Monday, June 19, 2017

A game of spies during the American Revolution - Kinda, sorta

I'm not sure if I mentioned this here, but I went back to college this past spring, and am working to finish my associate's degree at Florissant Valley Community College, despite the fact it's been thirty years since I was last in school. I took a US History course through 1865 and got 106%, which was pleasing. Now, for the summer semester, I am taking Stress Management and Speech (all online, by the way). Not loving the Speech, but that's irrelevant.

This is all by means of explaining why my blogging has fallen behind, but I intend to at least try to do better in the future. For those who don't know, my first love is history, and I hope to move on to UMSL, after I get my associate's degree, and work on my BA with a major in history. Of course I'll write too, hopefully combining both loves in some of my writing.

I've been doing a lot of reading about the US Revolution, which has become my particular field of emphasis. Those who know me know I am obsessed with a certain musical (*coughcoughHamiltoncoughcough*), but it's more than that, and I am a huge fan of Aaron Burr. I've also been watching documentaries and series of historical interest, and that's how I discovered Turn.

Turn is based on a book by Alexander Rose called Washington's Spies. I have just begun to read the book a couple of days ago, but I am on season 3 of the AMC series. Prior to this, I read Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, on the same subject. While interesting, it's what I would call History Lite, aimed more at people who might not have an interest in history, which is fine.

Washington's Spies has been meticulously researched and I'm enjoying it. But, having been doing all this reading I've been doing, and watching documentaries and such, I know enough to know Turn is less than accurate in many ways, which is hard to countenance in a program that is actually about history. Granted, I'm no expert in this area, but I did some a couple of things that I am finding hard to overlook. Much like Hamilton, you have to take Turn with a grain of salt.

By the way, I'm not giving a spoiler alert, since season 4 just started, so everything I am writing about has already been shown, plus it's history.

The story is about the Culper spy ring which passed information to General Washington at a critical
time during the American Revolution. The members of the ring were given fake names and referred to by numbers, operating behind the scenes, unobtrusively. The hero of Turn is Abraham Woodhull, played by Jamie Bell. He's married to his late brother's fiance, and they have a son. They live in Setauket, a small town on Long Island.

Abraham's father is Judge Richard Woodhull, the local magistrate (side note, he's played by Kevin J. McNally, who is also Joshamee Gibbs, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame). They've selected to make the father a Tory sympathizer, which isn't true (some of my info, I found on the Internet, some I realized myself).

Then there is Abraham's former fiance Anna, now married to Selah Strong, proprietors of the local tavern. My understanding is that they didn't own this tavern, and that Anna never had an affair with Abraham.

My first inkling that all wasn't as it should be came when I saw General Charles Lee being interrogated by Major John Andre. Say what?  When did that happen, you ask. To my knowledge, never. While he was captured by the British, in a dressing gown and slippers, I don't think he met Andre, and was later ransomed back to Washington (although one has to wonder why they didn't just let the British keep him).

Then, they tried to make Lee out to be a mole! Maybe he was an unpleasant man, and maybe he "shit the bed at the Battle of Monmouth" (okay, those are Lin-Manuel's words, not mine), but a traitor? I'm not buying that one.

The villain of the story is a British soldier who becomes head of a group of Queen's Rangers by the
name of John Simcoe. To know him is to hate him, and I do. So does Abraham. He is thoroughly reprehensible, starting with his attempts to get into Anna Strong's knickers when he is billeted at her house (colonists were forced to let British soldiers live with them), not to mention his enmity toward Abraham and even toward his own commanding officer, Major Hewlett. I don't know enough about the man to know if this is what he was like, as I'm still reading, but he does make a great villain.

Major Hewlett, the head of the British forces in Setauket, is played by Burn Gorman. If you watched
Torchwood, you'll remember him. I disliked his character intensely on Torchwood, but the major has grown on me, surprisingly. He's endured shit from Simcoe and hates him as much as I do lol

A couple other of Abraham's friends and colleagues are Caleb Brewster, the smuggler

and Benjamin Tallmadge, an intelligence officer under General Washington

The storyline that is making me piss and moan the loudest, though, has to do with Major John Andre, General Benedict Arnold, and Margaret "Peggy" Shippen. They are literally rewriting history and it makes me want to scream!

Their timeline is skewed, and so are the events themselves.

My first complaint has to do with Peggy Shippen. The real Peggy was 18 when she met Arnold, and they had this instant attraction, even though he was 36. Not a big deal back then. She had known Major Andre previously, when she was a few years younger, when the British held Philadelphia. But I don't believe there was anything between them other than perhaps light flirtation considering her age and his position. But if you believe Turn, they were having an affair.

Then, also according to Turn, it is Major Andre's idea, before he leaves Philadelphia, to possibly recruit Benedict Arnold, and learning that Peggy knew him at one time, set the wheels in motion for her to contact him. (If I was Arnold, I would have been more concerned that her family had Tory leanings). They show Andre and Peggy having sex, and when the British evacuate Philadelphia, he leaves her with a token of his love - namely the single blond braid which dangles from his head (and which there is no historical basis for). (He's a looker, anyway, just fyi)

So Shippen, heartbroken, meets up with Benedict Arnold and plays him, all the time pining for Andre, who she is convinced will still marry her (wtf people?) There is a scene where she and Arnold have sex for the first time, and we see her face, which is like tragic mask as she thinks of Andre even while Arnold is porking her, and she clutches the sheets in one hand, and Andre's braid in the other). Okay, make me gag.

Let's go back to reality. She and Andre were NOT an item. I repeat NOT. They make it sound like they're virtual Romeo and Juliet, which is so much bullshit. Plus, Andre did not approach Arnold, Arnold approached Andre. And by the time he did, he was already married to Peggy. In this, you see her trying to delay the marriage, in hopes of Andre carrying her off or something.

Oh, can't forget to show you General Washington!

Okay, enough about that. I'll talk about the new season of Food Network Star later, and how Comeback Kitchen went!  Later

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