Rated: 2.5 / 5
“We live in a time where people seem to be re-embracing the corrosive notion that what we want to be true is more important than what is true.”
— Craig Mazin, the writer and creator of Chernobyl
This is what it took to claw my attention away from a board game I’m designing. After being convinced to give it a watch by The Critical Drinker from cocksucking YouTube (and I will continue to use some derogative adjective, even a half-assed one that might not even be considered an adjective, to describe that site until things change or until it burns to the ground to pave way for better sites like BitChute or DailyMotion or something), I gave it a watch. I can recommend it, but with some serious caveats. Hey, if they want to make something based on a true story, they’re going to eat a serious shit sandwich from me, and approved by Jill Valentine, for anything not historically accurate about it that ticked me off. Especially from an event as big and serious as this, which had the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise spawn from it, both the film and the game series, let alone Metro 2033.
So I’m not going to beat about the bush, here’s the main thing that pissed me off about this show. Emily Watsons’ character, named Ulana Khomyuk. First of all, I hated her because she made me turn on the fucking subtitles so I could spell her name correctly so I could look her up. Fuck you for making me turn on the subtitles (and yeah, I know, fuck me for not knowing how to spell a Russian name when I hear one). This is one of those types of characters that cause alarm bells to ring in my head (which is already bad enough with the occasional tinnitus attack, so fuck you again). The first episode of this 5-part miniseries, with the scenes for this character, didn’t have the alarm go off so much as have my inner-self wandering around in my head put his hand on the lever, ready to pull it. No alarms yet. But when the 2nd episode came around, and her male partner/colleague (not sure what he’s supposed to be, and I don’t feel like rewatching it to remember) commented on the main protagonist pouring boron mixed with sand on the nuclear fire, saying something like, “That’s what I would do.” And she replies, “Yes, you would wouldn’t you?” in an almost sarcastic manner. At that moment, the lever was pulled. Star Trek red alert alarms going off, the 3rd-wave feminism intruding upon this show, the desire to stop the episode right then and there to look up her character online to see how based in reality she really is, etc. I resisted that urge until the end of the episode. And then…
And then I found out her character is completely made up. There was no Ulana Khomyuk in the true story behind this event. Oh no. Rather they pull a Patriots Day on us by basing her character as a combination of multiple scientists and doctors and whatnot who basically did much of what her fictional character did. So why did this piss me off more than Mark Whalberg’s character in Patriots Day being a fictional character who is a culmination of 3 different police officers? A few reasons. For one thing, much more time is spent with Whalberg’s cop character on an average basis compared to Watson’s character, which made it seem more necessary to condense multiple characters into one for the sake of getting attached to a main protagonist. For another thing, and this is the big one, Marky Mark is based on 3 different real-life people; Watson’s character is based on over 100 different real-life people. I mean, holy fuck. It’s one thing to say one man can do the work of 3, it’s something entirely different to say one woman can do the work of 100. Not to mention a character like that is utterly guaranteed to come-off as an irritating know-it all. And she does! Someone who is always right, with her logical decisions and ethics. With how she manages to go to multiple places, impersonate doctors, easily acquire bits of knowledge that only certain people in certain places and positions should be capable of.
And here’s the third and final reason (outside of I hate feminism and diversity quotas). This fucking series claimed to go to great lengths towards being historically accurate. And to be fair, it does get a number of things right. But the one element of historical accuracy it decided to sacrifice for her fucking character is this: Soviet Russia didn’t have any female scientists as leaders in their field, not to the extent this character is. Her character is complete and utter bullshit, and I would’ve liked the series more if they split her character into like, I don’t know, 3-5 different characters, who each contribute something for the main protagonist when it comes to dealing with this nuclear explosion issue.
And yes, I know, it explains what her character represents during the epilogue if this series. I just see that as another way of covering their beta asses to make up some excuse of putting a female character in a position she doesn’t belong outside of just saying, “You’re sexist if you don’t like it.” Well yes, I am sexist, but I also have valid points. Like the fact that even the epilogue text lies at one point about “The Bridge of Death,” which is just an urban legend at best.
And make no mistake, she’s not the only character I have issues with in this miniseries; but she is the only fictional character I have issues with (well ok, there was also that old statesman asshole with the cane in one of the first episodes). The show also goes about making some people more 2-dimensional than they were in real life. And by 2-dimensional, I mean making them into irredeemable assholes. Like the one plant operator primarily responsible for the whole damn thing happening in the first place. Plus there’s the whole misconceptions and stereotypes of several Russians (let alone Russian’s in general) with them drinking vodka straight rather than in a watered down format (have you ever tried drinking vodka straight? It tastes like ass!). Nevermind they were drinking fucking vodka during the time Gorbachev was doing his whole anti-alcohol campaign, which makes it highly unlikely, at best, that vodka drinking was anywhere near as prevalent as this show indicates. Goddamn this show for claiming to be historically accurate!
Other than that, of course, it exaggerated just how secretive and evil the Soviet government was, let alone the KGB. And also, it exaggerates the devastation caused or potentially caused from the disaster (though to be fair, the official death count from the disaster according to Russia is laughable for the opposite reason). Plus the fear-mongering regarding nuclear power. This can ironically lead to some dangerous and destructive mindsets. Ironic because the show preaches about how lies and secrets are destructive towards society, and that the more one lies, and the more people who wind up believing in that repeated lie, the harder the pendulum swings right back into the opposite direction.
The first thing to understand about the HBO mini-series “Chernobyl,” which concludes its five-part run on Monday, is that a lot of it is made up.
But here’s the second, and more important, thing: It doesn’t really matter.
For the mini-series gets a basic truth right — that the Chernobyl disaster was more about lies, deceit and a rotting political system than it was about bad engineering or abysmal management and training (or, for that matter, about whether nuclear power is inherently good or bad).
Bullshit it doesn’t really matter. It matters when this is the only source of information people bother to get regarding Chernobyl, which will be the case for a decent portion of the population. Know why? Because a decent portion of the population is made up of dumb fucks. The same kind of low IQ dumb fucks that would cause an accident like Chernobyl in the first place (there’s some fear-mongering for you). One of the ways to fix that is by ensuring that any film or show based on a true story/event is as historically accurate as possible, while taking as few creative liberties as possible. Otherwise that’s dangerously disrespectful the memory of the event itself, and those that lived it.
I could go on and on about how inaccurate and stereotypical in the bad ways (it can’t even be considered in a fun way) this miniseries is (like how it highly exaggerates how radiation can spread; people who have radiation sickness don’t spread it through touch goddamnit!). But I’ll just stop with that or else I’m not going to feel like pointing out the positives, of which I’m getting less and less of the more I research into this whole thing. It’s well-made and well-paced from a film-making point of view. Tension is high, it does a tremendous job with the paranoia that can be felt regarding nuclear disasters and radiation (even if they accelerated just how quickly one can die from it). And you’ll be entertained and invested throughout. But don’t get sucked into the idea that a decent portion of what you are seeing is historically accurate.
Worthy reads discussing the accuracy of this miniseries: