Ran into this article today, from an unremembered source.
Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 [Update: Dead link. Try this one]
These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.
When a I see things like this, pictures of people going about their daily lives in "historical" settings, I am always struck by how little the basic nature of people have changed from generation to generation. Presumably, all the way back to the dawn of time. People still join together to work and to celebrate, kids still run around like madmen till they drop, food is a central part of our lives, etc. In general, life goes on.
I guess that's why "dramatizations" of history (or science fiction, or sword and sorcery) that doesn't pay attention to how people really live their lives never quite rings true to me. I'm not suggesting every bit of history/fiction needs to enumerate every bit of minutiae. We don't need to be told, "Hitler decided to attack Poland then ate a ham sandwich." But so many times these stories seem to leap from one incredibly dramatic, suspense filled, critical decision-making moment to another it removes the story so far from daily experience the "dramatization" becomes surreal.
Switching gears only slightly, the gentleman that writes 9 Chickweed Lane, Brooke McEldowney, is in the throes of an amazing exercise. The main thrust of the strip is the experiences of a young dancer and her mother. One of the supporting characters is "Gran," the dancer's grandmother. She's a crotchety old woman with particular notions about how people should behave and happy to share her opinion and unhappiness. I'm sure you know the archetype, already have a vague picture in your head and an idea of what her dialog must be like, right?
Well, recently Gran had "an episode" which put her in the hospital for a bit. The author used this as a segue to her experiences during WWII. How many times have we looked at a character in a story or "dramatization" and simply accepted them as the archetype presented, pure and unsullied by anything resembling depth? (The Hero! Yay! The Villian! Boo!) Well, apparently, "Gran" was young once too, and Mr. McEldowney is in the middle of writing a lovely story that isn't quite finished yet.
(For the truly dedicated, the comics.com archive begins on 2000-Nov-06. This isn't the whole thing, but if you want the full impact, and a bunch of really well done stuff, start there. You know, if you want to. You don't have to, but, you know, I'm just saying...)
Like the photographs, well written stories like this help remind me that every "historical figure" or "dramatic character" has daily triumphs and failures, happy moments and sad ones, even if we don't explicitly see them. And that my life, and the lives of 99.9% of everyone else, is composed of pretty much the same kind of thing. I only hope I can keep that in mind when I'm writing.