McCoys vs Or Blue vs Grey?

Violence, Ignorance, & Human Behavior- Hatfield vs

When one embarks on a journey, they should be prepared for the duration. Too often I believe we think of docudramas as worthwhile investments in our education and intellectualization. (Is there such a word? Not! But, that did not stop the creators from believing they could deliver relevance for three days.)

My history does not include a time in the hills of Kentucky, but, I do have limited time in West Virginia as a quasi tourist spread over several years and weeks. The mountains of West Virginia are beautiful and I assume the Kentucky side of the line is the same. Late night television will probably have a field day with characterizations of the Hatfields and McCoys. But, that’s what late night television does this days, make fun of things it does not understand.

Living in the middle of an area which was involved in the pre-Civil War violence, I can reach out and touch a history packed with hatred and violence. Local lore is filled with heroes and villains. One can find a monument to John Younger shot in a battle with the Pinkertons less than 10 miles from our home. In my opinion, The History Channel drama would fail to adequately show the ravages of war on the hearts and minds of the men involved in a classic feud.

First, let me commend the people who made this film for attempting to capture what through time has existed between families, clans and cultures. Closely behind that compliment let me add, an audience capable or willing to sit through an exploration of the psychological machinations of the key players does not exist in the our culture today. Therefore, we have a shallow representation of what must have taken place within the individuals involved. While we as humans are capable of great violence against our fellows, and some core place within usually holds the true key to our behavior shaped long before action.

Second, the capture of the mountains, valleys and meadows portrayed what I know of West Virginia as a truly beautiful area of our nation. If for nothing more than a snapshot of the region and a bit of history, Hatfields & McCoys gets an A in my book.

Having given praise let me report my disappointment with the total package. One must realize I am well past prime, so my interpretation and expectations of a film vary dramatically from the target audience in today’s media. That said, I can now begin with my evaluation of the drama. Again, I believe it was less a flaw of the producer/director/actor package than building something which would hold the attention of today’s audience.

Shallow or On Target?

The lack of depth of the two main characters Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy, in my opinion, leaves the full story untold. While no one knows the true nature of men long past, we can understand they must have been more complex than two hillbillies leading their clans in a blood feud. Lacking that truth, we have hollow characters as the spear points in exchanges of lethal violence. That might be basis for a grand video game, but, makes the series little more minutes filled with beautiful landscapes, sneak peeks into the harshness of life in those times, and in most cases point blank executions.

Just as we will never know the psychological and moral threads woven through the tapestry of individuals involved in the local Border Wars prior to the Civil War, we cannot see the men who were marred by the violence of personal combat prior the prominent historical events portrayed in Hatfields & McCoys.

Would I watch Hatfield & McCoys again? No. I can drive to West Virginia and see the beautiful scenery and read short segments posted on the internet. That does not mean I do not suggest one should avoid the docudrama. Considering the alternate fare offered on today’s television- Hatfields & McCoys is Grade A Prime.

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