CNN paper, Student Essays

There are two essays here


Dr. Murnane

AP World History

November 10, 2011

CNN’s Millennium: History Through the Lens of Entertainment

While CNN’s Millennium has several flaws that must be addressed, overall it was an admirable presentation of world history. Granted, the series emphasized certain trivial events at the expense of more important information, misrepresented time periods and the people in them, and often lacked consistent thesis statements. However, the episodes overall were very informative and entertaining, and had a well-organized format. The way that the episodes were broken down into segments, each with a different topic, was beneficial because it gave the segments clarity by separating regions and stories in a way that could be easily digested, and it also made certain that the viewer was not overloaded with too much information all at once. CNN broke up 1000 years of history into ten episodes and fifty segments, each including the story of a different region or group within a specific century. The trouble with this, however, was that these segments did not always link back to the thesis and metaphor of the episode as a whole. For example, the episode titled “Century of the Scythe” rarely linked the presented information back to this symbol. The scythe represented death, as clearly seen in the section about the Black Death in which the people were “scythed down” by the plague. However, in many other segments such as the one pertaining to the rise of Mali or the development of trade routes around the kingdom of Majapahit, the opposite effect is seen; people prospered. This flaw was also seen in the episodes “Century of the Sword” and “Century of the Sail”. Even “Century of the Axe” contradicted its symbol in the last segment by pointing out that the Australians maintained ancestral ways, ignoring the axe, while the rest of the world advanced architecturally. In addition, certain episodes were misrepresentative because they were stereotypical and were inconsistent with the time period. Modern costumes and props distorted the reality of the century, and the casting of a gloomy sky (literally) over certain groups of people gave them a false demeanor. For example, Christianity was portrayed in a very somber and downcast way in two episodes (“Century of the Sword” and “Century of the Sail”). In these episodes, Christians were depicted as helpless and violent people through dark music and an overall dark look. In addition, India is presented in a very vulgar way in the “Century of the Sword” episode as well—CNN chose to show nude statues and sexual images when depicting India. In terms of representation of the time period, taxis, polo shirts, mopeds, and modern fur coats are not accurate representations of the 11th and 15th centuries—these oddballs were seen throughout the series. The final flaw is that certain sections emphasized insignificant events at the expense of more important ones. For example, the “Century of the Sword” section on Japanese novels contained an abundance of historically useless information because of its limited view. This information could have easily been replaced with more pertinent 11th-century events such as the Crusades, the 1066 Norman conquest of England, or the Vikings. Other sections fall into the same category, including the “Century of the Sail” section on the Italian Renaissance, which included much cultural information that in no way affected the rest of the world. On the upside, the episodes were informative, using many methods of conveying information, such as reenactments, graphics, and citations; presenting many types of facts, such as statistics, names, dates, cultural evidence, and events; and going into a good amount of detail. In addition, the scope of the regions covered by the first five episodes is immense. Eighteen different regions and groups were discussed directly, and these eighteen affected many, many more through cause and effect, conquest, and exploration. The voyages of explorers of the age (such as Zheng He and Vasco da Gama) reached a vast number of new regions, empires such as the Ottoman Empire and the Mongolian Empire spanned much of the world, and trade routes crisscrossed the globe. Finally, the episodes were entertaining because of captivating graphics, dramatic quotes and statistics, and exciting music. In particular, the section on the Black Death in “Century of the Scythe” portrayed this strength. The graphic involving a black hand taking over the Earth was intense and captivating; quotes such as “If death is a wineglass, my heart is drunk,” caught the attention of viewers and displayed a unique side to the story; and dark and stormy music stirred the audience emotionally and helped them to really feel the tragedy. “Century of the Axe” graphics were also entertaining and displayed the complexity of 12th-century buildings in an evident way. The statistics referring to the conquest of Timur’s army in “Century of the Scythe” were also amazingly brutal, and the quotes from the “Century of the Scythe” segment on the turn to cannibalism in 14th-century Europe were sickeningly entertaining. Finally, the music in “Century of the Stirrup” was majestic and upbeat, really capturing the excitement of the battles of the Mongolian conquest. Therefore, while CNN’s Millennium has several flaws that must be addressed, overall it was an admirable presentation of world history.

