“An instinctive desire for authenticity” – Coco Chanel

On my way to school this week I saw two adverts that struck me as being interesting. One was on a bus and advertised a forthcoming exhibition of artefacts from the television programme Game of Thrones and the other was an advertisement for the film Ocean’s 8.

So what was it in particular about these two adverts? It comes down to authenticity. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones so I need to be careful, but from what I see this is a form of pseudo-historical fiction which looks rather like the dark ages in Europe. I’ve never read the George Martin books of the series but I know they are enormously popular and as fiction I am sure that they have every reason to be. That said, I wonder how often this powerful fictional account can be confused with what actually happened in Europe after the fall of Rome and before the start of the medieval period. Does it even matter as long as more people are encouraged to learn more about the past? Ocean’s 8 is of course a reboot of the successful movie franchise but with a predominantly female cast rather than the earlier male dominated version. I’m sure that the plot is close to the previous films and it is entirely right that there should be all-female star cast lists in Hollywood. But I did wonder whether or not the all-female star cast should have their own film rather than a reboot. They certainly have the acting ability to create a different story. Perhaps the point is that this film represents a taking over or taking back.

Education is meant to broaden the mind to create individuals who will ask valid questions about orthodoxies, be it to how we view the past or the role of women in society. I’d like to think that we are educating a group of young people who will think for themselves and will not simply accept at face value what they are told by advertisers, politicians or indeed anyone else with something to promote. One of the biggest challenges that schools face is to develop critical thinkers in an age when attention spans are shortening. We are approaching the summer holidays, eight weeks of time when our young minds will be available to advertisers for hours at a time. I hope that many will choose to read a book that they will lose themselves in. Perhaps they will look to find a classic film to watch rather than the latest blockbuster offerings. Perhaps they will have the opportunity to visit a museum and see some real archaeological artefacts rather than props from a TV show. I’d like to think that they will spend time with their extended families and friends and will take time to consider all of the ideas that they hear, if only to reject them. Most of all I hope that over the course of this year we have given them the tools to start thinking for themselves, making their own decisions and deciding what authentic really looks like.

Nicholas Hammond

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