Culturally Sensitive Re-enacting 201


Those of you who saw the previous post would have undoubtedly recognised the 1949 Mercury coupé. That sort of thing is hard to miss. Closer inspection would have revealed the 1964 shirt and tie, 1961 hat, 1958 suit, and the 1948 geezer standing in front of the car.

The car was a 1:18 scale model, the backdrop was a scanned slide and a piece of Masonite, and the shoes were Doc Martens, but all the rest was absolutely genuine. All the clothes and the geezer have been in the family for generations. I take pride in the fact that the clothing is still wearable after all that time and that I am the same size as the original owner – my Dad.

This is a fun way to re-enact, as it does not involve trying to imagine someone else’s appearance. All the errors of taste and judgement that you commit can be your own and no-one can laugh at you for wearing the clothing. Unless the clothing is from the late 1970’s and then EVERYONE can laugh. Flairs do that.

Sometimes we try too hard when we dress up. We make terrifically authentic Viking clothing and spend hours and dollars on the wonderful accoutrements of someone else’s life. We will be guided by Osprey or the British Museum or stills from a Hollywood movie and we will generally pile it on pretty thick. Whether we coat ourselves with brass jewellery or intricately -worked embroidery or iron rings or dirt…the layers will be substantial. After all, it is no good doing it easy when difficult and awkward is presumed to be the historic way.

We also sometimes try too hard when it comes to telling the story. Whether the tale is told to others for ” education ” or to ourselves for “roots ” it is more likely to involve Grimm and grime than to be a simple life. We seem to be channelling landmark figures all the time. I got Carrie Nation one time, but I had been drinking…

The small re-enactor who is content to re-live part of their own small history has it easier. They can dig out an old high school sweater, put it on and make a caramel malted milkshake for themselves, and go back to 1964 in an instant. And accurately. The caramel  malted milkshake will cause nostalgia. If they time the whole thing right and take a couple of colour pictures of themselves with a hot rod and process it in ” Kodachrome ” setting the illusion will be so realistic as to bring them out in a crop of pimples.

And who is to say that they are not performing as good a public service in ” education ” as the re-enactor who conducts fake sword fights or musket drill at the local fair. The 50’s and 60’s were real – and that reality has rarely been captured by Hollywood or television. Living it again can show it far better. Plus you do not have to buy as many brass ornaments and slippery shoes.

Note: Happy Days was a crock. The JD’s were never kindly or cool and there was no Arnold or Fonz. The best you could hope for was to avoid them all.

Heading Photo. Bunz…Chelsea Bunz. Our favourite trailer trash. Not trashy at all.


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