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
- The Exhibit Lauded Freedom of Expression. It Was Silenced.
- What 1860 and 1968 can teach America about the 2020 presidential election
- Nevada Sen. Cortez Masto introduces bill to honor women’s suffrage with series of new quarters
- Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are writing their first book together about 'gutsy' women through history
- The Hotel Historian Is at Your Service
- 2 New Podcast Episodes Discuss How the Republican Party became the Party of Trump and CIA "Black Sites"
- ‘Karl Marx: Philosophy and Revolution’ Review: On the Marxist Question
- Tony Platt Reviews Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age
- Professor Breaks Down U.S. Racism, Trump’s ‘Ugliness’ In 3 Powerful Minutes
- ‘Charles I's Killers in America’ Review: Regicides on the Run