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The PBS historical house series: where historical reality succumbs to reel reality.


 in full Public Broadcasting Service

Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural,
 aired the first of the British-themed and produced historical "House" series, 1900 House, in June 2000, the network described the project as "classy voyeurism Voyeurism
See also Eavesdropping.


turned into stag for watching Artemis bathe. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 8]

elders of Babylon

watch Susanna bathe.
" and the place where "the sci-fi drama of time travel meets true-life drama." (1) The success of 1900 House has since led to other Anglo-American productions, including 1940s House (2000), Frontier House (2001), Manor House (2002), and Colonial House Colonial House was a short-run television series produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall to Wall Television in the United Kingdom, following the success of The 1900 House  (2003), and even PBS's own version of reality dating (albeit in corsets and wigs), Regency House Party (2004) and paying homage to the romantic ideal of the American cowboy Texas Ranch House Texas Ranch House is an PBS American reality television series that premiered in May 2006. Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, Wall to Wall Media Limited, and PBS, the show placed fifteen modern day people in the context of 1867 Texas.  (2006). Determined to distinguish the "House" series from other reality TV programs aired on commercial networks, PBS producer Beth Hoppe insists that this is the only one "with something to offer. We're exploring history. No one else is doing that." (2) But these experiments in time travel involve much more than re-enacting particular moments in the British and American past. As the families and individuals who volunteer for these series quickly discover, they cannot leave behind their 21st century mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.

2. An inclination or a habit.
, nor do the producers want them to; after all, that is what makes these programs the "true life drama" and "entertaining and accessible TV" for which critics have praised them. Indeed, as Hoppe explains, the ensuing tensions between participants, as they struggle to adapt to unfamiliar living conditions living conditions nplcondiciones fpl de vida

living conditions nplconditions fpl de vie

living conditions living
 and values, "come[s] from modern people with modern ideas trying to put themselves in a time in history when things were very different." (3)

The PBS reality house series (also described by Hoppe as "hands-on-history") is part of an on-going trend of the Heritage Industry in popular culture in which the public can safely revisit, critique, and learn the lessons of the past. For example, tourists can explore 19th century industrial villages in England; sit in a trench or air raid shelter in London's Imperial War Museum, or witness how New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt.  colonists lived by touring Plimouth Plantation. For a few hours, history buffs can indulge their nostalgia for these sometimes hard but "good old days." But these interactive museums also present a very distinct and tidied picture of these pasts, sans rats, smallpox epidemics, falling bombs, and other historical dangers. What makes the PBS reality house experiments more "authentic" than such interactive museums is the total immersion This article may contain improper references to .
Please help [ improve this article] by removing .
 process and length of time the volunteers spend in their historical contexts, ranging from three to five months. In these televised experiments, the volunteers do have to struggle for their subsistence, submit to authority, rely on older medical remedies, and abandon their modern dress for uncomfortable, and oftentimes dirty, period costuming. Despite these inconveniences, the volunteers are surprised by the ease with which they take up their assigned roles--the submissive lady's maid, the class-conscious butler, the domineering dom·i·neer·ing  
Tending to domineer; overbearing.

 husband. Yet, the volunteers never fully become their roles, as they adapt their historical identities to their 21st century mentalities and experiences, as exhibited by the "servants" of Manor House mouthing off to their master or the "colonists" in Colonial House refusing to cheat their Native American trading partners.

Heritage critic Robert Hewison argues that what is created by historical reenactment Historical reenactment is a type of fantasy roleplay in which participants attempt to recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. It may be a narrowly-defined time period, such as a specific war or other event, or it may be more broadly defined.  projects (and we can include the historical House series in this category) is "simulacra," i.e., the image rather than the reality. (4) Similarly, David Lowenthal notes that the more the past is appreciated for its own sake, the less relevant or "real" it becomes. In fact, the ultimate goal of the "House" series is not to revere Revere, city (1990 pop. 42,786), Suffolk co., E Mass., a residential suburb of Boston, on Massachusetts Bay; settled c.1630, set off from Chelsea and named for Paul Revere 1871, inc. as a city 1914.  the past but rather "to enlarge our sense of the contemporary at the expense of realizing its connection with the past." (5) Manor House producer, Caroline Ross-Perie, attests to this intended outcome. For her, the point of the series is not to have the volunteers adopt, for example, an Edwardian outlook, but to have their Edwardian experiences change their modern outlook and behavior. (6) At the end of each series the volunteers describe just how "improved" by their experiences they have become, whether more appreciative of certain modern freedoms, less dependent on material goods and technology, or closer to their spouses and children. And while the producers claim that they do not generate the story lines or prompt the participants to react in a particular way to various situations, they do admit that they hope the experiments will lead to "myth-busting" and make the volunteers and viewers alike reject certain assumptions they have about the past. (7)

This essay examines four of the PBS House series--Manor House, 1940s House, Frontier House and Colonial House--and the cultural, social, and personal tensions encountered by modern individuals who have chosen to experience "first hand" the journey back into time. Each series follows a set formula in which viewers meet the applicants and witness their preparation for their impending ordeal; particular volunteers who generate the most drama (either in the form of a love story, a feud, or a revolt against the rules) stand out, and video camera "confessionals" and post-series interviews provide insight into the conflict between the volunteers' historical role-playing and their 21st century lives. There are no "prizes" for enduring a harsh Montana winter or the London Blitz, although the American productions, Frontier House and Colonial House, do grade the volunteers. This grading system at first seems to undermine the community spirit so essential to the volunteers' survival but also forces them to question their own modern notions of individualism, competition, and self-interest.

While Manor House asks moderns to assume roles as either aristocrat or servant in the setting of an Edwardian manor house, 1940s House continues the exploration of class and gender issues at play under a less grand roof as the family within responds to the crisis of world war. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Frontier House portrays the hardships of American frontier life in 1880's Montana sans the dream of success, the Turner ideology--oh, and God. Lastly, the most controversial production, Colonial House, returns to 1628, pitting the Anglo-American colonists against nature, "the Company" back in Bristol, England, and each other. Battling unfamiliar (and in most, but not all, cases) out-dated hierarchies of class, gender, and race, as well as the daily challenges of recreated historical life, many of these time travelers return to the present still nostalgic for the past, but above all, critical of what is lacking in their modern lives.


"There's a place for everyone and everyone better know their [sic] place." So begins the narration of Manor House, "a gripping new series which brings class to reality television." For three months the nineteen volunteers "from the modern world" gather at Manderston, an Edwardian-era (1901-1914) estate on the Scottish border, assuming such roles as lord and lady, spinster, tutor, scullery maid In great houses, scullery maids were the lowest-ranking of the female servants and acted as assistant to a kitchen maid. Duties included the most physical and demanding tasks in the kitchen, such as cleaning of the floor, stoves, sinks, pots and dishes. , butler, chef, hall boy, and housekeeper. Manor House promises in its promotional advertising a past in which the upper classes "spend lavishly, live dangerously, and eat to excess." But the wealthy in this series hardly "live dangerously," as most of their time is spent dressing, dining, and ceaselessly debating the finer points of etiquette. Meanwhile, another drama unfolds below stairs in the basement or lower part of a house, where the servants are.

