online edition

The Student Newspaper of Hopkins School

    • John Adams is one of a new genre of shows that are both entertaining and informative, given their accurate portrayals of historical events. (

Historic TV Shows Make History

Emilia Cottignoli ’18, Assistant Entertainment Editor
In today’s world of television, viewers can choose from many options. The historic fiction genre gives a mixture  of truth and adventure, rendering it both exciting and informative. 
“I think there is a merit in history based drama, but anyone watching should be doing it for the entertainment value, not for the historical record,”said Sandy MacMullen, a Hopkins history teacher. 

John Roberts, Assistant Head of School, agrees: “I would say that historical accuracy requires a level of commitment and discipline that precious few film producers or director would be willing to commit themselves to, given that the restriction and limitations of accuracy might get in the way of the story as the want to tell it.” 

On the other hand, classics teacher John Anderson prefers shows with scrupulous attention to detail. This way, “I still know that the creators have a deep understanding of the period and presumably sympathy for the historical characters themselves,” he commented. 

History teacher David DeNaples said that the test of historical television’s value is based on the balance between educating and entertaining: “Mad Men was the perfect balance of soap opera entertainment combined with a deep insights into America during the 60’s.  With everything from cigarettes to cars, from race to patriarchy, with JFK and Vietnam in between, the show did a wonderful job deconstructing the romanticized version of the 60’s as portrayed in earlier films and television.”

Mad Men received excellent reviews from other members of the Hopkins community. “It appeals to me and I think to others because it is just a show about people and life,” said Claire Abate ’18. “There aren’t really any ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’; they’re just people. And even though the show takes place fifty years ago, we can still relate to what the characters go through.”  

Even if not completely accurate, historical series do have an underlying purpose, no matter what the content. “Given that Salem and Underground  describe events that humanity would not want to repeat, witch trials and slavery, they serve the purpose of keeping society aware that these events did once happen and of keeping people vigilant so that they do not happen again,” Josh Goldstein ’18 explained. 

For some the appeal of these shows goes beyond serving as a reminder of the past. Penny Ratcliffe, an English teacher, said, “What is most interesting about these shows is the way in which they illuminate truths about our own culture and time by offering up a comparison - particularly in terms of social taboos that no longer operate.” 

In a way history textbooks don’t, historical dramas bring real or fictional characters to life to create historical empathy. “I showed excerpts from John Adams mini-series to my AC1 students a few years ago precisely for that reason - so that they would see John Adams as a person and not just another bolded term to ID from their reading,” history instructor Jessica Dunn commented.

Narcos, set and filmed in Columbia, tells the story of a drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, who makes his fortune in the production and distribution of cocaine for twenty-five years. Martin Tipton ’17, gave high praise for the series. “I appreciate the way they integrate Spanish into the show, and have Spanish subtitles in all the places in which Spanish would normally be spoken, which is different from many American shows,” he commented. 

Hopkins drama teacher Michael Calderone provided yet another insight on historical adaptations: “Maybe the best reason to produce and watch historic dramas are for the lessons they teach us about ourselves. The piece has to be relevant and connect to us, today, or it simply becomes a museum piece: nice to look at, nothing much more.”
Whether they are faithful interpretations of the past, or create a rosy distortion for today’s audience, historic dramas evoke opinions, discussion, and controversy in the classroom or at home. 
Editor in Chief 
Eleanor Doolittle

Managing Editor 
Sarah Roberts 

Zoe Kim 
Anushree Vashist
Juan Lopez
Orly Baum
Katherine Takoudes 
Julia Kosinski
Anjali Subramanian
Emmett Dowd
Lily Meyers 
Ella Zuse
Zach Williamson 

Saira Munshani
Sophie Sonnenfeld
Kallie Schmeisser

Veronica Yarovinsky
Teddy Glover
Abby Regan
Maeve Stauff
Izzy Lopez-Kalapir

Arthur Masiukiewicz 

Arushi Srivastava
Nick Hughes

Business Managers
Sophia Fitzsimonds
Sophia Cerroni 

Faculty Advisers
Jenny Nicolelli
Elizabeth Gleason
Sorrel Westbrook-Wilson 
The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
The Razor,
 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
Hopkins School
986 Forest Road
New Haven, CT 06515

Phone: 203.397.1001 x271