The first flaw could be seen in the first episode–the misrepresentation and stereotyping of certain groups of people. For example, in the section of  “Century of the Sword” pertaining to the 11th-century inward turn of India, statues and architectural structures were carved to display human contact and naked people, and paintings were equally as crude. The actors in this segment were also naked for some of the time. With all of this sexual content, India was portrayed in a very vulgar way. This labeling also happened other times within this particular episode as well during the section on the divide of Christianity. The music was very somber, and the whole picture was quite dark. Outcries and bold movements also gave the idea of violence. Meanwhile, during sections such as the one about the spread of Islam, the music was upbeat and powerful. This could be seen as a display of stereotype, marking Christians as somber and melancholy, while Muslims are seen as strong and enthusiastic. Even though this might be the view of certain people, displaying a group as being entirely one thing is very dangerous. Christians were also given a bad reputation again in the 15th-century episode, “Century of the Sail”, during which the Ottoman conquest and their triumph over Christianity was highlighted. Again the Muslims looked like a people of power and might while Christians are again shown in a much less positive light. In fact, Christians are seen as the flawed and unworthy victims for whom the Ottomans showed mercy. Misrepresentation is one of the worst things a TV series can do, and even if these stereotypes have some truth to them, it is unfair to use labels to define every member of a group, and using negative stereotypes is risky because viewers who identify themselves as part of a specific group could feel offended.

However, it was not just the people of the time periods that were sometimes misrepresented, but the time periods themselves were often distorted as well. It is quite obvious that 11th-century Indians did not wear collared polo shirts, nor did taxis roam the streets of the 15th-century Aztec empire. And no matter how artsy and classy Italians were during the Renaissance, women certainly did not wear modern North Face fur coats and men did not ride around on mopeds. Finally, Coca Cola was not established during this age, so the Coca Cola sign in the background of the “Century of the Sword” episode was ridiculous. These modernized representations could be found throughout the entire series, and it caused the time periods to get somewhat lost in translation, causing the episodes to lose some of their historical feel.

The third major flaw of the series has to do with its metaphorical layout, or perhaps the weakness of this metaphor. Millennium, as assumed from the title, was created in order to display the history of an entire millennium of history, a shocking 1000 years filled with battles, conquest, expansion, and innovation. In order to accomplish this, CNN decided to divide the millennium into ten episodes, each pertaining to one century, and each episode into 5 individual segments, each displaying the story of one region during that century. In addition, each episode was assigned to a metaphor that was supposed to represent the entire 100 years. The first five episodes (1000 A.D.-1500 A.D.) were thus titled “Century of the Sword”, “Century of the Axe”, “Century of the Stirrup”, “Century of the Scythe”, and finally “Century of the Sail”. However, while this seems like a highly intelligent idea, unifying an entire century under one inanimate object cannot be an easy task, and CNN certainly seemed to struggle with it. Very rarely did the symbol connect with every single segment of each episode. The most drastic example of this flaw was the “Century of the Sword” episode, in which the sword does not play a role in majority of the segments. In no way does China being inventive and developing things such as paper, the compass, or the seismograph have to do with a sword of any kind, and nor does India turning inward or Japan developing novels. The scythe in “Century of the Scythe” (representing death and tragedy) is also completely lost within such segments as those about the flourish of Mali in gold and the rise of major trade routes around the Kingdom of Majapahit, and the sail is similarly mislaid in the “Century of the Sail” episode. The metaphor in this episode was missing or very vague within the two sections regarding the Aztec capitol and the Italian Renaissance. The Aztec capitol was built in the center of a lake, but this did not seem nearly as strong a correlation with the sail when compared with the ocean voyages and sea battles of other segments (about the voyages of Zheng He, the European discovery of the New World, and the Ottoman battle at Constantinople), and the Italian Renaissance was in no way connected with the sea. In fact, its only relationship with exploration at all (air travel) was extremely vague and disconnected. It was mentioned very briefly at the end of the segment during the introduction of Leonardo da Vinci after an entire episode pertaining to artists. Even the “Century of the Axe” episode betrayed its symbol in the last segment by pointing out that many of the world’s regions, such as Australia, defied the axe, remaining consistent with ancestral ways. It seems that the only episode with a strong and consistent connection with its symbol was “Century of the Stirrup”, an episode about the conquest of the Mongols, who used horses for many purposes.