See also: Stair
 as the lure of playing dress-up quickly gives way to the stress of backbreaking back·break·ing  
Demanding great exertion; arduous and exhausting.

 chores and the suspension of modern notions of individual liberties. Hoppe explains that, while the house represents "a microcosm of early twentieth century Britain," (8) the series has transatlantic appeal because it is first and foremost about "leaving the modern world and all of its technological conveniences behind." While Hoppe feared that American viewers might ask, "Who is Edward?", she rightly guessed that the program's focus on social status, interaction, and behavior, as well as the power struggles in the kitchen, and the ensuing love story between the scullery maid and hall boy, would hold their attention. However, she did insert additional voice-overs to explain the British class system in the decade before World War I, as well as the Labour and suffrage movements that prompted working-class servants and middle-class women to question their status and subservience to men such as "Sir Olliff-Cooper." (9)

Surprisingly, over 80% of the British applicants, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the show's producers, wanted to work as servants, and those quoted were motivated by the popular television series, Upstairs, Downstairs Upstairs, Downstairs was a BAFTA and Emmy award-winning British drama set in a large townhouse in Edwardian London that depicted the lives of the servants "downstairs" and their masters "upstairs". It ran on ITV for five series from 1971 to 1975.  (1971). Having grown up in a post-colonial Britain shaped by the welfare state, the younger volunteers regard race, class, and gender inequality as part of a remote, and even fictional, past, hence their surprise at how easily the system of hierarchy reasserts itself at Manderston. Hugh Edgar Hugh Edgar is an English architect who worked on several archival projects in the United Kingdom and as a consultant around the world. He was also commissioned by the royal family of Jordan. , the 64-year old architect turned butler ("Mr. Edgar"), however, recalls his own family's ties to domestic service, and warns, "The younger people coming into this project will find the hierarchy a shock." He embraces his role of servitude servitude

In property law, a right by which property owned by one person is subject to a specified use or enjoyment by another. Servitudes allow people to create stable long-term arrangements for a wide variety of purposes, including shared land uses; maintaining the
 as eagerly as his new employer, "Sir John", enjoys being served by him. While he heeds the words of his deceased grandfather--"Discipline, discipline, discipline!"--Mr. Edgar is unable to instill in·still
To pour in drop by drop.

instil·lation n.
 this motto among the "young ones" who clearly "have different understandings of labor." The loss of two scullery scul·ler·y  
n. pl. scul·ler·ies
A small room adjoining a kitchen, in which dishwashing and other kitchen chores are done.

[Middle English, from Old French escuelerie, from
 maids (one after only two days!) proves his point, as does the first footman's "modern management" job-swap solution to ease the burden of the kitchen staff. Even Mr. Edgar occasionally finds himself putting aside the rulebook, allowing the junior staff to speak at meals and forgiving his favorite footman his hangover. Curiously, the hierarchy in place below the stairs triggers far more resentment than that which divides the servants from the family upstairs. Mr. Edgar and "Mrs. Davies," the housekeeper, live in relative luxury compared to Kenny, the "hall boy" who literally sleeps in the hall, and the kitchen maids who rarely have access to the upstairs or outdoors.

For the Olliff-Coopers who apply to live upstairs at Manderston, the rapid ascent from their 21st century middle-class status to pampered Edwardian aristocracy fails to elicit much discontent with this hierarchy. In the role of "Sir John," a recently titled baronet baronet

British hereditary rank of honor, first created by James I in 1611 to raise money, ostensibly for support of troops in Ulster. The baronetage is not part of the peerage, nor is it an order of knighthood.
 who has made a fortune in industry, John Olliff-Cooper finds himself at the end of three months "struggling a little to return to a Britain that feels as though it is past its heyday." A self-employed business manager in his "real" life, Olliff-Cooper enters the project already nostalgic for aristocratic traditions, as evidenced by his sailing of Edwardian yachts and his membership in the Sheringham Society, an association of anglers devoted to Edwardian-style fishing. While his staff below stairs complains about its strenuous duties, he admits, "I really don't have a problem with having servants. If I'm not being served, they don't have a job. This is absolutely magnificent." His wife, Anna, also regrets having to leave behind her identity as "Lady Olliff Cooper" to resume her career as a doctor. "My job was to be a dressed up doll. It was an extremely pleasing experience."

Lady Olliff-Cooper's ease with being "cosseted, pampered and curiously childlike" occurs amidst but oblivious to the narrator's references to the Edwardian campaign for female suffrage. It is her sister, Avril Anson, a microbiologist with a live-in boyfriend, now in the role of "Miss Anson," middle-aged spinster, who comes to sympathize with Verb 1. sympathize with - share the suffering of
compassionate, condole with, feel for, pity

grieve, sorrow - feel grief

commiserate, sympathise, sympathize - to feel or express sympathy or compassion
 (though never embraces) the early 20th century feminist cause. Though at the start of the series she is eager to swap her motorbike for "the chance to ride sidesaddle," she later declares, "I was amazed to discover just how angry I became on behalf of the women of that time--how suppressed and frustrated some of them must have felt." The restrictions on Miss Anson's freedom lead midway in the project to crying fits and failing health, until the program's medical historian, posing as the family physician, is called in to help. It seems almost too good to be true that "Miss Anson" has responded to her confined lifestyle like many Victorian and Edwardian hysterics hysterics /hys·ter·ics/ (his-ter´iks) popular term for an uncontrollable emotional outburst. ! Advising a brief respite from the project, he equates her "break" with the spa treatments once recommended for female depression. Even the servants pity Miss Anson's "half-lived life."

Miss Anson is not the only participant in the project who recognizes the lowly treatment of Edwardian women, as gender inequality cuts across class lines at Manderston. Antonia Dawson begins her stint as kitchen maid A kitchen maid is a junior female servant in a great house ranking below a cook and above a scullery maid. An experienced kitchen maid is an assistant cook; the position may be compared to that of a line cook in a professional kitchen.

The kitchen maid reports to the Head Cook.
 eager to know "how far women have come in a relatively short amount of time." With her own home, car, and job as a police control room operator, she realizes that "if I'd been born a hundred years ago, a woman of my class would almost certainly have been born in service, and I'd like to know what that meant." But while Miss Anson remains a "true Edwardian lady" and literally succumbs to the stress of her "half-lived life," Antonia rebels, admitting that she's "just too 21st century." Ignoring the rulebook that forbids junior servants from approaching their master directly, Antonia challenges Sir John's orders and confesses to the video camera that she cheated in the feminine hygiene Feminine hygiene is a general term used to describe products used by women during menstruation, vaginal discharge, and other bodily functions related to the vulva. Sanitary Towels (also known as maxi-pads or napkins), pantiliners, tampons, and feminine wipes are the major  department: "I tried it their way but it was impossible."

The visit by Mrs. Whinney, who worked as a housemaid at Manderston 70 years ago, reinforces the contrast in female generations. As Mrs. Whinney describes the physical abuse and sexual harassment sexual harassment, in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in tort or under equal-opportunity statutes.  she endured at the hands of the male junior staff and butler, and the former lack of legal protection for women of her class, one of the housemaids declares "I feel privileged now to have this experience." This increased awareness of the sexual double standard is a recurring theme in all of the PBS "House" series, as the historical consultants and producers especially prompt the female participants to compare their 21st century freedoms with the limitations imposed on their historical personae. During the last week of the project, time moves forward to 1913, and the newspaper headlines reflect the growing militancy of the suffrage movement in England. Lady's maid, "Miss Morrison" (a single mother in her 21st century life), cries as she reads about Emily Davison Emily Wilding Davison (1872 – June 8 1913) was an activist for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. It is thought that she committed suicide by throwing herself under King George V's horse at the Epsom Derby. , the suffragette who threw herself in front of the king's carriage to attract media attention to the feminist cause. "We have came [sic] such a long way-women--I think--we get loads of perks, don't we. We get the babies, we get the careers, we get the education; women are great, aren't we?"

This renewed, if somewhat naive, appreciation for the freedom of women in the 21st century does not, however, reflect the sentiments of Lady Olliff-Cooper. As she plans seating arrangements seating arrangements npldistribución fsg de los asientos

seating arrangements seat nplSitzordnung f

seating arrangements 
 and her outfits for dinner parties, she remains delightfully oblivious to the concerns of her servants or her depressed sister. Still, as historian Leonore Davidoff notes in her study of the "Best Circles" in Victorian and Edwardian England, women like Lady Olliff-Cooper should not be written off as merely decorative objects; quite powerful in their own right, they played a vital role in advancing the position of the nouveau riche nou·veau riche  
n. pl. nou·veaux riches
One who has recently become rich, especially one who flaunts newly acquired wealth.

