Topics in History: History through Film

A Southport student review of the 2000 movie The Patriot

Topics is a course at Southport High School, taught by Kevin Sanders, that analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens. This week, student Christina Halloran reviews the 2000 film The Patriot.

By Christina Halloran

Since the beginning, films have always been extremely influential on society.

They can be captivating, emotional, horrifying and historical. The Patriot is one of the many examples of films being historical. However, how well did writer Robert Rodat really portray this film? While there are many accuracies, there are far more inaccuracies.

The biggest inaccuracy in the film involves the life and status of Blacks in South Carolina of 1780. Despite the fact that Benjamin Martin had liberated his plantation workers, Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion both continued to have enslaved people. The film shows a dark enlistee in troops from the South Carolina local army. However, people of color didn’t fill in as battling men in South Carolina armed forces units, despite the fact that they did in the South Carolina naval force. The incongruity is that this bogus piece of wokeness, with some sappy specialist discourse, might have been supplanted by a seriously captivating truth.

As we look deeper into Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), we can see a lot more of who he is than what the film shows. The film portrays Benjamin as a humble single father whose hobbies included freeing the enslaved, taking care of his seven children and whittling rocking chairs. Benjamin’s character is based on another, General Francis Marion, who is known as a guerilla fighter that led a group of militiamen in a series of raids against the British. In contrast to the meritorious Martin, the British Colonel Tavington is also swarmed with made-up lies to captivate the audience. His character is loosely based on the English cavalry leader Banastre Tarleton. Tavington is portrayed as a sneering, sadistic monster and accused of various evils. However, according to The Globe and Mail, the man was a flamboyant officer who was loved by all soldiers. No one could see him as a blood-thirsty villain. Understandably so, in the Americans’ point of view Tavington is an unquestionably hated figure.

Not only did the film lack in providing the truth of the events they also lacked when it came to clothing and housing. The film left viewers with a mistaken sense that everyone in South Carolina wore decent clothes and lived in spacious farmhouses or mansions. However, it was quite the opposite. Characters such as Sumter, Marion, Pickens and Morgan were all farmers or plantation owners. Although they did have farms, they were not spacious nor that clean.

The film itself is loved by many Americans but has a lot of controversial views in British states. While it does bring a lot of action and anxious moments, we know as viewers that Benjamin had done his best to protect his children. The film introduces a lot of serious family moments and that is something that many people can relate to today.