Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 16:23:59 -0600 From: Greg Pulliam Subject: Re: Ebert and anachronism I read Ebert's article in the Sun-Times last week. My impression was that he was tongue-in-cheekly telling ADS to **** ourselves with his followup question about when well-bred young ladies began to have vertical, public sex. As best as I can tell, based on my own experience and observation (and I'm always on the lookout for this kind of thing), vertical, public sex is not common even among the lower classes, even in our enlightened age. More importantly, when discussing anachronism in films and television, it seems to me that we should not fret so much about things like language and gesture. Movies and such are aimed at today's mass audiences, and so words, idioms and gestures must be translated. Many of us (myself included, at times) are quick to jump on diachronic and regional intra-language issues, but have no problem when we are dealing with translated dialog. When all the Russians speak to each other in late 20th-century English in "Anastasia," no one complains about anachronistic use of language or gesture (I know, it's a cartoon, but it's just an example of a common practice). But if filmmakers make a movie about a historical event that happened in an English-speaking environment, they should be historically accurate in their portrayal of the language at that date? Why? I'll grant that a certain amount of historical accuracy regarding language/gesture is often necessary for verisimilitude, but no one producing Beowulf or Chaucer (extreme examples, fer sure) for modern audiences could afford to adhere very closely to a historical standard. If Winslett's character would more likely have stuck her thumb up to her nose in the early 20th century, and if director James Cameron had known this, he would still have been wise to have her go with the finger. The former gesture would not have had the power with today's audiences that it would have had in the early 20th century--to communicate that power, you must use a gesture the audience will "get," regardless of its chronological status. Greg