An “anachronism” can be loosely defined as anything out of its proper historical timeframe. My wife prides herself on her ability to find anachronisms in movies and she’s good at it. Movies are full of these things. For example, in the movie, “L.A. Confidential”, Gayle noticed the plastic mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles on a restaurant table. These plastic bottles weren’t available until much later than the time period depicted in the movie. Most folks wouldn’t have noticed that. I didn’t.
There’s the famous anachronism of Kirk Douglas wearing a watch in the movie, “Spartacus.” Many folks remember that one. Although that may be more of a mistake, in a general sense it could qualify. Another one was a film in which a commercial airliner can be seen high in the sky as cowboys fight valiantly against wild Indians back in the old west. I can’t remember the movie off hand. Both of these are more editing oversights than true anachronisms.
Maybe the most profound and controversial anachronism is in the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, “The Last Supper.” You will see oranges on the table with other fruit, but there were no oranges in
back when Jesus sat at the
table. Israel Oranges were available in during
the 15th century, so Leonardo was familiar with them, but they weren’t
available to the disciples in the 1st century. Italy
The painting also shows the disciples eating what appears to be eel, which the Jews of the time would not eat. Some have speculated that da Vinci was playing a trick on the Catholic Church with these depictions, but no one knows for certain.
Picture Paul Revere riding a motorcycle, Abe Lincoln watching that famous play on TV, or George Washington cutting down a cherry tree with a chain saw. Advertisers frequently use anachronisms like this. Old Ben Franklin is always trying to sell us something.
I think part of the genius of Mel Gibson was his use of Aramaic and Latin in “The Passion of the Christ.” The use of English would have been anachronistic and would have lessened the authentic feel of the film. That was a brilliant touch.
Some people suffer from an actual psychological condition called “anachronistic displacement.” This is an obsession or dysfunctional belief that the person “belongs” in another time period and feels out of place in the world he or she inhabits. I didn’t make this up. I would guess that this condition is most prevalent in senior citizens. The old Ronnie Milsap song, “Lost in the ‘50s,” puts “anachronistic displacement” to music. I like that song and I think I may have that dreaded condition.
These days patriotism, religious belief, and traditional family values seem to be considered anachronisms by the more “enlightened” in our postmodern culture. If you stand and take off your hat when the flag passes, open the door for a woman, and avoid profanity around women and children, you might be afflicted with “anachronistic displacement.” But don’t worry. This malady is not contagious and takes at least five decades for symptoms to appear, however there is no known cure and the condition seems to get worse with age.
If your discomfort becomes unbearable there are some steps that can be taken to temporarily minimize symptoms: learn how to text, wear tight short pants and a girly helmet while riding a bicycle, always carry a plastic bottle of imported water, only drink Starbucks coffee, listen to rap crap and twitch around, drive while chatting on a cell phone, and never talk about the good old days.
If that doesn’t work, just give up and watch old black and white movies. That’s what Gayle does, while I frantically search for my high school block sweater.