View Full Version : Documentaries...

Rachel Udin
08-22-2013, 09:36 PM
I've been loading on a crap load of documentaries and I've realized the biases in the documentaries towards white and male from the BBC and America. (unless it's on a specific subject matter in which case you have to squint at it to make sure it's staying on track.)

I have to fight the brainwashing. For example, when they show the eariest Homo sapiens sapiens, I'm going uhh... why are they white with long hair? *Cough Guns, Germs and Steel cough* (or even worse): No you didn't just blackface! WTH is wrong with you? (and all male?) And yes, this was a *recent* documentary. O.o; I looked at the date. *ranty* *rant*.

Some of it is really subtle... and some of it is overt, but it makes it hard to watch sometimes. "there were no blacks in Britain" two beats later... "Elizabeth I said the black population was a problem".

Or "The peoples around the mountains who would become us had superior technology."

I usually have to balance it later. But it kinda makes the effort of learning harder. What's so wrong with hiring black actors/actresses and then later having them show up as intelligent coherent human beings in the history of the world? What's so wrong with admitting that other groups did important stuff such as invent paper, participated in Christianity, making math possible to Europe, domesticated animals and discovered the Americas *cough Natives of the Americas*?

Stephen Pinker's latest book also has flavors of that as well which leaves me feeling sour.

You know... and for those people that don't get it, it's not the white people who are attacking us thing that people don't get it's the giving credit where it's actually due.

Printing press... Chinese. Movable type Chinese. metal movable type, Korean. Adjustable bracket, Gutenberg. Same with the Lightbulb... Latimer did the bamboo filament which made the lightbulb marketable, who was black. Edison didn't invent anything in the lightbulb. There were Canadians and Brits--it was a world wide effort. Traffic crossing was also AA by concept.

Peanut butter.. Mayan.

Does it really hurt to say some things are just not European? Domesticated Horse... dog, agriculture's first starts, tea, as a culture (India), sugar, coffee, chocolate, corn (Native Americans did a ton of work domesticating it), paper (though exact origin is in question, definitely not European).

Steam engines can go to Europeans.

Also, does it really hurt to mention that some people were not driven snow white, like *cough* Jesus? (Someone was actually insulted when I pointed out he's part Egyptian from Mary's side despite the Bible).

I think it illuminates how awesome our species is as a whole to see how all these things were made, traveled long distances (often by foot or simple trading), interacted, were improved upon and built our modern world.

08-22-2013, 09:41 PM
I agree with you on a lot of documentaries from the BBC. The default is white male, unfortunately. It is getting better, honest, but it's still fairly white male. The one thing the BBC do quite well though is buy documentaries from other countries that aren't white male for BBC 4. But yeah, have to agree with you.

Can't say too much on the American docs cos don't watch many.

08-22-2013, 09:55 PM
Rachel, I don't know if you're into science but this wasn't bad:


It's Prof Al Khalili fronting a doc about science in the Middle East in the Mediaeval period. He also did a really good doc called Atom.

Rachel Udin
08-23-2013, 12:29 AM
Thanks for the doc. Definitely up my ally.

Some American documentaries can be insipid overall. Sometimes they'll overstate a fact to make some sense of false "danger" to it, when it doesn't match the actual fact.

So, for example, instead of snakes cover both continents and only a few percentage are poisonous (mostly from the cobrid family). It'll go, "The world's DEADLIEST snakes." And then in the background somehow confirm all stereotypes of humans while exploring the subject of snakes, and then I have to go Wa~?

So for example, "Pythons are the largest poisonous snakes in the world." BS!! Pythons are stranglers, not poisonous, and the largest one in the world is not poisonous. And then all the wranglers are white male. And then add to it the mind numbing, but some tribes in Africa... yeah... you just used Africa as a country. >.<;; And then compounded it with pictures of starving African children with flies.

What's wrong with wanting to learn about freaking snakes without the human politics?

That's on the lower end of the American documentary scale...

Upper end you get cooperative efforts, though the "experts" often are white by majority.

My favorite from the American stock are the nature programs with no humans which make you, as a human, feel small and insignificant. I watched a ton of those as a kid.

I prefer the history programs from Britain, though I still would like a more balanced look at PoCs in Britain in general. Most of the programs about India paint it as "exotic" and have some white man going on about "discovering" "exotic" things in India. Uhhh... >.<;; And I only watched them so I could get some info. I would *love* someone who was versed in Indian culture and heritage to host a real program about India, preferably Indian and not in the view of British ruled this subcontinent. Is there such a program? I tried them all, but then after cringing with "exotic" and getting pissed off at "discovery" it gets hard to continue and sort.

Also the "came out of nowhere" bit of some of the docs gets to me. Algebra and courtly love just appeared one day along with the bases of Science and Modern Medicine... It just happened to develop in Spain, I don't know, when the Moors arrived. *airbrush out bits about them being from Northern Africa and Middle East--Tunisia, etc.*

08-23-2013, 01:22 AM
Hmm..... there isn't a doc about India that I can think of that isn't through white eyes. I wouldn't mind seeing that myself TBH! I find films are the best way to get an Indian view of India. Not Bollywood specifically but others. Even then you don't get a full picture.

The only recent doc I can think of done by British POC was about gang members in my city (yeah I know but bear with me!) called One Mile Away (http://onemileaway.co.uk/). It's about two gangs in the city and the only reason they kill each other is because of where they live. Just the postcodes. And one of the Top Boys decides enough is enough and decides to sort it out himself. It's a fascinating film. Won quite a lot of awards.

Rachel Udin
08-23-2013, 06:42 PM
The one about the Medieval period and Islam was good. Though I thought Hypatia, a woman, BTW, thought that the sun was the center of the solar system as did several other Greeks. Just that she lost out to the other notion.

And while I enjoyed it, it really didn't look at women at all. These men just gave birth to themselves. Despite the tradition of women learning to read, which would have been a nice highlight. =P I'd love another program on that. The life of the Medieval Muslim Woman, BBC style with real and not brown-faced actors. =P I think saying that really shows how many of these things I've seen.

I'll definitely watch the other one, though I'm a bit sick of seeing blacks painted only with gun violence. I saw this show on dealing with bones from the past... (also BBC) and they found an African skeleton and assumed right off the bat he was a foreigner and a merchant, but the evidence showed that while he was born in Africa he'd stayed in England for the better part of his life. And then got backing of villages, and illuminated manuscripts then genetic evidence and totally revised their notion. A bit of awesome. I want more of *that*. The normal average person. See blacks portrayed in history as "ordinary blokes" (Oh God, did I watch 6 seasons of Time team already???).

08-23-2013, 06:59 PM
I get what you mean about the gun violence but you should watch it. It's not what you're expecting.

08-23-2013, 07:01 PM
I'd love to see more about female scientists from everywhere and everywhen but I'm not sure how much evidence there is for the early ones.

So much of our history has been lost that it's heartbreaking.