[French : nouveau, new + riche, rich.
. Their luncheons and dinner parties were more than social events, forging important economic ties and advancing the political ambitions of their husbands. (10) Indeed, Lady Olliff-Cooper basks in Sir John's praise as she presides over dinner banquets and the bazaar ("You need to be more than a bimbo to do that," he boasts in very un-Edwardian language). She also wonders how she will "ever return to the grind of normality" in which she contributes to the financial support of her family and studies humanities at the Open University in London. In short, she begins the project a woman very much the product of 20th century feminism yet ends her stay at Manderston disenchanted with its promise (and responsibilities) of equality.

While most of the residents at Manderston grapple with rigid notions of class and gender, one has the added burden of race. Reji Raj, a primary school teacher who plays the role of Master Guy's tutor, wants to learn "what was it that India found so attractive about the British upper classes." Neither a servant nor master (as his nine-year-old pupil tells him, "you're kind of below me and kind of above me"), Mr. Raj finds that his ambiguous status is resented as much by him as by the staff, with whom his encounters are kept at a minimum. He, too, begins the project with a fictional role model in mind--Jane Eyre--and soon realizes the plight of the Victorian governess who was forced to "dwell between stairs" has been grossly romanticized.

The narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete.  explains that Edwardian gentlemen commonly employed the sons of Asian aristocracy or upper-class officials to teach their children. Still, the program creators clearly have inserted Mr. Raj's role to shake viewers' idealization idealization /ide·al·iza·tion/ (i-de?il-i-za´shun) a conscious or unconscious mental mechanism in which the individual overestimates an admired aspect or attribute of another person.  of the past and prompt them to consider the racist aspects of empire, and indeed, of the very foundation of manor houses like Manderston, often built with money made in colonial ventures. Mr. Raj's reaction to the household's celebration of the Raj (the British rule in India British rule in India, may refer to:
  • Company rule in India, also Company Raj ("raj," lit. "rule," in Sanskrit), the rule of parts of the Indian subcontinent by the British East India Company ending in 1858, immediately after the Indian mutiny of 1857.
) surprises even him. Forced to take his meal with the Indian dancers below stairs, he realizes that his title of "Mister" does not place him on equal footing with his white employers who then proceed to defend and celebrate imperialism. Surrounded by white aristocrats singing "Rule Britannia," Raj concedes that even in his 21st century life he will never be truly "English" and he leaves the experiment newly proud of his Indian identity. As Mr. Raj distances himself from his Englishness, the Olliff-Coopers find renewed pride in their own. In fact, any attempt to instill cultural sensitivity seems lost on the family upstairs. Curiously, the family's discussion about the pros and cons of imperialism takes place in the presence of the servants who later complain to the camera that their class status oppresses them far more than race oppresses Mr. Raj.

Upon its initial airing, Manor House was described by The Guardian as "reality TV with a point and an agenda." Central to this agenda is a reminder to those Mr. Edgar calls "the young ones" that "the whole class issue is still with us." Yet the volunteers do not always fulfill the producers' expectations as they grow comfortable with the social hierarchy Social hierarchy

A fundamental aspect of social organization that is established by fighting or display behavior and results in a ranking of the animals in a group.
 in place at Manderston, rather than embrace the suffrage and Labour movements repeatedly introduced for their educational benefit. The Olliff-Coopers, not surprisingly, are the least eager to return to what, they admit, is a very comfortable uppermiddle class 21st century life. Anna Olliff-Cooper's belief that "we lost sight of many of the values of this particular environment" is shared by Hugh Edgar who, after commanding his own staff, asserts that "hierarchy and discipline does work to a point." Likewise, John Olliff-Cooper laments the decline of the liberal ethic that dominated the pre-welfare state: "I was taught to look up--it doesn't matter what a man does but what he wants to be." Yet while he waxes nostalgically about that era's ethos of boot-strapping individualism, he unintentionally touches on the contradictory impulses at work in Edwardian England, as he misses the "clarity of the system" in which "everyone knows his place." His response is at odds with that of the servants who insist, "You have to question who is the most powerful in the house--who has the most knowledge." Yet knowing if ones employers are sharing the same bed does not translate to real power of the economic, political, or social kind--and the younger participants never quite understand this. Aware that they will return to their 21st century lives after three months at Manderston, they can risk burning their master's body in effigy EFFIGY, crim. law. The figure or representation of a person.
     2. To make the effigy of a person with an intent to make him the object of ridicule, is a libel. (q.v.) Hawk. b. 1, c. 7 3, s. 2 14 East, 227; 2 Chit. Cr. Law, 866.
 and romping in his sheets. Like all of the reality "House" series, what the servants ultimately take away from the project is not so much anger at the resilient class system, but a surprising discovery of community that developed out of the "us versus them" mentality that divided them from the family above stairs. Their teary good-byes and farewell statements to the camera quickly efface the three months of divisiveness below stairs, and keep intact a nostalgia for a mythical past in which servants loved each other and maybe even their masters.

While the final segment of Manor House alludes to the Great War on the horizon that will loosen the rigid class system, it will take another war to dismantle the empire celebrated at Manderston's ball. The reconstructed 1940s house (of the program of the same name), shelters the Hymer family as they "do their bit" during Britain's "finest hour." Although former servants from the Edwardian era like Mrs. Whinney are now few in number, survivors of the London Blitz can still be found (as the Hymers discover) in any nursing home across England, and 1940s House appeals to generations whose experiences of the war take various forms. Those children and grandchildren born to members of the war generation grew up hearing stories of air raids and rations, and, as communications scholar Jackie Cook notes, "For the older viewers it's nostalgia viewing and validation of their often now disregarded wartime sufferings." (11) Despite its popular appeal, some critics have panned the project because it fails to fully recreate the destruction of wartime London; nevertheless, 1940s House is more interested in observing how individuals and families adapt to the stresses of war rather than evoking its horrors.

The Second World War (1939-1945) continues to be a touchstone for both national and gender identity in Britain (and the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. ). Angus Calder's now classic study of the British home front suggests that the propagandistic phrase, "the people's war," created a mythical national sensibility that temporarily ignored class differences. (12) Even today, the war remains fixed in the popular imagination as a national experience and symbol, a moment when the "people" became the "nation." But, as historian Lucy Noakes points out, popular memory of the war remains highly selective in its foci, and we cannot ignore how participation in the war just on the home front alone was demarcated along gender lines. (13) The 1940s House series reveals in one sense how the war was a great equalizer--bombs fell, without discrimination, on Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace (bŭk`ĭng-əm), residence of British sovereigns from 1837, in Westminster metropolitan borough, London, England, adjacent to St. James's Park. , middle-class suburbs, and the East End, and all Britons had ration books. Yet, as the Hymer family learns, civilian men and women had distinctly different roles to play.

Like John Olliff-Cooper's love of Edwardian sports, the Hymer's participation in the home series is spurred by the father's idealization of the past. In fact, a desire to dampen Michael Hymer's "rose-tinted view" of the war motivates the Hymer women's role in the nineweek project. An avid collector of all things 1940s (including a bust of Churchill, a gas mask gas mask, face covering or device used to protect the wearer from injurious gases and other noxious materials by filtering and purifying inhaled air. In addition to military use (see chemical warfare), gas masks are employed in mining, in industrial chemistry, and by , and maudlin maud·lin  
Effusively or tearfully sentimental: "displayed an almost maudlin concern for the welfare of animals" Aldous Huxley. See Synonyms at sentimental.
 wartime paintings), Michael Hymer declares his to be "a healthy interest, not an obsession," but of all the participants, he will spend the least amount of time living in this past. After assembling the backyard Anderson bomb shelter, he disappears for most of the project, incurring in absentia in absentia (in ab-sensh-ee-ah) adj. or adv. phrase. Latin for "in absence," or more fully, in one's absence. Occasionally a criminal trial is conducted without the defendant being present when he/she walks out or escapes after the trial has begun, since the accused  the resentment of his wife and daughter who have to "do everything." While they begin their backward trek from a 21st century Yorkshire suburb to 1940's London with apprehension, Lyn and Kirstie Hymer will, to their surprise, come to regard the past as a special time for women. Although she must give up such luxuries as pre-prepared foods and shampoo and battle daily with her local grocer, Lyn Hymer wonders "if all the trappings of modern life make it a better life" and ultimately concludes "I don't think it does."

Feminist historians typically regard the Second World War as a liberating moment for western women--a sentiment clearly seconded by Lyn Hymer. "When I put on that uniform, I change. I become 'Mrs. Will Cope With Anything.' The uniform is doing for me what Prozac is doing for women in 2000." She tries to model herself not on the elderly female survivors of the war she meets in the nursing home, but on a film heroine, when she assumes her "Mrs. Miniver min·i·ver  
A white or light gray fur used as a trim on medieval robes and on ceremonial robes of state.

[Middle English meniver, from Old French menu vair, small vair :
 mode." As Margaret and Patrice Higgonet note, women's wartime emancipation and "can-do" spirit often was more fiction than reality. (14) While women "manned" the factories, they were constantly reminded (and accepted) that their better paying jobs (which still paid less than male civilians' jobs) were only "for the duration." As they put on khaki uniforms, they also could not forget the wartime mantra, "Beauty is Your Duty," and that neglect of children and home, despite long work shifts and consumer good shortages, was not to be tolerated. Exhausted from a day of housework and volunteering, Lyn must stifle a complaint when Michael, relishing his 1940's patriarchal authority, refuses to wash dishes: "It's women's work," he explains. Interestingly, it is "women's work" which is so novel for the Hymer mother and daughter who must teach themselves the most basic of domestic tasks. Kirstie takes just as much pride in her first baking adventure as she does in working in an aircraft factory: "I'm finding my strengths and weaknesses--it's changing me."

Though an entire episode is devoted to women coping on the home front, the prolonged absence of Michael Hymer underscores a seldom discussed feature of men's wartime experience: its fractured nature. According to Sonya Rose, "hegemonic masculinity Hegemonic masculinity is the normative ideal of masculinity that men are supposed to aim for and women are supposed to want. Characteristics associated with hegemonic masculinity are aggressiveness, strength, drive, ambition, and self-reliance.  was unstable, not in small measure because its successful enactment ... depended upon being visibly a member of the fighting forces." (15) Soldiers, Noakes adds, were part of a "national brotherhood of the armed forces ... brave and united, fighting for freedom and democracy, and in defense of women and children." (16) As the soldier hero, not the breadwinner bread·win·ner  
One whose earnings are the primary source of support for one's dependents.

bread·winning n.
 who built an air raid shelter for his family's protection, was idealized by propaganda, civilian men were often written out of the drama of war. Sitting in the spitfire plane may be Michael's fulfillment of a "teen-aged fascination," but when the family visits the graves of pilots shot down in wartime, we are reminded that in the "people's war" only certain men were, and continue to be, memorialized.

Ultimately, 1940s House strikes its most false note when the family must take cover during air raids. While they are sure to suffer some degree of malnourishment mal·nour·ish·ment
 from their rationed diet, they are, despite expressions of fear and panic, never in any actual danger from the bombs heard in the distance. They even wistfully acknowledge that their own generation will not "ever know the full trauma of war." Yet the Anderson shelter becomes the real hero of the project as it, according to Lyn Hymer, "pulled us closer together." With the announcement of the war's end, the Hymers, who complained ceaselessly about the lack of modern conveniences, "feel numb" and no longer look forward to returning to their the 21st century lives. Like Lady Olliff-Cooper, Lyn Hymer regrets the feminist gains of her generation and looks reflectively back to a time when "your job in life, your aim, was to get food on the table and look after the family." Though for nine weeks she did a job characterized by "harder physical work," she now believes the lack of choice and intellectual stimulation made for "less pressure" for the 1940's woman. While the female volunteers on the other "House" series complain about the "mind-numbing" chores that fill their days, she embraces her belated education in domesticity, and in the post-project interview reveals her devotion to organic produce and 1940's memorabilia that now exceeds her husband's. Even Kirstie, a divorced single mother who not only baked her first cake but also assembled an airplane, has mixed feelings about once again "making my own decisions." The Hymers come to see "too much choice" as detrimental to their emotional well-being, and since they did not enter the ranks of the many thousands who died in wartime London, they will undoubtedly continue to view the 1940's as "a better time."


named after North America.

North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.

North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus.

The myth of the frontier has captivated cap·ti·vate  
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.

2. Archaic To capture.
 generations of Americans, who, according to historian Frederick Jackson Turner Noun 1. Frederick Jackson Turner - United States historian who stressed the role of the western frontier in American history (1861-1951)
, view the frontier as the site where American democratic ideals were fulfilled. (17) Popular culture has enshrined the frontier through literature, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Hollywood films, and radio and television shows, producing an astounding collection of western artifacts. Post-modernist impulses aside, the American West continues to exert a powerful cultural attraction for 21st century audiences. (18) In 2001, PBS enticed its viewers, asking "Could you live as a pioneer out in the American West?" The reaction was immediate as 5,500 individuals applied for the chance to "experience" 19th century frontier life.

The PBS production of Frontier House premiered the following year, chronicling the adventures of seven adults and six children selected to "time travel" back to 1883 Montana. As the "settlers" established homesteads in a beautiful wilderness setting appropriately called "Frontier Valley," viewers were granted a rare opportunity to glimpse frontier life experienced by 21st century moderns (19) The Frontier House volunteers, like their other PBS counterparts, offer differing reasons as to why they joined this frontier adventure. (20) Optimistic New Englanders, Nate and Kristen (McLeod) Brooks, an urban mixed-race couple, want "the chance to reconnect to the land and to human history through a challenging experiential endeavor." Californian Gordon Clune (himself a product of a rural upbringing in Western Canada
This article is about the region in Canada. For the school in Calgary, see Western Canada High School.

Western Canada, commonly referred to as the West
) desires to remove his family from their luxurious lifestyles and introduce them to the challenges posed by Mother Nature. Lastly, middle-class Tennesseans, Karen and Mark Glenn, hope their frontier experience will provide them and their children with the illusive il·lu·sive  

il·lusive·ly adv.

 meaning of "family." (21) Despite their noble intentions and bravery, some of the volunteers will come to regret their frontier adventure.

Serving as the historical backdrop for Frontier House is the Homestead Act Homestead Act, 1862, passed by the U.S. Congress. It provided for the transfer of 160 acres (65 hectares) of unoccupied public land to each homesteader on payment of a nominal fee after five years of residence; land could also be acquired after six months of  of 1862. The Act was intended by Congress as a means to dispose of To determine the fate of; to exercise the power of control over; to fix the condition, application, employment, etc. of; to direct or assign for a use.

See also: Dispose
 vacant "public lands," based on the belief that western land was "free for the taking" if individual claims were improved and occupied for five years. The Frontier House producers use the Act as a means to judge whether each modern family possesses the skills necessary to survive on the frontier On the Frontier: A Melodrama in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the third and last play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1938. . Each family is given "its own 160-acre section, their home sites located along Frontier Creek, half a mile from one another." (22) They must stay for five months, stockpiling supplies judged sufficient to last the entire unpredictable, dangerous Montana winter. Adding authenticity to Frontier House, period historians, Linda Peavey and Ursula Smith, provide each family with frontier identities, establishing their economic and social status circa 1883. Gordon Clune has inherited his father's Gold Rush fortune, but is forced to relocate to Frontier Valley, although not before contracting for a cabin to be built prior to his family's arrival. In the role of schoolteacher, Mark Glenn learns that his meager salary is not sufficient for purchasing a homestead but happily discovers that he has inherited an abandoned frontier cabin. As for African-Americans, Nate Brooks and his father Rudy, they are to arrive in Frontier Valley facing the daunting task of constructing a frontier cabin from the ground up, clearing the land, cutting, hauling and notching logs for its construction. While typical of most 1880 homesteaders that struggled oftentimes alone, it is interesting to note that bachelor Nate Brooks was chosen for this task and not one of the white families.

