Being a writer means that you know things most people don't. For example, I know that, in Viking-age Iceland, it was illegal to shoot a moose with a bow and arrow while skiing on private property. Will anyone need to know this in real life? No. Will it prove useful to me? Most likely.
Knowing things that most people don't means that you also notice things that most people don't. You catch grammatical mistakes and spelling errors in both Facebook posts and published books. You wonder why all the characters in the movie Ever After have British and American accents if the movie is supposed to be set in France. And not only that, but you also tend to reverse-engineer movies and books.
I do, anyway. The first time I recall doing this was while I was watching Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb. I hadn't yet seen the first or second movies (oh well), and I was having a movie night with my mom while my dad and sister were out of the house. I remember pausing the movie (to get more snacks) while protagonist Larry Daley battled a snake-demon-goddess-thingy and mentioning to my mom, "Do you remember when the Neanderthal used the defibrillator earlier in the movie?"
"I'm pretty sure they're going to use it later on in the movie."
And, spoiler alert, guess how they won the battle with the snake-demon-goddess-thingy. With a defibrillator. I felt so pleased with myself.
I notice other things in movies that most people don't--especially clunky dialogue. I cringe when characters repeatedly use figures of speech or bad metaphors. Even a simple "That's what I'm talking about!" can really make a scene less fluid. One metaphor I loved, though, was in the movie The Spy Next Door, which I recently watched with my family: the villain is described as being "so crooked he could eat nails and poop corkscrews."
And don't get me started on medieval movies. Especially How to Train Your Dragon.
I love this franchise. The books, the movies, the TV shows, and even the holiday specials are made with excellence. But I've spent the past few years studying Vikings, and I'm going to make some critiques to the historical accuracy.
First off, I really can't complain much about the outfits. And not because they're historically accurate; these guys live in Scandinavia, and "a few degrees south of freezing to death" as protagonist Hiccup puts it in the first movie. No one would be wearing short sleeves. But the producers were aiming for a children's universe where historical accuracy is optional. and I myself will confess to dodging costume protocol in order to establish character. (This is one of the reasons my own character Lukas wears brown instead of black; it's friendlier and less depressing.)
That being said, I'll say that Hiccup's outfit is probably the most accurate of the group's. A long-sleeved tunic with trousers and boots is standard Norse fare. Even his hair is fairly period-accurate. My issue is primarily with the girls' costumes. Astrid and Ruffnut ought to be wearing full-length dresses with frocks over them, not short skirts and leggings. In Dreamworks' defense, I'm pretty sure that Astrid--the pretty blonde on the left--is wearing a shirt made of nalbinding, which is a Norse fabric-making technique similar to knitting or crochet. But I'll talk about nerd crafts another day.
I've read the first six books in the series, and they aren't much more historically accurate, although they're obviously well-researched. They refer to horned helmets and huts rather than longhouses. They also refer to an assembly of local tribes which is simply called The Thing.
At first, I laughed. And, honestly, I used to make me feel better about my own writing. "Come on, M.J.," I'd tell myself, "all writers think their own work is stupid. I'll bet Cressida Cowell wished she came up with a better name than The Thing." But turns out that The Thing is the actual name of the Norse parliament, and it was indeed a meeting of all the tribes in the area.
Am I ever going to stop critiquing movies for every little thing they get wrong? It depends. If a movie is exceptionally good, for instance, I'll be so drawn in that I forget to critique. But I'll probably watch it for a second or third time and say, "But medieval people didn't have toilet paper!"
Do you notice the little things in movies? Are you a fellow fan of How to Train Your Dragon, and are you awaiting the third movie as eagerly as I am? Who's your favorite character? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.