Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the tag “World War 2”

History Is Written By The Victors

Have you ever wondered what our world history would look like from the loser’s perspective?

I often wonder what our interpretation of the world would look like now if history had turned out a little differently.

Alternative history TV shows are not new. The Man in the High Castle is the most recent example, with an alternate world where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan win World War 2. Although the concept is not new, there are many aspects of our world history today that has been directly shaped by who has told the story.

Have you ever noticed that the most commonly used world map has Europe at the centre?

This is due to European colonisation and subsequent dominance.

pexels-photo-592753.jpeg

All Roads Lead to Rome

What’s more, is that a lot of our understanding of world history comes from the writing of mostly western elites. The Ancient Romans are particular perpetrators of this. My favourite example of this is The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, which is a scandalous account of the lives of Rome’s 12 Emperors (starting with Julius Caesar and ending with Domitian).

Ironically, this is where we get most of our most famous Roman Emperor stories:

  • Caligula making his horse a senator
  • Nero playing the lute while Rome burned
  • Domitian’s tyrannical rule

Although it is an amazing source material it’s important to remember that Suetonius was personal secretary to the Emperor Hadrian and had worked for Trajan before that.  This would have been decades after most of these emperors had died and they were probably written with an agenda.

And yet its content is often cited as true fact. Would it have been written differently under Caligula or even Constantine, the last Roman Emperor of the west?

18rome

All credit goes to Twisted Cartoons

Telling a Story

You can also see it in movies and textbooks when a certain re-telling of a historical event can be interpreted in different ways. As an American living abroad, it’s always strange to see what what other countries call the American Revolution.

Here’s an interesting article about how other countries learn about the American Revolution in school if you’re interested.

World War 2 also has a hotly contested narrative. Each country involved tends to tell the outcome differently. A great example of this on the TV show, The Americans (which I LOVE, by the way). There’s a scene between in Episode 5 of Season 6 where the daughter, Paige, is told what World War 2 was like from the perspective of the Soviets. A different image entirely from red, white, and blue patriotic narrative that is often told in the U.S.

wold-war-2-ends

Similarly, I’m sure that schools in Japan tell a much more sobering story on the outcome of the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945 than above.

Alternative history or not, it’s always interesting to think about what might have been!

Bonus video:

From Zero to Hero: The Birth of Superheroes

superheroes-characters

In the era of the superhero franchise, many don’t seem to know the historical backdrop that led to the stardom of some of the world’s most iconic characters.

Prepare for your minds to be blown!

The truth is that some of these guys became superhero giants for a reason. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it’s due to content or just good timing.

Holding Out For A Hero

Let me take you back to 1933, a year many high schoolers may know as the year of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It was also the year the character of Superman was created by two young men from Cleveland Ohio, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

What do these two events have to do with each other?

funny-cartoon-logic-superman-glasses

Well, this may surprise you, but I can make a direct connection between the rise of Hitler and the popularization of Superman. The main ingredient? The need for hope!

Picture the scene – Adolf Hitler, practically a nobody, blitzes through Europe and manages to create an entire doctrine based on fear…successfully.

By the time 1939 came around, no one had managed to stop him. He was the ultimate villain who had yet to face his superhero arch nemesis. A fact which may have been troubling to the children of the U.S.A whose only interaction with the man was through the radio news bulletins.

In fact, some may argue that if Hitler had successfully taken over Europe that his next stop would have been the U.S.

BONUS : If you want an idea of what a Nazi controlled U.S. would have looked like then I would definitely check out the mini series “The Triangle.” It’s about the Bermuda Triangle and although it is a mediocre show I would watch it for the one scene with the alternate universe of Nazi America – Super trippy and scary!

Thankfully, Superman comes onto the scene as a comic book in 1938. A natural superhero, his mighty powers and caring heart make him the perfect specimen of American creativity to defeat the evil Hitler – well, the idea of him at least!

Thus hope was born once again!

Although it is not said explicitly, I truly believe that the reason why Superman became as popular as he did was because he managed to bring hope to children and adults alike during a dark time in world history.

Captain America 

Much like Superman, quite a few people dislike Captain. His backstory isn’t dark and he gains his strength in hope – not in revenge.

Once again I will shatter your illusions and tell you that he is a dirScreen Shot 2014-04-17 at 13.45.32ect response to World War 2. When the character first appeared in 1941, he was an instant success. Mostly because he symbolized the troops still fighting.

If Captain America could defeat the Axis villains then so could the fathers/brothers/husbands out there now.

To prove my point, check out this great cartoon from Dorkly that could say it better than I ever could.

This is all to say that there is more to these “bland” characters than meets the eye – at least from a historical perspective.

The Aftermath

So what happened after World War 2?

Well, people got more cynical. They were disillusioned by their government through easily accessible information via television and a propaganda free press. The Vietnam War changed the way Americans saw warfare forever.

Children and Adults were no longer looking for their perfect warrior. They wanted heroes that were more like them – with flaws and all.

tumblr_mvxqgzDLMA1r5mbvpo1_400

This paves the way for characters like Batman, Spiderman and even Iron Man. These were superheroes they could relate to. “Normal” guys who had to rise from the ashes after great tragedy. There is also a moral ambiguity to these characters that show that they’re human.

Except for the fact that both Batman and Iron Man were billionaires, I see their point.  I think one of the reasons Batman is still so popular today is that he lives in a world that’s not so different from our own, but with gadgets and crazy villains!

In the same way, Spiderman is about a teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. His story is the fantasy of every bored high school student. Thus the popularity of spidey grew!

spidey-meme-master-disguise

Bottom line, we like to feel connected to fictional characters, and after World War 2 we no longer aspired to the super soldier.

