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Author Topic: The changing face of reenacting  (Read 12790 times)

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Offline Sturmkatze

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The changing face of reenacting
« on: May 20, 2008, 12:42:52 AM »
Why is our hobby having so many problems right on the edge of when it SHOULD be taking off? Hell, it's NEVER been easier to get repro uniforms and gear. And stuff is cheaper now too. I paid like $400+ to New Columbia for my first German Feldbluse in 1992... you can get a dead-on Lost Battalions for cheaper than that. You tell me.

WHY?
Is it the new recruits we get? Perhaps because they never met the vets like we did -- most are now passing on. Perhaps it's because they come from Civil War which has a tradition, it seems, of "eating its young?" I don't know. Perhaps today's generation just doesn't give a damn... I still blame MTV and Nintendo for the destruction of American Society: MTV teaches you you don't have to be responsible for your actions and Nintendo teaches them that violence is okay. But hey, what do I know?

Dumb Asses
The recent reports of sites being lost to reenactments due to dumb asses damaging property and painting Swastikas there is a prime example of the problem;  it's just unreal! And if the Federation boots this unit, that's bad, as they (The Federation) will basically let ANYONE in the door if they paid his fee (authentic or not). It's always been about the numbers and making the money for them. ;-( (yes, I'm an a-hole)

Let's Discuss it!
If you want to discuss stuff here, let's! I'm not that "PC" and we're not going to shut down threads because it might twist someone's panties a bit. Yes, we will rem posts for threats, flames and such, but dammit, not for the truth. Not for people trying to improve the hobby,
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Offline Heinz Varner

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2008, 10:58:50 PM »
In response to DUMB ASSES.....Well what can I say? They should be banned from the hobby.  >:(

From what I have heard there is more then just one unit out there. There is one in the New England area and the one in the NJ, PA, NY area. It's all out there and most of the people in this hobby don't like these actions.

Problem is no one has the BALLS to say NO to these people and their bad behavior. 0|
Individual units need to boycott events that these morons are allowed to attend.
Maybe when the event dies, then the event coordinators will ban them. :police:
Put the bad behavior out in the light of day and like cockroaches those people will disappear. oo-P
Some people are like Slinkies. They're really good for nothing.
But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2008, 10:58:50 PM »
Lost Battalions (P)

Offline battlebaby4

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2008, 07:09:40 PM »
 I agree let's get the word out on the BAD and Ugly units. If we were hosting Dunkirk ,NY I did ban one unit due to problems. If we ever host another event they are banned from it too.
 People and new folks in the hobby need to know who they are too. When a unit always boost "They are the Finest in the entire hobby" That should send up a red flag. More red flags should go up with theses things too, all NCO and officers ,no privates, people who address themselves as a "real Lt or capt, its just a hobby.
 Feeling they are God's gift to the hobby. Being so elite they can't do any wrong. Unwilling to take hits or work with other units to better the hobby. Trying to destroy another units event and boosting that they did it. We should all be trying to make more events so more reenactors can enjoy them. My list could become a X-mas list if I wanted to but will stop here.

 Pat

 t
« Last Edit: May 22, 2008, 07:11:11 PM by battlebaby4 »
99th Infantry Division, 393rd Regiment, Easy Co. "Battlebabies"

Offline battlebaby4

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2008, 09:03:59 AM »
The changing face of reenacting is happening to another unit in SW Michigan (St. Joe's Harbor)who is hosting a very BIG D-Day and more invasion event  this June. A "new rumor mill" is trying to say they too have no US Navy or other landing craft support. We'll Great Lakes Naval Base is thier support as too private owners of landing craft.(Will try to get the 99th there next year)
 I pretty much know who the "rumor mill and its reenacting supporters are". Theses folks are ruining this hobby due to playing GAMES. They didn't like my unit's Dunkirk ,NY event and did everything to destroy it. Happy to have a NEW York unit now run it. Maybe one day I'll share this story here with you all. Theses greedy people live between PA and Michigan and host their event too on the Great Lakes.
 We reenactors who want to make this a good hobby for all to do in the future will have to stand up against units like them. Boycotting would be a good start.

