of numerous women that were condemned to a real or fictional widowhood. (©ITV) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv series Downton Abbey, originally aired 2010 to 2015. It is from Season 2 (Eps. 1), which is set in GB in 1916. Lady Sybil (actress: Jessica Brown Finlay) is in the picture centre. She is talking to Isobel Crawley about a letter she got. Another young man, she met in London at a ball, died. She looks devastated and says: “It feels as if all the men I ever danced with are dead”.
13|Nowadays, the poppy is the most popular #WWI symbol of commemoration in GB and firmly rooted in the collective memory. However, it is only visible in a few tv period dramas, like The Crimson Field, but is featured prominently in the opening credits. (©BBC) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the tv series The Crimson Field, first aired in 2014. This one was taken from the opening credits. It shows a big red poppy on the right side and something like brown linen on the left side. Some credits (Created & Written by Sarah Phelps) are visible on the upper left side. On one petal of the poppy appears some writing, which seems to be part of a longer letter.
14|To conclude, new and well-known #WWI narratives, myths and symbols were picked up and developed in current tv period dramas. They probably also affected the ongoing national memory discourse in GB. More developments will follow. (TSNGO/©Warner Bros. Pictures) #LegaciesFWW2019 The picture shows a still from the documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old by Peter Jackson, first aired in 2018. Original footage of World War I was used to create it. The still shows a couple of British soldiers sitting at a table and having a meal, some of them are looking and smiling into the camera. The left side of the picture is coloured and the right side is black-and-white, like the original film footage.
15| Last but not least, if you are interested in my latest #WWI research, dealing with Austrian newspapers, please take a look at the
homepage and my blog post (newseye.eu/blog/news/the-…). More coming up soon! #Newseye #LegaciesFWW2019
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