Television shows and their time periods, are they getting them right?

As of 2016, more than 40 per cent of the world’s population has access to the internet. But with this boom has come a strange and, quite frankly, self destructive mentality that manifests itself when your average person watches any show or movie that, in detail, depicts a previous time period.

And that mentality is anachronism.

When watching a show or movie that takes place in a completely different time period, people need to realize that they cannot apply today’s standards.

In recent years, there has been an increase in people who have begun to slander classic movies and shows for their portrayal of women, minority groups, sexuality, and rape. What many people don’t seem to understand though is that, during the time periods these shows represent, these issues were not viewed the same way they are today. Back in the 1950’s, it was natural for women to be raised for a life in the home raising their families rather than going out and having a job. Of course by today’s standards this is considered wrong,  but it is also wrong to slander an entire decade just because the people thought differently than we do.

If anything, this mentality has blinded people to how ridiculous they become when they try to remedy these supposed sins of the past. In 2015, Disney released a live action version of Cinderella, and the director of the film, Kenneth Branagh, stated that he was excited to make Cinderella, “someone who was no longer passive and waiting for a prince but rather someone who is her own person and understand why the stepmother was the way she was”. Ironically, by trying to make her no longer passive, Branagh’s film ends up portraying Cinderella as incapable to do anything that would better her situation, such as simply giving up when she is placed under house arrest. The original Cinderella is by no means a shining example of the perfect female character, but she was not completely passive, unlike the new version, yet she is still considered one of the worst Disney princesses by mainstream audiences, simply because she doesn’t stand up for herself like Belle or Tiana.

Another example of how harmful this anachronistic mentality is shines through in medieval television shows and movies. The most popular of these, HBO’s Game of Thrones, has received more than its fair share of flack and criticisms for its portrayal of violence and brutality, particularly towards its female characters. In the sixth episode of the show’s fifth season, Sansa Stark (played by Sophie Turner), one of the show’s longest running female characters, was raped by her husband Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rhenol) while an old friend, Theon (Alfie Allen) was forced to watch. This scene was criticized by fans of the show, who called it brutal. Many critics agreed and said that the show glorified rape culture. But all that we are really seeing is the villain of the show doing something villainous. During the time period which Game of Thrones is based on, people’s senses of morality and consent were much lower than they are today. In short, you are supposed to feel uncomfortable watching this scene.

And at the end of the day, what does any of this arguing over past time periods solve? So many people spend their time complaining about shows and movies setting bad examples because of their time periods, when they should instead be explaining to others why we are so fortunate to have our current values. Iwan Rhenol, the actor who plays Ramsay in Game of Thrones,  summed up the situation perfect in an interview with Chris Bennion for the Telegraph, “I think if more people put their effort into the charities that help women in the world today deal with the horror of rape, and less effort in social media about a fantasy show, then maybe things could change”.

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Tyler Searle is a second year journalism: web and print student at Durham College. His work primarily focuses on film, television, books, and games, though he also writes stories about local businesses and groups. Outside of school, Tyler reads fantasy books and spending time with his family. He hopes to use the skills he's amassed to become a writer for films, books, television, or video games.