 Pat
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 09:06:41 AM by battlebaby4 »
99th Infantry Division, 393rd Regiment, Easy Co. "Battlebabies"

Offline Chris Pittman

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2008, 01:57:18 PM »
I think BS politics and the rumor mill are one of our biggest problems. There are lots of people and groups out there working hard to have quality events and help the hobby improve, unfortunately there are also lots of people more interested in competition than cooperation who love to spread all kinds of myths and legends if it will help them get some kind of advantage, no matter how slight. I'm a reenactor in New England and I wonder what local unit is being talked about here, the "cockroaches" that some would have banned from the hobby? The reenactment scene isn't very big here and there aren't a lot of units.

My group (the largest German unit in New England) is starting to focus more and more on total immersion events with an emphasis on history, and less and less on farby sham battles and public displays for a public that just doesn't give a crap. We are working on more first person reenacting and experimental archaeology, we train and drill, make regulation field positions, eat regulation meals cooked in our field kitchen, etc. These type of events are very satisfying and fun, especially for some of us who have been doing this for a while and are sick of the frustrating farce of most tacticals. Since March, we have had three events of which one was a tactical and two were training events; this weekend we are having a unit-only immersion event. We actually had more members show up for the training weekends than for the tactical! Also, in a time when the hobby's authenticity standards seem to be in decline, we have not compromised on our standards and in fact have worked to increase the accuracy of our impression. This has helped us to get a bunch of new recruits who are serious about authenticity and on the same page, these guys are helping us get better and better all the time. So reenacting is in fact changing for us, it is getting better and more satisfying. I have talked to members of other units who are doing this as well, getting back to an emphasis on history, the thing that got us all started in this crazy hobby. We continue to support and host quality tactical events (we host the largest event in the region, we are hosting or co-hosting 2 other area tactical events this year as well) but we are finding other options that most of our members enjoy even more.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2008, 02:12:22 PM by Chris Pittman »

Offline Antonescu

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2008, 09:29:39 PM »
"public displays for a public that just doesn't give a crap"

Chris,

I think it depends on where the displays take place. I do know in WV, NJ and VA there are more people there to learn, veterans come to share stories and everyone enjoys the day. I think its more like the events such as Reading that only want to make money off the public that seem to have more of those who are there to look for things to cause trouble. A living history display is also good during the school year since a lot of teachers would like to make a field trip out of it to allow their classes the opportunity to see what their ancestors went through to make the country what it is today.

As for units compromising on standards, these seem to be "problem" units that allow anyone to join with no regard. As a history teacher, the love of history hasn't left me at all. However, the behaviors of some units that do Western Europe 44-45 have driven me more and more to East Front and most likely to only that and WWI.

See my post about the units in the other thread.
"Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it" George Santayana (1863-1952)
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Offline Chris Pittman

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2008, 08:51:07 AM »
Don't get me wrong, I used to really sincerely enjoy public display events. Meeting veterans was always the best part. At my first displays in 2001 there were always plenty of veterans, even German vets happy to tell stories. In recent years, there have been fewer and fewer WWII vets at the displays we participate in, and now it is rare to meet even a single person. We used to be a part of a big regional air show up here, it used to be a lot of fun for us. But as time goes on, we have met fewer and fewer people with a genuine interest, and more and more children and teenagers who just fray our nerves. The air show organizers have also worked to marginalize us as well. We haven't gotten a recruit from a public display in years. We continue to enjoy events like military vehicle rallies with smaller crowds who are receptive to what we do and appreciate our efforts, but the big displays grow more and more frustrating for us.

Offline Sturmkatze

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2008, 10:51:30 AM »
Don't get me wrong, I used to really sincerely enjoy public display events. Meeting veterans was always the best part. At my first displays in 2001 there were always plenty of veterans, even German vets happy to tell stories.
AND back then, they were happy to see us there. Hell, it was usually a crowd of GERMAN reenactors standing there talking to them while the "John Waynes" were off watching videos or whatever (sad, but true)...
Quote
In recent years, there have been fewer and fewer WWII vets at the displays we participate in, and now it is rare to meet even a single person. We used to be a part of a big regional air show up here, it used to be a lot of fun for us. But as time goes on, we have met fewer and fewer people with a genuine interest, and more and more children and teenagers who just fray our nerves. The air show organizers have also worked to marginalize us as well. We haven't gotten a recruit from a public display in years. We continue to enjoy events like military vehicle rallies with smaller crowds who are receptive to what we do and appreciate our efforts, but the big displays grow more and more frustrating for us.
It's just not worth it anymore >:( Usually the crowds know EVERYTHING because they have learned it all from watching the history of ketchup on the "hitler channel." That, or they have watched some old war movie one too many times. And of course, "Why would ya wanna portray one of them thar nazzzies?" That kinda crap. Public stuff is for the birds. Hell, and it doesn't seem any better for any of the time periods. I stopped caring about "edjukatin' the publick" years ago -- they don't care, they'd rather play some new XBox game or whatever. 0|
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Offline Antonescu