Despite the fact that these episode metaphors were not as strong as they could have been, however, the segmented layout was, overall, very beneficial to the audience. As a viewer, having 1000 years of history thrown at you all at once can be quite overwhelming. So much took place between 1000 A.D. and 2000 A.D that keeping it straight can be difficult. However, taking the millennium century by century and the centuries region by region helped the viewer to digest what was being displayed. Which one is easier to remember? “In 1054, Christianity divided; in 1275, Marco Polo traveled to China; and in 1348, the Black Death plagued the world,” or “In 15th-century China, Zheng He made his legendary sea voyages, but he was not the only one. Europeans were also discovering the New World within the same century, and the Ottomans were crossing deep waters in order to conquer Constantinople”? Connection is very important in history, making seemingly random events begin to make sense in our minds, so CNN’s idea to unify events under individual metaphors, time periods, and regions was very sensible.

CNN’s Millennium was also highly entertaining, and one quality that made it thus was graphics. Throughout the episodes, many graphics captivated the audience, rebuilding history in front of their eyes. For example, in the first section of “Century of the Scythe” pertaining to the Black Death, the graphic used to depict the plague taking over, a black hand slowly encompassing the Earth, was drastic and interesting, causing much intrigue and discussion about the section. People literally fell under the hand of the plague. Another very interesting graphic was used during the “Century of the Axe” episode. This particular episode was very focused on the advancements made within different regions during the 12th century, namely, North America, Europe, Ethiopia, Italy, and finally, the rest of the undeveloped world. It was a century of architectural advancement. The graphic in this episode that was most appealing was the one in which models of the newly developed buildings were reconstructed on-screen. This not only showed the complexity of the structures but was also far more interesting than merely seeing a picture. Graphics such as these caught the attention of the viewer and set Millennium apart from other historical documentaries.

Another entertaining aspect of Millennium was its varied and interesting quotes. For example, in the aforementioned section about the Black Death, dramatic quotes such as “If death is a wineglass, my heart is drunk,” and “If you rise in the morning, don’t count on being alive by nightfall” make this section memorable. Other examples of quotes that definitely catch the attention of the audience from this episode (“Century of the Scythe”) can also be found within the section on the mini ice age and the subsequent famines of Europe during the 14th century. One such quote is: “…men and women eat their little children, and even other people’s.” This quote pertains to the turn to cannibalism because of the lack of food in Europe. Clearly, it is meant to grasp and entertain viewers through astonishment and disgust, and it also captures the low morale and distress of 14th-century Europe.

Yet another addition to CNN’s series that made it even more interesting was dramatic statistics. Adding a number to a statement can really make it much more effective. For example, not only did CNN enthrall audiences with information about the blood and gore of the conquest of Timur’s army in 14th-century Asia, but mentioning the “70,000 severed heads [that] were built into towers surrounding the ruined city” caused the audience to also wow at the vast amount of severed heads that there were. Statistics can also really help in the portrayal of the scope of tragedies or major accomplishments.

Music is the fourth and final entertainment value in CNN’s Millennium. For many people (myself included), music is a source of entertainment, and it can also be very touching. Therefore, the use of music in Millennium helped audiences to really relate emotionally to the events of the past. For example, the dark music surrounding the Black Death gave the audience a feeling of fear and dismay, while the upbeat music played during battles such as the “Century of the Stirrup” conquests of the Mongols in the 13th century excited audiences and made them feel triumphant when the battle was won. The emotional roller coaster instigated by the music of the episodes was much more comparable to an exciting film than just another forgettable history textbook.

