The first thought that sprang to my mind when the name Oney Judge was mentioned in the last class was, “I know her story. I’ve seen it on Drunk History.” Drunk History is a television show on Comedy Central where the producers get a person very drunk and then film that person giving a recount of a historical event. Then famous actors are hired to play the roles of the historical figures in the recount. The show is edited so that the actors simultaneously portray these figures and the drunk person gives the recount of the event. The drunk person’s voice also serves as the voice for all the actors and the actors simply lip-sync along to the dialogue provided.
I remember the first clip from Drunk History I had ever seen. I was sitting in my room, late at night, talking to my roommate when she asked if I had seen the show. When I told her I had not she told me I had to YouTube it and watch the scene about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. I pulled up the clip, placed my computer on my bed, and we watched it together. Will Ferrell played the part of Abraham Lincoln, Don Cheadle played the part of Frederick Douglas, and Zooey Deschanel played the part of Mary Todd Lincoln. It was one of the funniest things I have ever watched. Lincoln’s and Douglas’s introduction was retold by a drunk woman who made the story very funny by doing things like accidentally saying “Clinton” when she meant “Lincoln”, at which point the actors looked into the camera confused. The story this woman told was a heroic one. It was about two men who worked to end slavery and as a viewer watching now I know that these men’s hard work culminated in success. I think so many people find this show entertaining because it takes situations and people who are normally talked about so seriously and talks about them in a different way. And maybe because both these men’s goals were accomplished I don’t feel bad laughing at a funny retelling of their struggle.
But there are other stories Drunk History depicts where the protagonist does not fair well. Oney Judge is an example of one of these stories. Once I had my first taste of Drunk History I wanted more and watched anything I could from the show on YouTube. As far as I remember I had not heard of Oney Judge to any great extent when I watched the video. The drunk woman, Jen Kirkman, who gives the recount of Oney Judge sounds very passionate about Judge. At one point Kirkman says, “I want to honor her…” Watching some of the depictions Drunk History creates makes me wonder if this show is the best way to honor the people it talks about. Is Oney Judge being honored when an intoxicated person tells her story and the show’s primary objective is to entertain the audience? As far as I can tell Drunk History’s goal is not to inform the audience or to create awe for Judge from the audience. They want to create an entertaining television show that will get good ratings.
On the other hand, I have to say that I learned a lot from the clip. It revealed aspects of the Washington’s lives, like owning slaves, that are not as focused on in American History classes. It also shows opinions of people during that time as the Washingtons could not believe Judge would have run away, they thought she had been seduced by a man to leave. They could not believe she did not enjoy the life she had at their house.
Also, watching Drunk History’s production of the Oney Judge story was the first in depth account of the woman I had heard of by the time I was twenty years old. Is there some validity to this show that brings attention not only to prominent historical figures, like Frederick Douglas, but to less popularized, yet still great, figures like Oney Judge? Do more people now know her story because of the show and would they have ever heard it without Drunk History? Does making her story more well known justify their tactics? I enjoy the show but am not sure if I should feel bad about it.