I was browsing Netflix idly the other night and ended up watching snippets of the 1997 animated version of Anastasia. I had fond memories of the movie, which I haven’t watched since it came out, I think mostly because I thought the lyrics to the songs were unusually clever, and because I loved — and still love — historical fiction (any Ann Rinaldi fans out there? David Liss?). But revisiting this one, I actually think its whitewash of both the tsars and Bolshevism is actively immoral. All we see of Nicholas, whose reign began in a panic that killed 1,389, whose guards killed peaceful reformist protestors, who actively encouraged pogroms in the Pale of Settlement, is that he was the benevolent and charming father to the title character, who provided her with a beautiful and comfortable life:
There’s not even remotely a suggestion that the royal family ought to be accountable for some of the dreadful things that happened on Nicholas’s watch and at the direct order of his regime. And other than a reference to a fish-processing factory, a few tossed-off references to a “comrade,” and an allusion that “since the revolution, our lives have been so gray,” and the fact that it takes travel papers to get out of Russia, there’s precisely no reckoning with the aftermath of revolution. In fact, the movie makes Russia look like a cute, gossipy, free-market country:
I understand that not all of history is immediately appropriate for children who are the target audience of movies like. But there’s a huge difference between age-appropriate discernment and abridgment and actual whitewash. There may be a degree of difference between the tsars and the Nazis, or between the tsars and Stalin. But that doesn’t mean I’d show my kids (should I ever have any) movies about Stalin’s kids (hard to make, given some of their suicides and Stalin’s notably cold attitude towards many of them) that didn’t make clear that their father was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Some things, you can wait to introduce kids to until they can learn the whole truth.