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2008, 07:43:26 PM »
Quote
In recent years, there have been fewer and fewer WWII vets at the displays we participate in, and now it is rare to meet even a single person. We used to be a part of a big regional air show up here, it used to be a lot of fun for us. But as time goes on, we have met fewer and fewer people with a genuine interest, and more and more children and teenagers who just fray our nerves. The air show organizers have also worked to marginalize us as well. We haven't gotten a recruit from a public display in years. We continue to enjoy events like military vehicle rallies with smaller crowds who are receptive to what we do and appreciate our efforts, but the big displays grow more and more frustrating for us.
It's just not worth it anymore >:( Usually the crowds know EVERYTHING because they have learned it all from watching the history of ketchup on the "hitler channel." That, or they have watched some old war movie one too many times. And of course, "Why would ya wanna portray one of them thar nazzzies?" That kinda crap. Public stuff is for the birds. Hell, and it doesn't seem any better for any of the time periods. I stopped caring about "edjukatin' the publick" years ago -- they don't care, they'd rather play some new XBox game or whatever. 0|

I'm in contact with a councilman in a town in WV. I can honestly say that there the people actually care (also being from there). In fact, they would like to have a battle on the bridge and along main street, various nationalities reenacted in attendence, vehicles brought in as well. He said most likely the city will go for it but would have to be a yearly thing. I run into veterans everywhere I go back in WV. I guess the country air is really good for the health. ;D
"Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it" George Santayana (1863-1952)
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Offline prgeyer

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2008, 09:31:41 AM »
I just recently did a public WW2 living history in northern VA.  I was favorably impressed by the public that showed up.  We had a number of U.S. veterans (one guy landed on D-Day, and had some very interesting stories to tell).  There were tons of kids who mostly had informed questions, and even parents who really wanted their kids to learn something.  Maybe it's a function of being so close to DC and the resident military population, but it was a pleasant surprise after not having done many public living histories for a while.

As for the participants themselves, all new reenactors should have their TVs and game consoles forcibly removed from their homes for their first 5 years in the hobby.  Band of Brothers or Call of Duty are great entertainment.  But too many guys come into the hobby thinking that they're history.  They aren't, they never were, and they never will be.  When a kid asks me how he can become a reenactor, I tell him point blank that the first step before doing anything else is to read every book on the subject that he/she can get their hands on.  Next, find an established group of individuals who also read (and continue to read) every book on the subject that they can get their hands on.

Finally, if we want to get rid of at least some of the yahooism in the Hobby, it is my opinion that reenactors need to stop convincing themselves that they are somehow a legitimate part of what they are portraying.  I know that it's an easy trap, when one has put together a first rate 1st person impression, to say "WE did such and such on D-Day" or "WE did such and such when we entered Stalingrad".  I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but NONE of us were present on D-Day, and NONE of us entered Stalingrad with the 6th Army.  We're reenactors pretending that we did these things, nothing more.  Some of us have created great associations with veterans' organizations.  But that doesn't change the essential fact that we are not veterans of WW2, and we have no right to appropriate for ourselves the honor and respect that real veterans of WW2 have earned.  Once we disassociate ourselves with the feats of strength, stamina, and courage that others performed, it becomes easier for us to participate in tacticals without feeling that we have to "win" (whatever that means).
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Offline Nachtjager

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2008, 10:24:52 AM »
 :) I'm really late to the dance here, but I just found this site, sorry.  I've been reenacting for fifteen years, or thereabouts, and I have seen the hobby's numbers decline quite a bit down here in the deep south.  For the most part, I can lay blame on one element - reenactors taking this hobby far too seriously. 

