Jonathan Zimmerman asks: What’s So Bad About Ken Burns?Historians in the News
tags: Jonathan Zimmerman, Vietnam War, PBS, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
Historians aren’t very happy with Ken Burns. He’s a simplifier; we complicate. He makes myths; we bust them. And he celebrates the nation, while we critique it.
That’s the party line, anyway, among my fellow academics. And while I agree with some of their attacks on Burns’s recently concluded TV series about the Vietnam War, there’s something else at work here.
It’s called sour grapes. Put simply, Burns has managed to engage a huge public audience. And that makes him suspect among members of our guild, who write almost entirely for each other.
We pretend we don’t envy his fame and fortune, but of course we do. We’re like high-school kids who don’t get asked to the prom, then say they never wanted to go in the first place.
That’s the only way to understand the dismissive, vituperative tone of our profession’s reaction to Burns’s series. Several scholars praised Burns for including multiple voices — especially Vietnamese ones — in his interviews. But most historians in the blogosphere took him to task for distorting the conflict, especially with regard to his quest for a shared national narrative that can bind Americans together. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Chair of Florida Charter School Board on Firing of Principal: About Policy, Not David Statue
- Graduate Student Strikes Fight Back Against Decades of Austerity, Seek to Revive Opportunity
- When Right Wingers Struggle with Defining "Woke" it Shows they Oppose Pursuing Equality
- Strangelove on the Square: Secret USAF Films Showed Airmen What to Expect if Nuclear War Broke Out
- The Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
- New Books Force Consideration of Reconstruction's End from Black Perspective
- Excerpt: How Apartheid South Africa Tried to Create a Libertarian Utopia
- Historian's Book on 1970s NBA Shows Racial Politics around Basketball Have Always Been Ugly
- Kendi: "Anti-woke" Part of Backlash Against Antiracist Protest Movements
- Monica Muñoz Martinez Honored for Truth-Telling in Texas History