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Chernobyl (HBO, 2019)

t-dugong

Beach bum, Esq.
Sitting on your couch, with some snacks. Or you could watch it from the comfort of your bed, but be careful not to spill your snacks or drinks. 😁
 
Last edited:

Wakko

Well-known member
For now just on HBO GO (their kind of Netflix) I guess. If you don't have it, they have a one-month-for-free offer for new users (just like Netflix, and you can unsubsribe after that to not pay for the next month).
I really liked 2 things about it:
- excellent description and explanation of the accident and the method behind it
- the condemnation of elevating ideology over humanity, which was actually the reason for sooo many problems in the USSR and former Eastern Block, and which is veeeery relevant just about now, but for completely different parts of the world
 

Horton

Cat
Administrator
For now just on HBO GO (their kind of Netflix) I guess. If you don't have it, they have a one-month-for-free offer for new users (just like Netflix, and you can unsubsribe after that to not pay for the next month).
I really liked 2 things about it:
- excellent description and explanation of the accident and the method behind it
- the condemnation of elevating ideology over humanity, which was actually the reason for sooo many problems in the USSR and former Eastern Block, and which is veeeery relevant just about now, but for completely different parts of the world
Not in service area.
HBO GO is only supported in the U.S. and certain U.S. territories.
I mean, I could use a VPN, but that'll mean laggy connection. My internet isn't top tier as it is.

You're not American though, what did you do?
 

Vorpal

Administrator
Administrator
I've considered making time to watch Chernobyl, but viewing some clips from it turned me off that idea, despite the series' apparent strong dedication to visual detail.

Chief among that was the story of a potentially 2-4 megaton explosion, which is an outright physical impossibility, followed up by the claim that it will destroy Minsk, which is ludicrous even if the preceding already impossible scenario is assumed. Sprinkled on top of this are the usual myths of three divers. ... First, the reactor can't explode as an atomic bomb—that's dumb anti-nuclear fear-mongering. Second, the statement requires a thermonuclear explosion, for which the material doesn't even exist in the reactor. Third, there's an extra adding of several more orders of magnitude just for kicks.

So ultimately, this leads me to believe that it's pretty naked propaganda piece.
 

Wakko

Well-known member
So ultimately, this leads me to believe that it's pretty naked propaganda piece.
There is the usual level of stupidity, which is to be expected from western production. KGB everywhere (and people seriously expecting to be shot - in the 1980's!), the dumb portrayal of the miners (my uncle was a miner in the 1980s), that 'it will kill all known universe' megaton threat added for dramatic effect, or Shcherbina threatening to have somebody thrown out of a helicopter (OMFG). I think it would be unrealistic to expect the actual reality from western production, they're not equipped for that - and it would be weird and difficult to understand for their viewers. Imagine a western audience watching some of the revered classics of Soviet cinematography, like Irony of Fate*, or Moscow doesn't Believe in Tears, or any of the Soviet-era war movies (Belarussian Station or Officers for example) those movies are sooo great, yet completely incomprehensible for the culturally different westerners. So I think they did as good a job as they could, and what I liked was that it was completely about the Soviet people, they didn't try to smuggle in some US uebermensch helping the poor backwards Soviets clean up their mess and save the president or whatever... One of the main heroes is the vice-chairman of the Soviet government - now that's a kick into the face for the anti-soviet propaganda.
And, objectively, it was a big mess, mostly attributable to the defficiencies of the political and social system, and unfortunately it wasn't the only one...
If you decide to watch it and it leaves an aftertaste, just wash it down with the Balkan Line, that's some sweet revenge :)

*OMG I've just found out there's a modern follow-up movie, and it's got positive reviews, yay!
 

Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
I've considered making time to watch Chernobyl, but viewing some clips from it turned me off that idea, despite the series' apparent strong dedication to visual detail.

Chief among that was the story of a potentially 2-4 megaton explosion, which is an outright physical impossibility, followed up by the claim that it will destroy Minsk, which is ludicrous even if the preceding already impossible scenario is assumed. Sprinkled on top of this are the usual myths of three divers. ... First, the reactor can't explode as an atomic bomb—that's dumb anti-nuclear fear-mongering. Second, the statement requires a thermonuclear explosion, for which the material doesn't even exist in the reactor. Third, there's an extra adding of several more orders of magnitude just for kicks.

