Search Selected Revolutionary War Websites:

I have a new home! Check it out here:

Come see what's new:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why do we do it?

Last night I was perusing the web as I have a tendency to do, looking for blogs from other reeanactors. I found a few interesting things that I will keep my eye on, and I will share in future posts, but I stumbled on an article that was questioning reenacting and the disillusions we might have about what we are doing. He stated that reenactors (speaking of Civil War reenactors specifically, though I think it applies to all times) would never know the true horrors and pains of the war or of the politics of the time. That we would never come close to what it was really like even if we counted every stitch or every button on our clothes. I found the articles rather depressing to be honest, it shook me a little when I read them, and I wasn’t going to share it on my blog here. But when I stopped to think about it, I thought it was a rather valid question to ask. Why do we do what we do? I am sure we all have completely different answers to this question. I sat down to think about why we decided to do it as a family. What is the core reason when it all boils down to it, that I enjoy doing it so much? We know that we can never be exact in what we do, we can never be dirty enough, we can never be hungry enough, we can never be that scared, yet we do it with a lot of passion. So I decided to leave a message for the author, who in his story had shared a little bit of his time as a Civil War reenactor when he was a teen. And I would like to share my answer to him with you. As I said everyone will have a different answer to this question, my husband probably has a different answer, and I’m sure even my 4 year old son has a different answer. But this is my answer. It’s a piece of the puzzle, not the whole story, but I had fun thinking about it. And I hope this post makes you think about it too. Why do you do what we do?

While it's true that some people take reenacting to the extreme, “counting stitches” as they say, the majority of people I have had the pleasure of meeting while reenacting have been very down to earth and laid back about it all. Yes we are trying to recreate History, yes we want to make it as realistic as possible, but do we have disillusions that we are coming even close? Maybe. But we also know that we are so far from it, that it would be impossible to even get there. If I were really a woman from the 18th century, my legs wouldn’t be shaved, would I go to a reenactment with unshaven legs? Nope, and you are probably repulsed by the thought of it, you wouldn’t want to go to one of these and see a bunch of hairy women walking around. But in that time, the men would have been mad if their women were shaved! I don’t go to reenactments because I want to portray every single thing that happened 200 years ago with extreme precision; I go because I get the opportunity to be away from the world for three days. Three days spent outside with my husband, my son, no TV, no game boy, good food, and great friends. You spent time reenacting when you were younger; you probably spent a lot of money on the supplies and the clothes. If you hadn’t been reenacting, where would that money have gone? This or that with no real memories made? But you have this amazingly vivid story to share of a time in your youth when you were passionate about something. Not many children can even come close to sharing such a story. Reenacting gave you that. Sometimes it’s not always about the actual reenacting, it’s about the ancillary things that come with it. When I sat in the movie theater 5 times to watch the movie Titanic, I had no disillusions that Leonardo DiCaprio had any clue what it would be like to actually drown. He didn’t freeze to death, in fact the water they shot that in was probably a balmy 80 degrees. But does that make their portrayal of the time any less real to me? Perhaps, but I enjoy seeing it anyway. And I’m glad that Leonardo spends his time making movies rather then becoming a menace to society. I completely get what you are trying to say, none of the guys on the battle field of a reenactment can come close to showing us what it was really like to die, starve, be in so much pain that being dead would be a better answer, to leave your loved ones not knowing if you will come home, the fear of losing everything you own to the Crown. No, we will never know those true emotions, but we will know the true emotions of spending our time stepping away from the hustle and bustle of cars, TV’s, bills, computers, and non-stop work. We will know the passion of having a hobby that we enjoy, one that doesn’t hurt anyone else, one that other people enjoy seeing us do. Just as millions of people enjoy sitting in a dark theater, watching people that are worth more then we can even fathom, play husbands, wives, super heroes, criminals, psychos, and soldiers, we enjoy sitting outside spending time with our real families, giving a slight nod to those that came before us, those that fought for the right for you and I to even have this conversation.

Believe me yours faithfully,


Anonymous said...

Not that it matters much, but the water used in shooting "Titanic" was left cold at the actors' request, to add to the realism.

According to Kate Winslet, it wasn't as cold as the north Atlantic would have been in mid-April, but cold enough that they were extremely uncomfortable.

Moderator said...

I agree, I have heard that as well. But regardless of whether it was uncomfortable or not, they did not and would not have froze to death or even come close to that true experience. Being cold in a pool, with people 3 feet away with warm towels, is a little different then knowing that you are in the middle of an ocean with no help coming and you can feel your body going numb within minutes. My point still holds true whether the water was warm or not, an actor could never come close to really feeling the fear or pain that someone who is drowning feels. No matter how cold the water is.

Sandy said...

Hello Rachel,
As always I love reading your posts. I agree one hundred %. We can never really know the emotions those people felt during the Revolution, on the battlefield, those left behind to tend the farms and the children never knowing if their husbands or fathers would ever return. But out of a deep appreciation and respect out of sincere admiration and thanksgiving we put on our own version of history and stride out to those reenactments and together with our family and friends enjoy each moment almost reverantly. Thanks for the great post, makes everyone think a little bit.

A faithful friend,
Sandy Bachar