One concluding statement that should be made about all of these entertainment qualities within the series is that they also helped the presented information to be better absorbed. Referring back to the Timur army statistic, mental images of severed heads make this section memorable, either through disgust or intrigue, and it is likely that people will remember at least some of the information presented, and perhaps even discuss it with others, spreading the information while also helping the spreader to retain it. The hand of the Black Death clearly conveyed the vast influence of the tragedy in a way that would also be remembered; the Plague spread through much of Europe and Africa. The thought of the poor little children being eaten during the European famine also leaves deep scars in the viewers’ brains that will not be soon forgotten. Finally, music is often used for the purposes of memorization and remembrance, so the addition of music to the episodes may help some to retain their overall mood more effectively. Therefore, entertainment value is good on two different fronts. Gaining viewers in the first place and enthralling them so that they enjoy the presentation is a clear upside, but this also comes with the bonus of helping those viewers to better retain history. It is captivating and interesting, but this captivation also makes the reception of the information much better as well. Perhaps this series can be used as a good portrayal of the idea that good history does not have to be boring.

Of course, for audiences to absorb much beneficial information, much beneficial information must be presented, and CNN’s Millennium overcame this challenge with relative ease. As mentioned before, the episodes were informative. CNN used many methods of conveying information, such as reenactments of battles (such as the Mongolian conquests in “Century of the Stirrup”), demonstrative graphics (such as the aforementioned reconstruction of 12th-century buildings in “Century of the Axe”), and citations of famous figures of the time period (such as quotes from the travel journal of Columbus during his discovery of the New World found in the “Century of the Sail” episode). They also presented many varying types of facts in good balance. Using a variety of statistics, names, dates, cultural evidence, and straight up facts gives the series an extensive overview of events. In addition, the series goes into a good amount of detail, not so much as to overwhelm the audience, but enough to give them a broad sense of any one historical event.

The final way in which Millennium was highly informative was in the scope of the places covered by the series. Across the first five episodes, all of the following regions were directly covered: China, India, Japan, North America, Europe, Ethiopia, Italy, Australia, Mongolia, Egypt, Mali, Asia, Indonesia, the Aztec Empire, Constantinople, and the New World. Christianity and Islam were also discussed in depth. On top of these areas that were directly mentioned and discussed, a vast number of other places were included indirectly in the series because of their connection to the main countries and regions. Zheng He’s explorations reached 30 countries around the Indian Ocean. European exploration spread south beyond the Cape of Good Hope (thanks to Vasco de Gama) to the Indian Ocean, meanwhile reaching the New World. Ottoman empires stretched across Eurasia to the Euphrates. Malian salt trade attracted merchants from miles around. Islamic empires spread from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. The Mongols had influence over most of the Eastern World. The list goes on and on. Basically, Millennium is an effective and informative portrayal of world history because it includes stories pertaining to every continent and every corner of the world.

However, there are always two sides to every story, and that is the case with the information presented by CNN. While the series undoubtedly presented a significant amount of information, and while a good portion of this information was beneficial, there were definitely sections that could have been improved on or omitted altogether. Two segments in particular that could have used some drastic improvement were the “Century of the Sword” segment on the creation of novels in Japan and the “Century of the Sail” segment on the Italian Renaissance.

The section on the creation of Japanese novels was flawed and pointless for several reasons. Firstly, it in no way displayed the relevance of Japanese novel development to the worldview strived for by a world historian. Secondly, it was too specific and limited. During class, it has been rightly mentioned several times that our births would not have been included in the series. But this statement begs the question: then why was Sei Shonagon’s whole life included? Why was she so unique or different from any other woman author of the time? Also, can the accomplishments of one woman who lived during only a fraction of the 11th century really be a sufficient representation of an entire country throughout an entire century? Basically, this insignificant segment was a waste of ten minutes that could have been much more wisely used describing other more world-pertinent events of the century, such as the Norman conquest of England in 1066 or the Seljuk Turks control of the Abbasid Empire in 1055.

In addition, the segment on Renaissance Italy also included much pointless information. For instance, discussing individual Renaissance paint colors and mentioning that “ultramarine was the most expensive” was completely irrelevant to the snapshot of the century as a whole. In fact, the whole section seemed fairly unnecessary. It did portray the culture and lifestyle of Italy at the time, but because it did not involve exploration or any other country outside of its borders, it was not really a beneficial choice for a TV series whose goal was to display a snapshot of the world in its entirety throughout the whole century. However, maybe instead of deleting all of the entertaining and cultural information (which does have some inherent value) presented by this segment, it could have been adapted to also incorporate the innovations of several other regions or have better explained the Renaissance’s relevance to the world outside of Italy.

Despite these small sections that could have been improved upon, the overall information presented was beneficial and interesting. These irrelevant sections were clearly added strictly for entertainment purposes, and while this may detract slightly from the series’ integrity as a historical documentary, it is understandable. Millennium was a series aired on TV. It had to have at least some sections with the sole purpose of captivating audiences, and as mentioned before, entertainment is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the whole series is not dedicated solely to it.

In conclusion, covering an entire millennium within ten episodes of about forty-five minutes in length while obtaining viewers and entertaining them is a very challenging task. However, CNN’s Millennium did a fairly good job. CNN misrepresented certain time periods by modernizing their graphics and stereotyped certain cultures and religions by using dramatic music and different lighting to portray them. Certain sections containing much cultural information were also given too much emphasis at certain points, and these precious minutes could have been used to introduce other more historical events. However, for the most part, events that were discussed were done so in appropriate amounts of detail. Another downside was the lack of clear thesis statements from episode to episode. Titling the episodes things such as “Century of the Scythe” or “Century of the Sword” seems like an intelligent way in which to connect episodes and represent individual centuries. However, the metaphors in these titles were not usually well represented. Despite this, Millennium’s organized format gave its episodes much clarity. It was also very informative, covering the stories of many countries and regions throughout an entire century. Finally, it was entertaining, using intense graphics, interesting quotes, and shocking statistics to captivate the viewer, and all of this made the series both interesting and informative, a very captivating representation of the historical world. For these reasons, while CNN’s Millennium has several clear flaws, overall it was an admirable presentation of world history.

* * *

Dr. Murnane

AP World History

CNN Millennium Paper

Schizophrenic Millennium: A Diagnosis

            CNN’s Millennium is a television series attempting to show a thousand years of global history. The series is segmented into ten different centuries. Each episode was given a clever metaphor that attempted to tie all the segments together within the episodes while also providing a central theme for the episode itself. Although it is obvious that CNN spent a lot of energy on the visuals of the program, it is time that should have been spent elsewhere. This effort could have been dedicated more toward the construction and organization of the overall series. As is, there are major defects in the program that cannot be covered up with fancy camera work. Millennium in a word is schizophrenic. Schizophrenia can be described as “…a severe mental disorder characterized by the following features: intellectual deterioration, disorganized speech and behavior… and… by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements”(Random House Dictionary). Millennium mixes incompatible entertainment elements with historical facts. Valuing entertainment over history, it contains inappropriate historical focus and inadequately develops central points within the series. In this sense, the show is “schizophrenic.” Putting entertainment over history is especially evident in the 11th century and 12th century episodes. In the 11th Century, CNN closely follows Sei Shonagon and her Pillow Book, a literary work, instead of any specific historical events. This was followed by the 12th century episode, which in which a segment focused on Gothic architecture- particularly on cathedrals- in Europe. Both of these segments focused on artistic aspects of the cultures instead of actual historical fact such as the political struggles in both regions at the time. In addition, the inappropriate historical focus is shown in the segments on Japan and European Christianity in an episode on the 11th century. Neglecting the larger aspects of both of these societies, CNN emphasized the perspective of one woman, Sei Shonagon, and an individual religious group- Christians. Also, the inadequate development of their central theses is best shown in the entirety of the fourth episode, or the “Century of the Scythe,” where so many differing ideas are presented that it is impossible to siphon out one consolidating point. Viewers are given information on Egypt, Mali, Mongolia, Indonesia, and Europe with nothing to tie the information together into a coherent thesis. The whole show sacrificed so much history to the altar of entertainment that it was virtually impossible to reconcile the two into a concise series. Overall, CNN’s Millennium simply values entertainment over history, is historically inappropriate, and cannot seem to manage to stick to a central point, displaying schizophrenic tendencies.