I am a history fanatic and do both American and German impressions as well as both sides of the Civil War (that's kinda manditory down here).  As the previous post states, I NEVER try to pass myself off as the actual real deal, and in speaking with the public about what impression I'm doing, I've always been careful to say "they did this" or "they accomplished that" - not that "I" did it, because I didn't.  I am portraying historical figures, I am NOT a historical figure in and of myself.  I enjoy reenacting and have learned much from it.  I especially enjoy interacting with WWII veterans, American, British, and German - they're awesome and I've never met one who had anything ill to say about any impression I was doing.  I even had an elderly rabbi thank me once when I was in the 17th SS for doing my impression and explaining things so well, because he thought it was marvelous for young people to see in person so they wouldn't forget or think all of this was just made up for television stuff. 

Having said all that, I think the hobby has become too fanatical in its strive for authenticity, and that's led a lot of reenactors away.  The brutally primitive camping of many units, the insistance on not eating anything but "period" food, not having the correctly dyed leather laces on your boots... that sort of rubbish.  This is a hobby, it's NOT REAL!  This is a particularly extreme problem with many German units now and it's very annoying.  Most of the Wehrmacht had dysentery and terrible lice problems by 1943, so I suppose that's the next logical step, we're all going to be required to have a fever of at least 101 degrees and be covered with lice before we'll be allowed on the field and declared "authentic." 

I'm all for having an authentic presentation, knowing your history, and portraying those we represent accurately, but screw it, I've got little cans of apple juice in my gas mask cannister and peanut butter crackers in my bread bag.  When nobody's looking, I'm gonna' keep my blood sugar up and if that's not good enough, too bad, I'll be one more guy who used to reenact.  I've spent thousands of dollars through the years getting the weapons and uniforms right, I watch my diet to stay slim, I keep my hair cut properly, and my look is quite authentic.  I have no desire to sleep on top of an ant pile under a tree and eat rotten sausages then have an explosive stomach all weekend just so I can be "legit" in the eyes of some guys.  Sorry to rant, but I know of at least six guys who don't reenact anymore precisely because they got tired of being called farby because they liked to sleep in a tent and eat real food at night. >:( 

Take care all!  ;)   

Offline prgeyer

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2008, 10:54:20 AM »
  Most of the Wehrmacht had dysentery and terrible lice problems by 1943, so I suppose that's the next logical step, we're all going to be required to have a fever of at least 101 degrees and be covered with lice before we'll be allowed on the field and declared "authentic." 
  

Nachtjager, while I generally agree with what you've said, this particular statement above always makes me tense up in my southern regions.  It's not that I think people should get dysentery and lice.  But I do think that it is incumbent upon us to improve our impressions where we can without jeopardizing our own or other people's health and well being.  All too often, I have seen people use that exact excuse and in the same breath say, by that same reasoning, that it's therefore okay to do or wear things that fall even below the going standard.  I'm not saying that you are guilty of this, but all too often people say that it's impossible to achieve 100%, therefore 20% is perfectly adequate.  It's a false all-or-nothing premise.  Frankly, I'm getting too old to sleep out in the rain any more.  But that doesn't mean that I don't admire people who are willing to.  They're pushing the boundaries (both their own as well as the Hobby's), and as far as I'm concerned, more power to them.  It doesn't affect me, just as what I do doesn't affect them.  I'm reasonably trim, very healthy, and my kit is unimpeachable, so I'm happy with where I am and where I'm going.

Lord knows, I've never asked anybody to achieve 100%.  But I do hope, out of a sense of desire for constant improvement, that people try to improve everywhere that they can.  I'd rather reenact with somebody who starts out at 50%, then a year later gets to 55%, then 60%, and so on, than with somebody who starts at 80% and doesn't ever improve from there.

