This past Sunday, I was struggling and swearing trying to change a tyre, as you do, and the phrase “history is a genre” entered my head. I’ve talked about this concept before, and I don’t think my insight is revolutionary. I’ve just never phrased it in that way.
Coincidentally, later that evening I watched my first episode of Sleepy Hollow.
Now, I want to stress here that I’m not complaining about any of the historical content in Sleepy Hollow. It’s completely goddamn crazy and has nothing to do with anything; the whole idea of Ichabod Crane is just to be this guy from Olde Times when needed for obscure knowledge or laffs. Sometimes this is just dumb, but at other times it’s used to great effect.
Let’s take the fifth episode, “John Doe,” as an example. In this episode, Ichabod and his modern-day partner Abbie get mixed up in the case of a sick boy who is found wearing old-timey clothing and speaking Middle English. Ichabod, who naturally speaks fluent Middle English, talks to the kid and discovers that he is from the lost colony of Roanoke. Abbie doesn’t know what this is and asks him, so we get the whole spiel, Virginia Dare, missing people. No CROATOAN, which is the allegedly spooky part of the whole thing.
So, obviously this is bullshit from stem to stern. For example:
- Roanoke was founded in 1585. Did Shakespeare speak Middle English?
- Nobody called it Middle English in the 18th century.
- Abbie’s never heard of it. This was the weirdest part of it for me: who the hell hasn’t heard of Roanoke? I mean, maybe if you are not from America or you’re very young.
I get what they’re doing — trying to make the historical colonists seem weird and unfamiliar, which is a good thing. And like I said, I’m not complaining. I’m enjoying the show.
I mainly wanted to post to say that the whole thing reminded me of that panel from Fun with Milk and Cheese where they go to the Renaissance Faire and just (being Milk and Cheese) beat the shit out of everyone, and they’re screaming “SHAKESPEARE AND CHAUCER WERE NOT CONTEMPORARIES, YET YOU EVOKE THEM AS IF THEY WERE! TELL ME WHY, ACTOR-MAN!”
The other interesting thing is that when I was around the age that I was when I first read Milk and Cheese (so my late teens), I would have had exactly this reaction, cussing and spitting tacks. But time passes.