Millennium was a very pleasing visual experience, however this attention to visual detail was not balanced with the point of the series––to impart a global knowledge of the last thousand years. The most striking evidence of this is in their depictions of the 11th and 12th Century. The 11th century, or the “Century of the Sword” had beautiful cinematography, especially in the section on Japan; viewers were treated to colorful recreations of Japanese gardens. This segment was focused on depicting the Japanese court during the 11th Century by using Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, a work of literature from the time that displays the Japanese court from the perspective of the Empress’ court lady. The segment was accented with quotes from the Pillow Book, and these quotes in turn were accompanied by artistic footage recreating the exact imagery she described. For example, while the narrator is reading a long list of items (such as duck eggs and the inside of a cat’s ear), CNN makes an effort to show exactly what is being described. However, the section lacked a global perspective (it was completely conducted through the viewpoint of an individual), and did not even mention the politics or events that occurred in Japan at that time outside of daily court life. For instance, there is no mention of the role of China in shaping Japanese culture, not of Buddhism, which was the major religion at the time. The series even leaves out information on Japan’s feudal social order. Admittedly, the quality and consistency of the video and audio feed is spectacular and captivating. However, although the pictures run smoothly and the transition of images was done wonderfully, this cannot be said of the transition of ideas. As it was titled “Century of the Sword,” viewers could expect to be given information on a century of violence. However, not only was the segment on Japan completely devoid of any mention of violence, but the ideas within the segment itself had no point and was incredibly poorly done. If CNN had made an effort to connect to this theme of violence, they could have mentioned the role of Samari in Japanese society, which would have fit the metaphor perfectly. However, a lot of the information that was presented within the segment was in the form of direct quotations from the Pillow Book that were not only taken completely out of context, but were never explained. This seems to be a theme in Millennium.

Millennium’s ideas as a whole are incredibly vague, as can be seen in the second episode, “Century of the Axe.”  The whole episode was full of gorgeous camera work, but the episode itself was very basic, with no effort to try and elaborate on the historical details. Although the episode states a central theme- focusing on how civilizations challenged nature and refashioned hostile environment, each segment lacks anything more than a vague connection to the narrator’s elaborate descriptions of trees. This can be seen in the segment on Gothic architecture. Although CNN touches briefly on the affect that Gothic architecture had on the world, it is not deeply delved into, and it seems that the scriptwriter was too lost in descriptions of the architecture and huge forests in Europe to focus on the impact of the architecture on European society. Indeed, the last segment in the episode was a counter example to the point that Millennium insisted they were making. Explicitly stated in their introduction to this episode, CNN was trying to show how civilizations challenged and refashioned nature. However, the segment on Australia was about how the aboriginal tribes left no mark on the land, how they bent to nature’s will, and cooperated instead of conquered the environment. A poorly done segment, it was a better rebuttal to the point CNN was attempting to make. Although all of these segments were accented with beautiful filming, the shoddily put-together scripts and historical research overpower the artistry. All the gorgeous artistic work in Millennium cannot cover up the blatant lack of appropriate focus, information, and global perspective that was promised and never delivered.

In addition to Millennium’s value of entertainment over history, the history actually presented in the series was inappropriately chosen. Again, an example is the subject of a lady-in-waiting’s perspective on Japan in “Century of the Sword,” as well as the segment on Christianity in Europe that appears in the same episode. Probably the point of this episode was to try and give an inside view on the politics of the Heian Era, which was completely dominated by the Fujiwara clan. In the 11th century the Fujiwaras became hereditary dictators, who could throne and de-throne emperors at will. And while literature and poetry truly did flourish during this time period, there was more to Japan during the 11th century than the way CNN describes it as full of nobles waxing poetic over the smallest details in daily life. Instead, the decline in food production and population growth led to the decline of the Fujiwara’s power and a fierce competition for resources among the ruling class began. This decline caused a power vacuum that led to military uprisings in the middle of the eleventh century. This struggle for succession led to the upstaging of one power after another and a rocky political, economic, and social era in Japan. The only glimpse we get of the political upheaval is: “The secluded world Sei Shonagon recorded did not last”(CNN), which is shoved hastily into the last few seconds of the segment and is not expounded on in any way. This complete disregard for historical fact continued on throughout the rest of Millennium as well.