Though the Brooks clearly have the hardest time ahead of them, it is the Clunes and Glenns who complain the most about the homesteading experience. While we witness examples of racial inequality racial inequality Racial disparity Social medicine, public health
A disparity in opportunity for socioeconomic advancement or access to goods and services based solely on race. See Women and health.
 on this recreated frontier, it is clearly class that drives the neighbors apart, but it is not obvious to the viewers if the tensions are heightened by exposure to the frontier or caused by 21st century social and economic differences. The Clune and Glenn families simply cannot shed their modern identities, needs, and rivalries for the thrill of living a 19th century life. In addition, the producers intentionally create a distinct class-consciousness based on housing that each family finds difficult to overcome. Arriving in Frontier Valley, the Clunes (who in their 21st century lives are awaiting the completion of their California mansion) are astonished to find that their cabin is only partially built, presenting them with the challenge of finishing the work themselves. Karen Glenn offers to board the Clune children, but Gordon rejects her generosity, leaving Karen incredulous and angry. In another scene intended to exploit their on-going antagonism, Adrianne Clune is shown lamenting the loss of her Land Rover See LANRover.  while Karen Glenn is stoically sto·ic  
1. One who is seemingly indifferent to or unaffected by joy, grief, pleasure, or pain.

2. Stoic A member of an originally Greek school of philosophy, founded by Zeno about 308
 preoccupied packing eggs into her family's wooden wagon. The spirit of neighborliness neigh·bor·ly  
Having or exhibiting the qualities of a friendly neighbor.

neighbor·li·ness n.

Noun 1.
, mythologized in Hollywood westerns and programs like Little House on the Prairie, quickly dissipates as Mark Glenn announces, "it's time to break these clans apart and to start living our lives without the neighbors being in your face 24 hours a day." Neither family, however, easily makes the transition to 19th century frontier life. Karen Glenn may not miss the cosmetics that the Clune women literally cry over, but even she bemoans the relinquishment of modern sanitary products and birth control pills.

Like Manor House, race plays only a secondary role in Frontier House, but the producers clearly have inserted the Brooks to teach viewers (as well as the Glenns and Clunes) a lesson about tolerance and community. While the narrator explains that African-Americans helped settle the West, mixed-race marriages were hardly the norm, but the Brooks's neighbors have traveled back in time without any 19th century racial prejudice. The Clunes and Glenns temporarily set aside their bickering to help Nate complete his cabin before the arrival of his fiance, Kristen. This neighborly neigh·bor·ly  
Having or exhibiting the qualities of a friendly neighbor.

neighbor·li·ness n.

Adj. 1.
 act, helping Nate finish his cabin but not helping him build it, reveals the limits of the mythical image portrayed in western films where community barn raising barn raising
A social event in which members of a community assist in the building of a new barn.
 was a common occurrence. (23) Despite these efforts of the producers and volunteers to showcase the diversity of the frontier, racial inequality inevitably rears its ugly head.

The most jarring moment comes when a one-room schoolhouse--one of the most cherished symbols in American culture--is built for the homesteaders' children. The Frontier Valley parents are outraged to discover that 1883 Montana state law prohibited African-American children or children of a mixed race marriage from attending public school. However, 21st century racial sensibilities provide a solution to this problem as the parents agree to create a "private" school--one that would not discriminate based on race. While Nate Brooks receives this sad reminder of his inferior status within the frontier community, another character's race curiously never becomes an issue. "Merchant Hop Sing Hop Sing was the Cartwright family's cook on the US television series Bonanza which ran on the NBC network from 1959-73. Victor Sen Yung played the Chinese immigrant.  Yim," an actual 19th century Montana resident portrayed by local historian Hing-Ming Lee, plays a vital role in the settlers' frontier survival; his general store provides an outlet for commercial bartering, trading and foodstuffs foodstuffs nplcomestibles mpl

foodstuffs npldenrées fpl alimentaires

foodstuffs food npl
 as well as a gateway to the outside world. His mercantile store becomes a thriving center for the Valley residents whose dependence on Hop Sing Yim for their survival, coupled with their modern racial attitudes, establishes an immediate harmonious relationship. Given the outright hostilities that whites inflicted on Chinese Americans in the 19th century, it is disappointing that Frontier House producers, determined to portray a peaceful and racially diverse frontier community, choose political correctness politically correct
adj. Abbr. PC
1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
 over a more serious examination of history's ugly realities. (24)

Historian Roy Rosenzweig Roy Alan Rosenzweig (August 6 1950 – October 11 2007) was an American historian at George Mason University in Virginia. He was the founder and director of the Center for History and New Media from 1994 until his death in October 2007 from lung cancer, aged 57.  observes that public history projects and living history museums provide modern society with "the most powerful meanings of the past come[ing] out of the dialogue between the past and the present, out of the ways the past can be used to answer pressing current day questions about relationships, identity, morality, and agency." (25) Examples of this abound in Frontier House as the adults, attempting to escape the complexities of 21st century life, nevertheless confront the persistence of modern economic, social, and cultural values. Modern value systems cannot be replaced as easily as mascara and comfortable mattresses, as we see when the Clunes are accused and then caught shamelessly bartering with Frontier Valley "moderns" for additional food rations. Gordon Clune defends this rule violation as a desperate measure to save his family from starvation. Or when the Clune's marital bed Noun 1. marital bed - the relationship between wife and husband
marital relationship

family relationship, kinship, relationship - (anthropology) relatedness or connection by blood or marriage or adoption
 is discovered out of "period," his response is hardly out of character for a modern value system that excuses moral transgressions for ones physical comfort and mental self-assurance. Approaching their experience as a competition, the Glenns remain confident that their adaptation to frontier life will resolve their increasing marital discord, but the concern for mere frontier survival (and their feud with the Clunes) will no longer distract them once they return to their 21st century middle-class lives. Seemingly oblivious to the bickering Clunes and Glenns are Nate and Kristen Brooks, who emerge as Frontier House "winners," with their resourcefulness and obvious supportive roles, setting aside adequate supplies for the harsh Montana winter.

It is the children of Frontier House who truly put the squabbling, rule-breaking adults to shame. Frontier House period historians carefully provide a venue for these children to experience a nonmodern world where the pace of life, measured by the sound of nature, replaces their modern frenetic teen lifestyles. Although reluctant at first, the Frontier House children adapt remarkably well to Frontier Valley. They begin to understand that a carefree adolescent life must take a backseat to the realities of the frontier, as they work alongside their parents from sunup to sundown. Erinn Patton, Karen Glenn's daughter, candidly observes, "You know the frontier American Girl dolls that are so happy and clean? They aren't the real thing. I am! I am dirty and tired a lot but I am just as happy as they are, if not happier." Erinn's declaration echoes that of Aine Clune who proudly states that "my dad did this to try and get the family closer together, but I thought we'd end up getting sick of each other ... Now I'm a lot more proud of him for doing this with me." Karen Glenn's son, Logan, reveals that he "discovered imagination out here and found out how you use the surroundings to make fun things ... in the modern world kids have more [than] they need ... as grown-ups work so hard we get more money to buy stupid stuff." (26) Of course, the Clune children reminisce rem·i·nisce  
intr.v. rem·i·nisced, rem·i·nisc·ing, rem·i·nisc·es
To recollect and tell of past experiences or events.

[Back-formation from reminiscence.
 about their frontier experiences as they lounge in their new hot tub, tears streaming from their faces, so the long-term impact of their rejection of materialism is questionable.

