Historical Accuracy in Pop Culture Movies

My favorite movie series is “The Mummy”. That being said, I love it when historical movies like that are 100% factual. The clothing used in the movie was surprisingly similar to the clothing that would have been worn at that time in ancient Egypt, except for the almost complete nudity seen on Anck Sun Amun at the beginning – complete nudity was very rare and only done by extremely rich and powerful Egyptians. As for the historical characters, I know for a fact that Imhotep was real; he was an architect, engineer and physician who served under Djoser in the Third Dynasty. I’m fairly certain that Anck Sun Amun was one of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. The plot that the movie follows is somewhat hit and miss. During the opening, we are introduced to King Seti I, Imhotep and Anck Sun Amun. Anck Sun Amun was supposed to marry Seti, but she was in love with Imhotep. Seti soon finds out about it and is infuriated. Imhotep and Anck Sun Amun end up stabbing Seti to death, guards go after Imhotep and Anck Sun Amun commits suicide. Later, Imhotep tries to resurrect Anck Sun Amun at Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, with the black book of the dead. Although this makes for an interesting plot twist, none of it ever actually happened. The book of the dead, as well as the book of the living, did actually exist, but they were instruction manuals buried with royalty to help them transition to the after life. In the movie, Imhotep used five canopic jars to hold Anck Sun Amun’s organs during her resurrection: this is completely false, every basic Egyptologist knows that only four canopic jars were needed to hold the necessary organs for mummification. The city of Hamunaptra does actually exist, but it is not nearly the grand city of the dead the movie makes it out to be. In reality, it is a poorly built city with no plan behind it. Much less impressive. Imhotep’s punishment for touching Seti’s future bride was to have his tongue cut out and to be mummified alive. He also had scarab beetles poured inside his coffin that ate him alive. This also never actually happened. There was not a scarab beetle in existence that had the capability to burrow under a person’s skin and eat them from the inside out. The worst they could have done was to cause a bad rash and infection.

3 thoughts on “Historical Accuracy in Pop Culture Movies

  1. In addition to what you said about the characters of “The Mummy” being real people, it’s also interesting to see how movies copy different people from history and paste them wherever in their productions. For example, the three characters you mentioned, Anck-Su-Namun, Imhotep, and Seti I, weren’t even from the same Egyptian dynasty, much less the same century. Imhotep came first in the Third Dynasty, followed by Anck-Su-Namun in the Eighteenth Dynasty, and then finally Seti I in the Nineteenth Dynasty. I doubt the pharaoh of Egypt would’ve gotten so hot and bothered over a woman many years his senior, although the fact that she supposedly chose a centuries old corpse over Seti I would be a bit unnerving.
    In any case, inaccuracies are generally rampant throughout historical films. The movie “Braveheart” for instance. William Wallace wasn’t a poor peasant, in reality he was a knight from a noble family. Furthermore, his allegedly having a love affair with the future queen of England would’ve been quite scandalous, as she was a baby at the time. Another good example of rampant historical inaccuracy is in the movie “300”, which details the Battle of Thermopylae, involving the Spartans and the Persians. For starters, Xerxes was not freakishly tall. Furthermore, Ephialtes, the Spartan traitor and outcast, was not hideously deformed as he is portrayed in the movie.
    Of course these added inaccuracies add excitement and thrill to the movies they’re in, but they are nonetheless, wrong. My point is that it’s not a terrible thing that these movies aren’t one hundred percent accurate, but it’s good to be mindful of the true story that occurred in history.

  2. I, too, appreciate when historical movies are mostly accurate. One of my favorite movie “duos” is National Treasure 1, and National Treasure 2. Particularly, National Treasure 2 has a lot of historical context that has been proved to be true, and some that may stretch the truth a bit. For example, in the movie the characters talk about missing pages from John Wilkes Booth’s diary. In reality, there are eighteen pages lost from Booth’s diary, but they have never been found and the one who tore them out has never been discovered. Also in relation to Booth, there was talk of him being part of the Knights of the Golden Circle. I don’t know about you but I was curious if such a group even existed. Turns out, it did! The Knights of the Golden Circle had an absurd plan to annex territory in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico as Southern states, in order to create a “golden circle” of pro-slavery. Obviously, this never happened and there is no record of whether or not Booth was a member. Lastly, my favorite scenes in the movie were those involving the Resolute desks. And it turns out that they actually do exist! Two, twin desks were carved from the planks of the British ship, Resolute. In 1879, Queen Victoria kept one and sent the other desk to President Hayes as a gift. Since then, most presidents have used the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. The only hiccup, however, is that the Confederacy ended over a decade before Queen Victoria sent the desk; therefore, why would she hide a secret message to them within the desk, as the movie portrays.

  3. I thought your post was very interesting and accurate. I like how the information relates back to what we discussed in class. I really enjoyed reading about the different movies and how accurate their depictions of specific history is. i think it is very cool that your analysis even goes down to the clothing that was worn during the movies, per your example in the first few sentences. I also love the Mummy movies and I wrote about the Curse of the Mummy as well. I am very intrigued by the curse and the mystery surrounding mummies, i think that it is one of the more fascinating topics in history. What are your thoughts on the truths of the curse of the mummy? I think there are some truths to the stories but obviously I do not believe everything that I read about them. I did not know that the book of dead and the book of the living actually existed, I am not going to lie i was surprised by that. But at the same time I am very interested in these books now and I will be researching them on my own time. Even though i know they were just instruction manuals to help them transition to the after life. Overall, I really enjoyed reading your post.

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