For example, the section on Christianity in Europe showcases a close-minded portrayal of Europe, especially a rather narrow and insulting view of paganism. Christians in Europe are cast as the only source of civilization in an otherwise barbarian-littered landscape, while pagans are shown as the enemy to these pacifistic and beneficial settlers. This segment was almost a “Little Red Riding Hood” story, in which the sweet Christians venture into the dark forest of Europe and are preyed upon by pagan wolves. Not only is this demeaning to the cultures already in place before Christian domination of Europe, but it completely disregards historical truth.  In fact, during the 11th century, the English ruling class was predominantly Christian. Furthermore, this ignores political struggles in the rest of Europe at the time, as well as Viking invasions that permeated Europe throughout most of the 11th century, and completely omitted the Crusades. One of the major events that CNN completely ignored was the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which was the last conquest of Britain by a foreign force. This was arguably one of the most important parts of the 11th century in regards to the West, and was completely overlooked by CNN.  As in the Japan segment, the way that CNN’s Millennium focuses narrowly on certain vague events, and the way they depict specific religious groups is not the promised global perspective. In addition, CNN did not focus on presenting to its predominate audience when picking information to include in the show. Time limits are, understandably, a constraint when creating the show, yet cutting out nearly all politics in favor of architectural and cultural feats was not a good decision. The target audience is one made up of people who love history: historians, teachers, and maybe a student or two, so politics and the movements of people would be interesting. While it is understandable that CNN chose more widely appreciated topics, the appeal is somewhat lost for those who are mostly going to be watching Millennium. It can be said that the episode can be used to augment the study of world history, and yet even this outlook is doubtful. The show is cryptic, leaving sentences unexplained and thoughts half formed. It does a poor job of providing a global outlook and connecting the segments together within the episodes.

Another blatant flaw was the inadequate development of central points within the episodes. Each episode was presented with an overlying theme, which CNN regularly stated and then promptly ignored. For example, CNN’s depiction of the 14th century, or the “Century of the Scythe,” was poorly done. The disjointed, choppy, and just badly put together quality of the whole episode was coupled with blatant deviation from the scythe or “death” theme. One section of the episode was focused on gold in Mali, and the prosperous trading that went on there, completely contrasting their thesis which proclaimed that the 14th century was a time of death and suffering. Instead of sticking to their original topic of the Black Death, CNN went on in their second segment to divulge great nuggets of information on Mali’s wealth. While interesting, it had nothing to do with either the topic before it, nor the main idea of the episode: death. CNN tried for a weak connection when mentioning the military power of Mali, but quickly lost focus and kept up the dialogue about gold. The next segment deviated even more, managing to connect to the main theme, but having nothing to do with either the first or second topic, with detailed explanations of the devastation wrought by Timur, a Mongolian conqueror. It felt like a sequel to the 13th Century’s episode, which focused on the rise of the Mongol Empire and their use of horses to augment trade, spread ideas, and revolutionize warfare. The mention of Timur in the 14th Century therefore felt like a neat wrap up of this segment, but was in the wrong century. In addition, the connection to the theme was slightly negated by CNN’s hurried reassurances that Timur was also a builder, and an established patron of the arts, which vastly ruined the connection to the theme. The segment on Indonesia was also unconnected, with focus on Indonesia’s wealth, but not even an attempt to allude to the main theme. Instead, the segment focused on the way weather patterns allowed for prosperous trade, the Indonesian’s generosity, and how modern Indonesia still connects back to these roots. It was a completely different spin on anything CNN had presented before and should not have been in the episode at all.

Millennium as a whole can be diagnosed with schizophrenia, as the mental illness is “…a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements”(Random House Dictionary). The series is completely disorganized and quickly deteriorates as the show continues. In addition, the attempt to have historical fact and entertainment coexist absolutely devastated the series. CNN is first and foremost an entertainment industry, and they just could not consolidate the historical facts they needed to. The idea behind Millennium was good in theory but not in execution. A depiction of thousand years of history is a difficult task to undertake. However, the way Millennium approached the task was completely scattered, and the inconsistency of their history leaves the viewer skeptical about what they can believe. Entertainment and history simply could not find a common ground in the series.  This left the series not only with skewed values, but also with inappropriate historical focus, and inadequately developed central points that were never elaborated upon. In other words, CNN’s television series Millennium suffered from schizophrenia.


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