Socialist Worker

History show that’s full of facts but not much else

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2707

History101 - a lot of noise but not much sense

History101 - a lot of noise but not much sense


Twenty minutes isn’t very long for a history programme. So the premise of Netflix’s History 101—a series of bitesize history documentaries—seems ambitious.

The somewhat eclectic list of episodes—which include feminism, oil in the Middle East and nuclear power—seem almost guaranteed to be interesting. Instead all we get is little more than timelines and infographics without any explanation, narrative or argument to say what any of it means.

Take the first episode for example—fast food.

The entire first half is spent telling us that fast food businesses began in the US then spread to other countries.

But it doesn’t tell us why or even how.

Then about 12 minutes in we get to what is presumably meant to be the weighty stuff.

Fast food, it turns out, is unhealthy and bad for the environment. So now McDonald’s markets salad and vegan options too.

What are we to make of this? “What happens next is in our hands.” And that’s it.

Every episode follows the same, empty format.

The problem isn’t that the show tries to say too much. It’s that it’s almost at pains to avoid saying anything at all.

It is possible to say at least something in the space of 20 minutes. History 101 doesn’t even try.

It all has the feel of a show that wants to take up hot topic “issues” but without the conviction or interest to actually do it.

Instead it just pads out each episode with facts and waffle until it’s finally time to sign off with a vague, half-hearted conclusion.

If anything, this makes them feel as if they go on far too long.

Twenty minutes shouldn’t be very long for a history programme.

But it’s a long time to talk when you’ve got nothing to say.

History 101 Available now on Netflix

A collective of actors, writers, directors and creatives of East and South East Asian heritage will join forces online to present a new digital arts event titled WeRNotVirus.

It’s described as an “urgent artistic response” that aims to shine a light on the surge in hate crime directed towards East and South East Asian people during the Covid-19 crisis.

Daniel York Loh, one of the project’s producers, said, “It’s about making a statement.

“You can’t let this kind of thing happen and there be a gaping silence.

“Representation is so important because if you’re not visible in the media or culture the easier it is to dehumanise you.”

WeRNotVirus features ten newly commissioned stories delivered using a variety of art forms including film, poetry, dance and song. The themes explore race, identity, representation, perspective and economics through the lens of artists and their communities.

A panel discussion with leading academics and activists will round off the performances each day and audiences will be invited to participate.

The festival’s producer Jennifer Lim said, “During a time when there has been a growing rise in hate crime against diasporic East and South-East Asian people it is vital that we are given a platform to amplify our voice.

WeRNotVirus. Online performances via Zoom.. Book spaces at omnibus-clapham.org

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Article information

Reviews
Fri 29 May 2020, 17:00 BST
Issue No. 2707
Share this article


Tags



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.