Thanksgiving weekend is upon us! Let’s say you’re not planning on celebrating with the extended family units, shopping during Black Friday sales, or participating in any of the Black Friday protests. What do you do?
Previously, I’ve used long weekends to binge through long-ass movies/movie series, or get through a chunk of some television series. Might I suggest Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of the United States? Premiering on Showtime in 2013, Oliver made a 10 part mini-series condensing and reconstructing American History from World War II through George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Much like 13th, Oliver Stone’s documentary series doesn’t reveal much that people don’t already know, but the art is in the construction.
The first episode reconstructs World War II in the space of an hour. Stone begins with Hitler’s taking over Germany, and Japan’s opening salvos (Italy is largely ignored) against China. Bringing in the Spanish Civil War, he colors FDR’s reluctance to get involved as a product of an isolationist American public. The advertisements and columns prior to Pearl Harbor were a reaction to our involvement in World War I. In a way, they reflect our modern reluctance to get involved in the Middle East conflict after being thrust into the Iraq War. Some of his assertions come close to pro-Russian propaganda. As he quotes Napoleon, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
The whole of the 12 hour series (including two bonus episodes that document World War I and FDR’s rule between WWI and WWII) doesn’t seek to lie or even to tell a definitive history of the US. Instead, Stone wants to poke and prod at our belief structures and see how best to get us to question our past. Each episode is told with a fierce intensity cramming as much information as possible, reflecting our ADHD-addles YouTube society. Even if you don’t quite agree with his conclusions, Stone never makes history dull. What better way to celebrate a bunch of people rebelling against the established power structure by forming their own country than to question the history that you know?
The Untold History of the United States streams on Netflix