We were looking for the hero we deserve 😉

Do you think we’ve found it?

Bonus

Making Anime History

I’ve recently gotten back into anime. Maybe it’s the long hours spent in front of the computer, but there is something satisfying about being able to watch a comprehensive story arc in the space of 15 mins or so.

It may also be that I am suffering from a serious case of wanderlust and I’m desperately trying to immerse myself in an other culture.  Subtitles for the win!

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no expert. This is a combination of what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. No hate please!

Anime, Japanese animated films and T.V. shows, are very different from their western equivalent.

Why you may ask?

Well, because their society and culture is entirely different. It also has a very specific style that is supported by an entire industry.

So, where did it come from?

My research has led me to believe that the beginning of the anime industry was during World War 2 when Japanese animators were influenced by the comic strips and cartoons of the west.

Thus Japanese illustrators began to serialise their stories in newspapers. This would later lead to the creation of the manga, which is the Japanese style comic book that is so popular today.

50s

Soon after, in the 1950s and 60s, animation studios began to appear in Japan with the aim of producing  films that could rival Disney.

Over the years, the style and stories became more refined. Like any industry there are some good ones and some bad ones, but it’s also such a big industry that you can basically find anything you could ever want….and I mean anything….*shudder*

The official “boom” came in the 1980s when many anime T.V. shows were brought to the U.S. and became incredibly popular.

sailor_moon_3

Sailor Moon is the one of the most obvious examples. I still remember watching Sailor Moon as a kid in the 90s and I lived in France!

What I find the most interesting is that, although the Japanese Anime Industry is independent of the U.S. animation market, there are moments where they are dependent on each other.

For example, the creation of the sequel to Full Metal Alchemist, Brotherhood, was partly attributed to the huge success of the original series in the U.S.

The Japanese studio then realized that success = money.

That being said, it is an entirely different culture. Western parents often think that anime = cartoons, which isn’t necessarily the case. A lot of the time adult themes are openly addressed in these shows.

Currently, I am watching a show called Diabolik Lovers. It’s about a young girl who was groomed by her father, a priest, to serve as a sacrifice for a house full of vampires. She is then sent to live with them.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds awful, but what shocked me the most was the almost rapey nature of the show. These incredibly “attractive” vampires basically force themselves on her while saying things like “I know you want it” and “you can’t get away from me.”

N.B. they are referring to blood sucking and not other things, but the vibe is still super creepy. I wonder if there are any studies on the psychological impact of something like this…

This is in contrast to a show like Vampire Knight, which is about a school that is separated between Day Class students (who are human) and Night Class students (who are vampires). Somehow it’s less creepy. I think it’s because these vampires are shown to have redeeming qualities, distinguishing between “good” and “bad” vampires.

You can already see the difference in the openings!

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got shows that are very positive and fluffy. They make you want to puke rainbows!

I’m thinking in particular of something like Uta No Prince-Sama or Brothers Conflict. Both based on Visual Novel games. It’s a reverse harem plot, which means there is one girl surrounded by many guys.  Although the plot lines are always ridiculous, I enjoy watching them because it’s something that is never done in western animation. It’s exotic to me!

Either way, it’s an industry that is very unique. It completely suspends your disbelief.

Guy with green hair? Seems legit.

Love hexagon troubles? Create a boy band.

The cultural heritage of animation is very interesting since it influences children and adults alike. It has even greater power when you think of how it can spread through the internet.

And so, I leave you with one of the more epic anime intros I’ve seen:

Battleships: Better than the movie

And arguably slightly better than the board game. What I mean to say is that although many of us have played Battleship ….

Battleship Board Game

Slightly sexist cover for much loved board game

…. very few of us take the time to actually look at these monster contraptions used for wars in the last 200 years.

The truth is that they really revolutionized naval warfare. The term was originally used in 1794, referring to the wooden warships during the Age of Sail .

Over the years it just became the description for the most powerful type of ship in any fleet. What we consider a battleship today is based off the Dreadnought model, which kicked things up a notch during World War 1.

h63367

Although what we see today is much better armed.

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see two different types of ships, both from the WW2/Cold War era that proves that burial at sea will never be a defunct term.

HMS Belfast 

HMS Belfast

The HMS Belfast is a WW2/Cold War era battleship that has been turned into a museum in the heart of London. I actually volunteered there in the conservation department for over a year and so I got to know the ship quite well.

It was originally built in 1939, just in time for WW2 and then was re-equipped  for the Cold War.

I personally helped maintain and restore Bofors anti-aircraft machine guns and one of the 4-inch guns. On my last day of volunteering I was lucky enough to be able to fire one of the 4-inch guns already restored.

If you have a spare afternoon in London one day I would definitely suggest you check it out. They really do a good job at keeping the history alive.

U.S.S Intrepid 

Over on the other side of the Atlantic lies a ship that is also a museum. The U.S.S. Intrepid is an aircraft carrier, docked on a pier in New York City.

Not only did it serve in WW2 and the Vietnam War – it also was the recovery ship for the Gemini and Mercury space missions.

I decided to visit it while I was living in New York City and so recorded my journey through the ship, comparing it to my experience on the smaller HMS Belfast.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience on the U.S.S. Intrepid because you understood what role naval power truly had in the last century.

The Napoleon At Toulon in 1852 by Lauvergne

The Napoleon At Toulon in 1852 by Lauvergne

In conclusion, don’t believe everything you read.

Old Battleships are cool too because they show how our society has progressed over the centuries with technology.

Think of it this way – 100 years ago we could only travel by boat!

Post Navigation