The Disney Treatment

A mix of reality, falsehood, emotional manipulation, and darned good storytelling. Photo is Disney promo materials.

If you see the new biopic Young Woman and the Sea–and I do recommended you see it–you should be aware that the actual James Sullivan, head of the American Athletic Union, was dead twelve years before the key events in the movie take place. It’s what ticks me off about these sports movies. What happened is fascinating in its own right, so why do they make up stuff? Why do they have to create false emotional tension, when the real tension is already in the story? And why do I cry every time when the athlete does the thing that I knew that they would do, all along?

Young Woman and the Sea is one of three Disney sports movies that I particularly like, the other two being Dangal and McFarland USA. All three might be termed shamelessly manipulative, but perhaps that’s the nature of our response to humans overcoming obstacles. In this post, I will point out some of the good and the bad about these movies, set the record straight for the “um, actually” crowd, but still give these all a thumb’s up. They deserve watching.

Historical Inaccuracy

Young Woman is about Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926. Without giving away too many spoilers, fact checking of the movie details reveals that Trudy did have a near-death case of the measles as a child (vaccinate people!), she did swim with her sister, and her “coaches” did work to disqualify her in her Channel swim, though not the way the movie showed. And she did have a giant ticker tape parade, one of the biggest ever in New York.

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J is for Jurassic

Jurassic Park OG Velociraptor, photo from

Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment… focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something.

Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Chances are that you have seen Jurassic Park or one of its sequels. Chances are that you found some part of it exciting. Perhaps you found other parts to strain credulity. That’s ok. The Jurassic Park franchise is not entirely accurate. At first, I thought it was too pandering, too dumbed-down to create realistic dinosaurs. But I was wrong. At least about the relative realism of the dinosaurs.

No, they weren’t exactly Jurassic. The dinosaurs named and depicted did not completely act like their namesakes should have acted. The velociraptor and the dilophosaurus in the first movie were particularly off. But Spielberg got a lot of other things right. And he made dinosaurs really popular, which probably led to more people studying dinosaurs and more funding for dinosaur studies. Well played, Mr. Spielberg, well played.

Not Especially Jurassic

So what exactly is Jurassic? It’s a geological time period. Geologic time is divided up into eras and periods, chiefly to provide names for future geologists and paleontologists to memorize. Also, it’s shorter to write Jurassic than it is to write 200 to 145 million years ago. The entire era of the dinosaurs is called the Mesozoic, which means the middle (meso) era that had animal fossils (zoic), as opposed to the Paleozoic, which means older time of fossils, and the Cenozoic, which is the recent era, i.e. now.

The Mesozoic also had three divisions: Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Triassic was called that because the Germans wanted that time period to have another three categories that they called the Trias. Kind of like the basic rule of magic; if you say a thing three times, then it becomes real.

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G is for Godzilla

Godzilla was definitely a dinosaur. The question is : Which one? And that means, of course, both which kind of dinosaur and which Godzilla, since there were several. Plus, always with the science, the ultimate question is: How do we know?

One thing is known about the Big Guy. Godzilla is the only dinosaur to have both an Oscar and his own theme song.

Which Godzilla

If we’re going to define what kind of dinosaur Godzilla represents, we have to narrow the list to which one we’re talking about. In total, there have been 38 film Godzillas (33 Japanese) beginning with the one in 1954. While I’d love to spend a leisurely post (or ten) about Godzilla’s history, let’s stick with the dinosaur theme. Point being, there have been a lot of renditions of Godzilla which look different, so if we’re going to call him a dinosaur we have to narrow the field to at most three.

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