Wednesday, September 4, 2013

History in Animaniacs

For the first time, we will have a post detailing the history that can be found in pop culture.

Animaniacs was a children's TV show in the 1990s often praised for its education and entertainment. The show's format is typically of 10-minute skits, some of which consist of a song.

One such song that portrays American history is the President's song.

While the song focuses on humor rather than fact, it also can teach someone a lot. Some of its inaccuracies include its mention of the popular myth, Washington chopping down a cherry tree, and its claim that Woodrow Wilson brought America into World War I in 1913 rather than1917. However, the song also has many correct facts about each President as it goes through each Commander-in-Chief in order (ex. "James Madison never had a son, and he fought the War of 1812," "Teddy Roosevelt charged us San Juan hill"). It is a very useful tool for memorizing the order of the Presidents and some small amount of information about them.

Another such historical song is the Ballad of Magellan.

As the title suggests, this song follows the Portuguese skipper Ferdinand Magellan on his journey to find the East Indies. While this song also has a strong element of humor, it also has many facts in song form (ex. "A great storm arose in the mighty Pacific/ The five little ships were diminished to three"). The song even correctly names many of the locations Magellan stopped on his way, as well as accurately placing his death on the Philippine Islands at the hands of the natives.

Animaniacs also has a song about the Panama Canal and a song called Nations of the World. While the latter sounds more like geography than history, the song's recording in the early 1990s paints a picture of a surprisingly different world. It is a great reminder of how much the world has changed, specifically in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia since merely two decades ago. For instance, the song includes Yugoslavia and misses Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all of which were a part of the USSR and only gained their independence in the early '90s.

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