The overall ratings success of Frontier House spawned another "hands-on-history" production titled Colonial House that debuted in May 2004. The premise for this series resembled Frontier House, sending 17 time travelers to a re-created New England colonial village to experience what Colonial House director, Nicolas Brown, describes as "the mental world of 1628." However, unlike the competitive spirit of Frontier House, this experiment in "time travel," according to series producer Sallie Clement, stresses the importance of forging a community founded on "reliance and mutual respect for our neighbors and working towards a common goal rather than an individual one." (27) Executive producer Beth Hoppe adds that the participants are provided with "a much more ambitious, complicated bolder goal" as "they are required to grow things and make things, and trade things, and then be in a better economic position at the end of the experience." (28)

The PBS production teams from Wall to Wall Television and Thirteen/WNET (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
) worked closely with Plimoth Plantation Plimoth Plantation is a living museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts that reconstructs the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established by the Pilgrims.

The museum was started in 1947 by Henry Hornblower II (November 5, 1917-October 23, 1985), a Boston stockbroker with
, a colonial museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts
:This article is about the town of Plymouth in Massachusetts. See also Plymouth, England or Plymouth (disambiguation).
Plymouth (historically known as Plimouth and Plimoth) is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States.
, in constructing a colonial village on the Maine seacoast on 1,000 acres of land leased from the Passamaquoddy Indian tribe. (29) Plimoth Plantation's period historians trained the volunteers in 17th century life skills, complete with cooking, sewing, woodworking, proper use of hand tools, and feeding and caring for livestock. Plimoth Plantation, according to Executive Director Nancy Brennan, supported the program's mission to "offer multiple learning opportunities to provide a deeper understanding of the relationship of historical events to modern America." (30) The Colonial House time-travelers have their own motives for enduring the rigors of 17th century life; some are lured by fictional representations of this past while others long to use this recreated past to escape what they see as their more complicated present lives. Julia Friese, an educator, naively fantasizes about playing a "sexy milkmaid," while Jeff Wyers, a Southern Baptist minister, and his family, seek to immerse themselves in colonial life to strengthen their religious beliefs. John and Michelle Voorhees, like Mark and Karen Glenn in Frontier House, see this colonial adventure as means to bring order into their chaotic modern family life. Daniel Tisdale, a visual artist and publisher of Harlem World magazine, is determined to learn how American democracy began, seemingly unconcerned that 17th century African-Americans existed solely as colonial slaves: "This is my history. I love it. I love the ideals this country was founded on." Likewise, Debbie Verdecia, playing the role of a freeman's wife, anticipates "putting flesh on history."

As the volunteers confront this 17th century history and its ideals, they will also be forced by experiences to re-examine their more modern conceptions of religiosity re·li·gi·os·i·ty  
1. The quality of being religious.

2. Excessive or affected piety.

Noun 1. religiosity - exaggerated or affected piety and religious zeal
religiousism, pietism, religionism
, work, gender roles, race, and in particular, the definition of "family." Cultural historians who have examined the social structure and role of the 17th century extended family suggest that because villagers saw humankind as prone to sin, the extended family became the guiding influence developing an individual's moral character. This communal spirit did not diminish the individual's role in society but instead enhanced its value by creating a value and belief system shared by the family. (31) Not surprisingly, the differences between the 17th and 21st centuries' notions of family will create tensions within the colony as well as entertaining drama for the viewers. The participants initially have a difficult time understanding the purpose of the extended family, complaining that their cabins are "crowded," leaving precious time for "personal timeouts" or for adventurous, nocturnal pursuits. One of the colonists who arrives mid-way through the program with her family, Debbie Verdecia, shares her frustration with the camera at not having enough space or properly defined household responsibilities and boundaries: "I think that the most challenging aspect for me was living away from my regular community--people who 'get' me and know what our family is all about." The "crowding" of which several participants complain would have been acceptable in the 17th century where early colonists often found themselves living without proper shelter and would have welcomed the flexible boundaries of the extended family as essential to their survival. As the volunteers discover, notions of privacy and individual space simply cannot coexist in a system in which indentured servants sleep in the same rooms as their employers! Despite the grumbling by the colonists, they later conceded that they were somewhat successful, as "indentured servant An indentured servant (also called a bonded laborer) is a labourer under contract of the employer in exchange for an extension to the period of their indenture, which could thereby continue indefinitely (normally it would be for seven years). " Jeff Linn linn  
n. Scots
1. A waterfall.

2. A steep ravine.

[Scottish Gaelic linne, pool, waterfall.]
 adds: "We depended on each other for food, shelter, entertainment, work, and guidance. In a sense, our lives were sustained by the efforts of the entire Colony, and as a result we became a tightly woven family."

While many of the participants come to value the colonial extended family, they divide over the role that religion is to play in their 17th century lives. Modern secular beliefs are not easily set aside, as some find it difficult to succumb to the religious leadership of the colony. "Governor" Wyers, returning after attending to a family tragedy in his 21st century life, discovers that mandatory Sabbath services have been boycotted and that the colony has degenerated into a state of lethargy. "Acting Governor" Don Heinz (a preacher and professor of religion in his 21st century life) is clearly uncomfortable having absolute authority over the colonists; convinced that "absolute rule still has to be tempered with reason," he governs by consensus rather than fiat. Reasserting his authority, Governor Wyers attempts to bring the colonists under control by reinstituting mandatory Sabbath laws, dress codes, and punishments for offensive language. Those defying Sabbath or community rules receive scarlet letters, but the transgressors openly mock these penalties for misconduct, flaunting their modern individualism and dogged rejection of 17th century civic and moral codes. Later, Wyers reflects that his colony resembles a group of unruly children; their colonial experiment likely will fail, because the colonists do not see the urgency behind community survival, preferring individual acts of defiance.

The Colonial House time travelers also refuse to accept the 17th century social hierarchy in which ones status, rights, and duties are determined at birth and reinforced by rigid gender codes. Unlike Lynn Hymer who welcomes the limited choices for the 1940s woman, Michelle Voorhees regretfully re·gret·ful  
Full of regret; sorrowful or sorry.

re·gretful·ly adv.

 describes her 17th century role as a freeman's wife as to "which of seven or so ingredients would be the focus of the days meals; would I wash clothing or mend it? Compared to my 21st century choices this was it." (32) While Michelle Voorhees may see much of her labor as mindless, such backbreaking domesticity helped economically sustain the 17th century family and the colony (and its 21st century reproduction) as a whole. When the men (quite out of 17th century character) assume these chores for a day and take hours to prepare the day's meal, we are amused but also reminded yet again that 21st century notions of equality are out of place in this re-enactment project. At one point, the women of the colony even submit a petition outlining their desire for reducing their household duties. "Freeman" Don Wood in a council meeting states that the women of the colony have "manufactured a 21st century solution for a 17th century dilemma" (reminiscent of the job-swapping solution in Manor House), chiding the women who have not accepted their proper roles in the colony.