So ultimately, this leads me to believe that it's pretty naked propaganda piece.
Wait, what? They claim this?! Who the fuck paid for such nonsense? Greenpeace?
 

Wakko

Well-known member
Wait, what? They claim this?! Who the fuck paid for such nonsense? Greenpeace?
I don't think anything in the show was meant as being anti-nuclear. I'm a fan of nuclear energy (living about 20 km away from an NPP myself), I'm pretty sensitive to the anti-nuclear nonsense, and I didn't feel any of it while watching the show. The accident was presented as a result of human error aggravated by the systemic deficiencies of the Soviet system (which is true IMO).

is this accurate?
Pretty much (but I'm not a physicist). It adds some details to the already excellent explanation found in the 5th episode of the show.
 

Horton

Cat
Administrator
I've considered making time to watch Chernobyl, but viewing some clips from it turned me off that idea, despite the series' apparent strong dedication to visual detail.

Chief among that was the story of a potentially 2-4 megaton explosion, which is an outright physical impossibility, followed up by the claim that it will destroy Minsk, which is ludicrous even if the preceding already impossible scenario is assumed. Sprinkled on top of this are the usual myths of three divers. ... First, the reactor can't explode as an atomic bomb—that's dumb anti-nuclear fear-mongering. Second, the statement requires a thermonuclear explosion, for which the material doesn't even exist in the reactor. Third, there's an extra adding of several more orders of magnitude just for kicks.

So ultimately, this leads me to believe that it's pretty naked propaganda piece.
Why exactly would a show written by a psychology major know internal details on nuclear reactors?

->

Would not a psychology major also be looking at ways in which he can trigger strong emotive reactions from his audience in a way that doesn’t deteriorate from quality?

As in there is most certainly an aspect of explosions, fear and over inflation that results in an increased amount tension when applied to a story. Most propaganda by definition will be made with psychological aspects in mind, as opposed to most TV shows that are done by writers not psychologists.

So your observations here are bridging the connection with how propaganda works and sorting it with compartilization into the same category. That doesn’t strike me as a super good way to assess this show, even though I haven’t watched it.
 

Vorpal

Administrator
Administrator
Why exactly would a show written by a psychology major know internal details on nuclear reactors?
What would a random American psychology major know about anything at all about 1980s Soviet Union? That many visual queues are very high-quality and apparently painstanickly researched and re-created has primed me to believe the writer and producers care a lot about detail, which gives some indications that their choices are deliberate.

Though this has very little to do with technical details of reactors, because ‘can reactors explode in multi-megaton explosions?’ and ‘can a few megatons destroy cities 200 mi away?’ are very basic questions. Dramatic license over technical details is things like putting a lot of extra blood on irradiated people so the audience has a something more to latch onto and elicit emotive reactions. That's not realistic to the dangers either, but it's very understandable and even appropriate given the medium. But when one already has very high plausible stakes and yet chooses to exaggerate them by many orders of magnitude, which so happens in a way that parrots some very common anti-nuclear myths in a ludicrous way, I think it's understandable to expect that it was done deliberately to push a corresponding agenda.

You're right that it's not good way to evaluate a show overall. It's more of a normal process to deciding what whether to watch something, a typical part of it is basing one's expectations on excerpts from it. That's far from super-reliable, so I would fully expect people that actually watched it, such as @Wakko to have a much clearer picture of the show's overall worth.[/quote]
 

Horton

Cat
Administrator
What would a random American psychology major know about anything at all about 1980s Soviet Union? That many visual queues are very high-quality and apparently painstanickly researched and re-created has primed me to believe the writer and producers care a lot about detail, which gives some indications that their choices are deliberate.
But does that not make things worse?

If he was researching and likely used English media sources then his veracity is going to seriously suffer as a result. Media sources can be a tad bit unreliable when it comes to foreign stuff such as that.

