During revision time, get students to review the course by challenging them to determine the most outlandish coincidences and unlikely events they have learned about: the sorts of things which, if they appeared in a Hollywood movie, would be regarded as lazy ‘plot holes’ or lazy scriptwriting. Convert these into posters and give credit for the best examples.

Case study

After reading an amusing web page on this theme (“Assume all of world history is a movie. What are the biggest plotholes?“), I decided to narrow the question down to the modern world history topics I teach to older students. What, I wondered, were the points where the Goddess of History had a rather lazy day at the office and took unbelievable shortcuts with the script? Without too much thought a few ideas quickly suggested themselves:

  • Are we really supposed to believe that both Generals Mola AND Sanjurjo die in separate ‘accidental’ plan crashes during the Spanish Civil War? Rather a lazy way of clearing the cast list up to make Franco the central villain.
  • I stopped watching that film about “Stalin” when, after spending several years killing millions of people for being ‘Fascist counter-revolutionaries’, he then formed a non-aggression pact with HITLER. Yeah, right. Like that would have happened.
  • I thought it was particularly lame when the the whole “Hitler delivering a barnstorming speech at the trial designed to discredit him” thing was ripped off almost word-for-word in “Castro”. Very unimaginative.
  • How about that bit where Hitler borrows loads of cash to build weapons and stuff, but only his finance minister seems to understand that the only ROI on those armaments will have to be wars of conquest? Duh.

Taking it further

With a little more work, each scenario could be adjusted to turn the exercise into a quiz, with students asked to deduce which event / individual is being referenced. For example, who is being referred to in the following examples:

  • There’s that film where an American President wins a long, bloody Civil War, then the director pulls on the heartstrings just a little too obviously by having him assassinated basically minutes afterwards. That’s not pathos so much as second-rate scriptwriting.
  • Don’t get me started on that rather unrealistic scenario where an American President is so obsessed with secrecy and leaks that he gets embroiled in an illegal break-in – and then this same guy, crazy about secrecy, actually TAPES himself having conversations where be proposes making blackmail payoffs to third-rate burglars and perverting an FBI investigation. And eventually hands them over so that everyone can listen to them.