Modern responses to history's dilemmas dominate other situations, as well. Unlike Frontier House, whose settlers never encounter Native Americans, the Colonial House settlers have several such meetings, adding a bit of theater as viewers witness how uncomfortable the volunteers are assuming 17th century attitudes about race. Linda Coombs, the Associate Director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, notes that the PBS producers insisted on Native representation in the series. "And that did happen, but it happened in a circuitous cir·cu·i·tous  
Being or taking a roundabout, lengthy course: took a circuitous route to avoid the accident site.
 way that was too much 'handled.'" (33) The legacy of European colonization and the destruction of Native tribal culture prompt great concern and apprehension among the 21st century tribal members, who are unclear as to their role in the Colonial House production. Adding to their skepticism, the Wampanoags discover that the colony's make-up lacks historical authenticity, as its cast includes one Asian, two African-Americans, and a Native Paiute in the recreated settlement. Indeed, the colonists also earn the disapproval of the Bristol "Company" because of their reluctance to take advantage of their Native American trading partners, putting the survival needs of their current community second to their guilt over the racial abuses of the past. Reassured by Colonial House producers that they would be respected, the Wampanoags agree to a final meal with the colonists, with "chicken, peas, pottage and all." As the Wampanoags leave the settlement, Linda Coombs reflects on the tribe's experience, finding it "a painful catharsis catharsis

Purging or purification of emotions through art. The term is derived from the Greek katharsis (“purgation,” “cleansing”), a medical term used by Aristotle as a metaphor to describe the effects of dramatic tragedy on the spectator: by
, but a necessary one. Such awareness is not just good for some of us, but for all of us." (34) Still, it is uncertain if this powerful symbol of two opposing cultures hesitantly sharing food will shatter or reinforce viewers' romanticized notions of the first Thanksgiving. Colonial House concludes when the series' period historians generously "pass" the colony, convincing these modern colonists that, indeed, they could have survived in the 17th century, despite their refusal to abide by To stand to; to adhere; to maintain.

See also: Abide
 many of its values and practices.

As witnesses to the colonists' five month adventure, viewers are finally presented with a series of follow-up vignettes that relate how Colonial House affected these volunteers and whether or not their 17th century existence was at odds with their 21st century cultural and social beliefs. Executive producer Beth Hoppe had imagined that "our forebears ... would fit into modern day America better than one might think," (35) but it is really the modern day Americans who, despite their complaints about the food, hard work, and sanitary conditions, fit into this colonial past. As in the concluding scenes of the other PBS series, statements are made belittling the materialism and restlessness of 21st century life. Debbie Verdecia, for example, explains: "We had a small house, limited food, few clothes, no car or TV, and my kids were happy. What does that tell you about the things we think are essential?" Michelle Voorhees returns to modern life grateful for the freedom to do and say whatever she pleases but also more confident from her colonial experience. Her son, Giacomo, speaks glowingly of his colonial experience, saying he misses the nightly table talk and adult interaction. (36) His parents had at last found the quality family time lacking in their modern life. Reflecting on her experience, Michelle states that "this has definitely been our home and it is difficult to realize we can never come back." As one of the participants who grumbled the most loudly before the camera, Michelle, like others in her colonial extended family, will remain nostalgic about the community she helped sustain for those five months.

Of course, there are some notable exceptions to this rosy view of colonial life. While Dominic Muir completes the Colonial House venture with a deeper religious belief, stating that modern life offers too many tempting choices, Bethany Wyers, daughter of minister Jeff Wyers, speaks openly about the religious "bubble" she found herself living in before discovering the "many different angles" that colony life provided her. Carolyn and Don Heinz (who willingly failed to assert authoritarian control over the colony) quickly settle back into their modern lifestyles, eager to resume their "intellectual pursuits" that they felt were stifled by colonial regulations. Others felt stifled as well, such as African-American Daniel Tisdale who began the venture with such enthusiasm; he left the colony before the project's completion, concerned that his status as an indentured servant could easily slip into that of a slave.


Although a few centuries and an ocean separate the contexts for the two sets of reality "House" series discussed above, all of the programs yield similar results. While volunteers and viewers alike are encouraged to travel back in time to appreciate the hardships endured by previous generations, they also are prompted to question their assumptions about the past as well as the present. One assumption is that the past was somehow "less complicated." But the volunteers quickly learn that they must do more than "battle the elements" without the aid of central heat and air. Most of the shows' drama and the volunteers' problems arise from their confrontation with unfamiliar hierarchies of class, race, and gender--power structures that dominate their lives for the few months they occupy their living museums and that conflict with their modern notions of individualism and liberty. Assertive career women suddenly must learn to bake bread and follow the command of their husbands, while cultural sensitivity must take a backseat to racist attitudes and practices. Most surprisingly, the volunteers learn that no matter how hard they work, whether on the frontier or below stairs at Manderston, they cannot always surmount sur·mount  
tr.v. sur·mount·ed, sur·mount·ing, sur·mounts
1. To overcome (an obstacle, for example); conquer.

2. To ascend to the top of; climb.

a. To place something above; top.
 class barriers and jealousies even when their very survival is at stake.

Surveying other types of contemporary heritage projects, some scholars suggest that the past offers comfort to those of us grappling with identity in a multicultural, hi-tech society, and indeed, many of the volunteers begin their experiments eager to escape their busy, materialistic lives. Peter Taylor adds that we tend not only to romanticize ro·man·ti·cize  
v. ro·man·ti·cized, ro·man·ti·ciz·ing, ro·man·ti·ciz·es
To view or interpret romantically; make romantic.

To think in a romantic way.
 the past but also to ignore its glaring inequalities. (37) These PBS House series, however, nobly try to avoid this trap, forcing the volunteers to contend with the social hierarchies and rules that dictate their every action while in period costume. The interactive website for Manor House even lets viewers determine their own class prejudice on the "Snob-o-Meter!" While many of the volunteers do begin their journeys back in time nostalgic for the simpler life (only to have their illusions shattered by the sheer backbreaking work required of them), they also discover that many of the social structures of the past continue to shape their 21st century lives. Playing the role of Indian tutor at Manderston, for example, reminds Reji Raj that even in postcolonial England, he will always be viewed as an outsider, just as African-American Daniel Tisdale discovers that he has indeed been written out of the very history he initially asserted was his. The couples and families who participate especially wonder if they fare any better than those in the past because of their material advantages, or if such "trappings of modern life" as hot tubs and Land Rovers and "too many choices" only hinder the family unit. Such responses speak to Ryan Trimm's claim that heritage projects allow us not only to critique and re-write the past but to contemplate and question modernity, as well. (38) Still, there are some moments in the past to which the "House" creators, mindful of 21st century sensibilities, refuse to travel back. While Hoppe and others at PBS have proposed a return to the Middle Ages or to the California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush 1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill.
, a reality program based on the antebellum South had to be scrapped "because an honest depiction of slavery would offend viewers." While medieval serfdom serfdom

In medieval Europe, condition of a tenant farmer who was bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of his landlord. Serfs differed from slaves in that slaves could be bought and sold without reference to land, whereas serfs changed lords only when the land
 apparently is remote and foreign enough to entertain American audiences, Hoppe insists that "We can't recreate those horrors (of slavery). We wouldn't want to." (39)

The PBS historical Home series is not in any sense "perfect history" re-enacted for modern television audiences. Pop culture scholar Robert Thompson Robert Thompson may refer to:
  • Robert Thompson (professor), Syracuse University professor of television and popular culture
  • Robert Thompson (poker director), the Tournament Director on Celebrity Poker Showdown.
  • Robert Thompson (Soviet spy)
  • Robert B.
 prefers to regard the series more as soap opera soap opera

Broadcast serial drama, characterized by a permanent cast of actors, a continuing story, tangled interpersonal situations, and a melodramatic or sentimental style.
, adding that, "You can't replicate the past. You can replicate the surfaces of the past--what things looked like and what materials were made of." (40) And while historical consultants add an air of authenticity to the projects with period costumes, recipes, and rulebooks, the volunteers are more often prompted by fictional representations of the past--as in Mr. Raj's idealization of Jane Eyre, or the Manderston servants' desire to re-enact an episode of Upstairs Downstairs. Even the producer, Beth Hoppe, admits that the Little House on the Prairie books were her reference point for Frontier House. As we write this essay, more productions continue to explore the clash of cultures and individual personalities in recreated communities. In 2006, PBS introduced its viewers to Texas Ranch House, tracing the exploits of a California family granted the opportunity to manage an 1867 era cattle ranching operation. Although this latest version of "hands on history" met with mixed reviews, these historical reenactments continue the success PBS has enjoyed since 1900 House first aired.

Finally, while the "House" series has succeeded in increasing PBS's ratings, the objectives of the shows' producers and historical advisors often remain at odds with what the volunteers ultimately experience and take away from their living museums (hence their barely passing grades on Colonial House and Frontier House). The participants complete each of the programs torn between their frustration over the lack of freedoms afforded individuals whose place on the estate, in the London suburb, on the frontier, or in the colony is demarcated by hierarchies they claim no longer exist in the 21st century, and a curious denunciation DENUNCIATION, crim. law. This term is used by the civilians to signify the act by which au individual informs a public officer, whose duty it is to prosecute offenders, that a crime has been committed. It differs from a complaint. (q.v.) Vide 1 Bro. C. L. 447; 2 Id. 389; Ayl. Parer.  of the choices available to them in their modern lives. Most importantly Adv. 1. most importantly - above and beyond all other consideration; "above all, you must be independent"
above all, most especially
, their individual competitive stances at the start of each venture give way as they forge new communities that represent a mix of their past and present identities and values. And while their fantasies and expectations at the start of their different ventures may be shattered to some degree, the volunteers remain determined and linked by their resolute belief that they have, in fact, succeeded in their task to "relive history." Mark Glenn of Frontier House perhaps speaks for all the time travelers, noting that, "We can go out with our heads held high." (41)

   Grandfather's open living room Castro,
   his lips softly popping on Pall Malls--
      I lullaby to the Million Dollar Movie,
   leaning on his chest.

   We hum Gone With the Wind,
   or the tick-tock tune--
      one note for each fake skyline window
      lighting up on the television screen--

   while above us, Grandmother's typewriter
   thumps the ceiling like feet being chased--
   hiding, sometimes running--
   the way Grandfather hates.

   Or I doze in Grandmother's bed
   while she raps and clicks out letters
   she mumbles loud, louder--
   to hear herself think over

   his movies--his best years of our lives,
   his big sleep, his remembering Mama
   --voices and violins playing
   up through the floor,
   throbbing into my pillow.

   Nights of her clacks, his drones,
   I'm afraid that without me, her lamp will burn
   a brown hole into its shade,
   his cigarette fall on his sheets.

   I dream the dreams of a hundred eyes:
   Grandfather drifting up
   and Grandmother down
   this stairway of lights I unreel between them.

Susanna Rich

Kean University Kean University (Pronounced KĀN or "cane") formerly Kean College of New Jersey, and previously Newark State Teachers College is a state university located in Union Township, Union County, New Jersey.


(1) Website description for 1900 House, "About the Series," http://www.

(2) Beth Hoppe, quoted in Dan Odenwald, "Back to these Old Houses," Current, 21 April 2003,

(3) Hoppe, Current interview..

(4) Robert Hewison. The Heritage Industry: Britain in a Climate of Decline (London: Methuen, 1987).

(5) David Lowenthal. The Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). , 1985) 6.

(6) Caroline Ross-Perie, "FAQs", Manor House website, http://www.pbs. org/manorhouse/.

(7) Hoppe, Current interview.

(8) Beth Hoppe,

(9) Hoppe, Current interview.

(10) See Leonore Davidoff. The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette, and the Season (London: Croom Helm, 1973), and her article, "Mastered for Life: Servant Life in Victorian England,, Journal of Social History 7 (1974): 406-428.

(11) Jackie Cook, cited in Stephanie Bunbury and Karen Heinrich's review of 1940s House, "Retro Reality." 18 June 2002 , http://www.the au/cgi-bin/common/print.

(12) Angus Calder Angus Calder (b. 1942) is an academic writer, historian, and literary editor with a background in English literature, politics and cultural studies. In 1967 he won the Eric Gregory Award for his poetry and the 1970 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. . The People's War: Britain 1939-1945 (London: The Literary Guild, 1969). Also see Calder's The Myth of the Blitz (London: Pimlico, 1992).

(13) Lucy Noakes. War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939-1991 (London: I.B. Tauris, 1998) 64.

(14) Margaret Higonnet and Patrice L.-R. Higonnet, "The Double Helix double helix
The coiled structure of a double-stranded DNA molecule in which strands linked by hydrogen bonds form a spiral configuration. Also called DNA helix, Watson-Crick helix.
," In Higonnet, et al, eds. Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987) 31-51.

(15) Sonya O. Rose. Which People's War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 153.

(16) Noakes 50.

(17) Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1996).

(18) PBS: The Texas Ranch House is the latest edition in the "hands-on-history" project that debuted May, 1, 2006.

(19) Simon Shaw with Linda Peavey and Ursula Smith. Frontier House (New York: Atria Atria
The heart has four chambers. The right and left atria are at the top of the heart and receive returning blood from the veins. The right and left ventricles are at the bottom of the heart and act as the body's main pumps.
 Books, 2002) 1-3.

(20) Frontier House and Colonial House are a production of Thirteen/WNET New York, Beth Hoppe, Executive Producer. [C]Educational Broadcasting Corporation

(21) Simon Shaw with Linda Peavey and Ursula Smith. Frontier House (New York: Atria Books, 2002) 21-25.

(22) Shaw 71.

(23) Shaw 96-98.

(24) Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850, (University of Washington Press, 1988) 21-25. Patricia Nelson Limerick Patricia Nelson Limerick (born May 17 1951) is an American historian, considered to be one of the leading historians of the American West. She was born and raised in Banning, California.

Limerick received a B.A.
, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1987) 261-269.

(25) Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen. The Presence of the Past, Popular Uses of History in American Life (New York: Columbia University Press Columbia University Press is an academic press based in New York City and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan (2004-present) and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, , 1998) 178.

(26) Simon Shaw with Linda Peavey and Ursula Smith. Frontier House (New York: Atria Books, 2002) 65, 175.

(27) "Colonial House: Living in the Past: Colonial House Producers Re-Create Early U.S. History." Colonial House.

(28) Nancy Brennan, Executive Director., "Plimoth Life, Celebrating the Ways of the 17th Century." Setting the Scene for PBS's Colonial House, 3.1 (2004) 2.

(29) Brennan.

(30) John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 59-118.

(31) Michelle Voorhees, "Reflections on Colonial House," Plimoth Life 3.1 (2004) 23.

(32) Voorhees 25.

(33) Voorhees 28.


(35) According to Michelle she was upset to learn that her son's interaction with adults included frank discussions about sex. Personal interview with the author, New England Popular Culture Conference featured panel "Colonial House: Historical Reality vs. Reality TV," 29 October 2004.

(36) Peter Taylor. "Which Britain? Which England? Which North?" in David Morley and Kevin Rabins (eds) British Cultural Studies: Geography, Nationality, and Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 127-144.

(37) Ryan Trimm. "Heritage Rebranded: The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish and the Performance of Nation." Politics and Culture, 2 (2003) cfm?key=236.

(38) Hoppe, Current interview.

(39) Robert Thompson, quoted in Current interview.

(40) Frontier House, 223.

Julie Anne Taddeo is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at University of Maryland, College Park The University of Maryland, College Park (also known as UM, UMD, or UMCP) is a public university located in the city of College Park, in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., in the United States. . She is the author of Lytton Strachey and the Search for Modern Sexual Identity (Haworth, 2002) and several articles on modernism, the Bloomsbury Group, and the 20th century British novelists.

Ken Dvorak is the director of Teaching Learning Resources and instructor of American History and Culture, San Jacinto College-South Campus, Houston, Texas. He currently is the President of the American Culture Association, Secretary/Treasurer Southwest Texas PCA/ACA and Associate Editor of the Journal of Popular Culture The Journal of Popular Culture (JPC) is a peer-reviewed journal and the official publication of the Popular Culture Association.

The popular culture movement was founded on the principle that the perspectives and experiences of common folk offer compelling insights into the
, Journal of American Culture and Film & History, An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies.
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Title Annotation:Special In-Depth Section
Author:Taddeo, Julie Anne; Dvorak, Ken
Publication:Film & History
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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