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Offline Michael Dorosh

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2009, 08:47:32 AM »
Great question. I'm a bit surprised that this forum is as little used as it is - I've been aware of the site for several years and have been in and out of re-enactment since the mid 1990s. (Our re-enactment unit even self-published a history of our group in hardcover - available here http://www.lulu.com/content/hardcover-book/gallant-calgarians/698156 )

Affordability

I have to agree that 2008 would have seemed to be the time to get involved (2009 is more understandable, with the economic downturn) - uniforms are dirt cheap - I know, I was selling panzer wraps on ebay. They were my favourite of the German uniforms and so I found a supplier to do up replicas out of Pakistan. Made good money until rip off artists in Hong Kong started undercutting me with inferior material, but superior cut - guess what shows up in an ebay listing? Even offering a complete range of choice of insignia didn't help, and I was only doing it as a hobby a half dozen at a time - they were selling in bulk out of Hong Kong. I switched to assault gun wrappers in field grey, but soon they were making those too, and so I took my money and found another hobby.

But the point is, all that competitive drive overseas means you can get not just uniforms but field equipment dirt cheap. Any Pakistan company that does business with you reports to the chamber of commerce there, and you're suddenly on the mailing list for all his competitors, and EVERYONE seems to be making MP40 pouches out of canvas, mountain troop caps, peaked caps, BEVO sleeve eagles, leather belts with Wehrmacht buckles, probably more stuff now coming out of south Asia than the Germans produced during the war. And of acceptable quality - anyone paying too much from third parties in the States or the U.K. should contact the suppliers directly in Pakistan - for the cost of sending a sample, they'll make anything you want.

But I digress

Public Battles
Public battles for World War II are largely, from what I've seen, a joke. I've participated in a couple, and while the guys who do them are well-meaning, and the ones I've been in have been well-received and went off more or less successfully, they don't do what the Civil War public displays do. You could never convince anyone to drive across town or a state to attend one, like you could a Gettysburg re-enactment, because it will never be an "event" unless you happened to be at Arnhem or the Normandy Beaches. You can't recreate a World War II battlefield very convincingly either because most battles were decided by artillery and the combatants made a practice of not being able to be seen. The battles took up a lot of space and were fought over hours and days. They didn't lend themselves to mass spectacle.

Public displays of living history encampments are far more successful, but apparently less popular among the guys who own the jeeps, tanks, and machine guns. Not a surprise.

New generation
There probably is something to the point that World War II is becoming a distant memory, as far as collective public consciousness goes, but if the American Civil War can retain its significance I have to believe the Second World War will also. The problem will be in convincing a 20 year old college student that he wants to spend 500 dollars on buying a gun and a uniform and cutting his hair short and staying physically fit, particularly in post-war, post-recession America.

Rugged Individualists
The biggest problem we faced in our unit, and bear in mind there were only three of us at the very core of the unit, was that we each had our own ideas of how we wanted to do things. I've seen stories of this in every organization I have come in contact with, or read about (if you haven't read Jenny Thompson's book WARGAMES yet, you should do so - http://www.amazon.com/War-Games-Inside-Twentieth-Century-Reenactors/dp/1588341283 ). There is a basic lack of willingness to compromise among re-enactors, and I'm not sure where it comes from. Perhaps it is lack of leadership, perhaps it is the fact that as a quasi-military organization, everyone wants to be a leader. But everyone wants to do things their own way. I'm as guilty as anyone. And there is a very real feeling that goes something like "hey, I paid 1,000 dollars for all this 'stuff' and if you don't like the way I'm doing things, I'm going to take it all and go home."

The attitude is both pervasive and permissive. For example, a 500 pound Fallschirmj?ger can parade around because he's the guy who owns the automatic weapons.

"Hey, isn't that guy kind of fat - how would he even fit in the door of a Junkers?"

"Oh, he owns the machine guns, so we let him dress up - don't worry, he won't be coming to the field with us."

"Oh, so he's just staying here in the public display area where the public can see him."

"Yeah, so no harm done."

Why object, right? Because everyone is in charge, rules get bent, changed, modified, and people get fed up with it all the time. Hop from one organization to another, make their own unit when they get tired of another, start a new federation, quit, sell their stuff, rejoin two years later.

At the end of the day, though, the fact that it is still just a hobby is probably it's saving grace. There is money changing hands, but only in relatively small amounts, for kit and registration and event fees. Were reenactment to "turn pro" that's when your real headaches would start. And for heaven's sake, don't let the government start running things...

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Re: The changing face of reenacting
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2009, 08:47:32 AM »
Hessen Antique (aff)