Most of the time this process isn’t even deliberate and people simply mistranslate foreign sources. This ispart of the reason why I’m not particularly invested in non US or U.K politics other then the obvious issue of time.


Though this has very little to do with technical details of reactors, because ‘can reactors explode in multi-megaton explosions?’ and ‘can a few megatons destroy cities 200 mi away?’ are very basic questions. Dramatic license over technical details is things like putting a lot of extra blood on irradiated people so the audience has a something more to latch onto and elicit emotive reactions. That's not realistic to the dangers either, but it's very understandable and even appropriate given the medium. But when one already has very high plausible stakes and yet chooses to exaggerate them by many orders of magnitude, which so happens in a way that parrots some very common anti-nuclear myths in a ludicrous way, I think it's understandable to expect that it was done deliberately to push a corresponding agenda.
Actually not quite. That kind of thing is pretty easy to make if you don’t know much maths and assume that 3 MTs being 200 times Hiroshima equates to a radius 200 times the size. A lot of people struggle with high school level maths for some reason or another and I can’t help recall some of the types that have appeared in vs on SB with that level of acumen.

So yeh, I can totally see him doing “calcs” and messing up as there’s nothing that says he’s even semi decent at that type of thing.

It happens on SB so why not here?

You're right that it's not good way to evaluate a show overall. It's more of a normal process to deciding what whether to watch something, a typical part of it is basing one's expectations on excerpts from it. That's far from super-reliable, so I would fully expect people that actually watched it, such as @Wakko to have a much clearer picture of the show's overall worth.[l
Honestly, I have a certain pet peeve with people assuming random TV Shows have an intentional political agenda when often I think it’s because a lot of politics are just a reflection of who we are as people and some of that shows in writing even when unintentionally.

It’s like the whole silly internet drama over “SJWs”. I just got the impression most of the time it was reading into stuff that wasn’t actually intended to be political.
 

Wakko

Well-known member
So yeh, I can totally see him doing “calcs” and messing up as there’s nothing that says he’s even semi decent at that type of thing.
I don't think in a multi-million show with numerous experts in the role of advisors, there could be such a 'numerical mistake'. I think it was added for dramatic effect, otherwise western audiences might find the whole thing just a far-away problem that doesn't concern their golden bubble at all. Though going right to megatonns is pretty weird.
Honestly, I have a certain pet peeve with people assuming random TV Shows have an intentional political agenda when often I think it’s because a lot of politics are just a reflection of who we are as people and some of that shows in writing even when unintentionally.
I'm with you on this one, though that is actually even worse. The agenda is by now automatic. All the bullshit about the Soviet Union, all the propaganda and myths are by now so ingrained in the western population that they come quite naturally. I didn't mind it in this show because Chernobyl was clearly a problem caused by the rot of the system, and anyway there were too many great things in the show to be spoiled by the mindless insertion of various myths (KGB didn't just go around shooting people in the 1980's, nobody was to be thrown out of a helicopter, for that one had to go to the US protege Pinochet, etc...).
The propaganda that is in Chernobyl is IMO the usual level that can be found in the better western production. Nowhere near Red Sparrow (that movie spoiled Jennifer Lawrence for me) and certainly nowhere near current everyday reporting about Russia. You know what is interesting? Here in Slovakia, most people my age and older, the ones who actually lived during communism long enough to remember it, don't harbor any ill will towards the Soviets. We were all in it together and in the end they had it worse than we did. It's the younger generations who, without their own memories, can be massaged by the anti-Soviet propaganda, that usually very easily transfers into anti-Russian propaganda and then outright Russophobia.
 

Horton

Cat
Administrator
I don't think in a multi-million show with numerous experts in the role of advisors, there could be such a 'numerical mistake'. I think it was added for dramatic effect, otherwise western audiences might find the whole thing just a far-away problem that doesn't concern their golden bubble at all. Though going right to megatonns is pretty weird.
Heh. You have more faith in the competence of TV channels then me. The amount of multi million movies with atrocious stories has made me question the judgement of these types of people or at least made me wonder if individual screenwriters have a lot more influence then I’d expect.

I'm with you on this one, though that is actually even worse. The agenda is by now automatic. All the bullshit about the Soviet Union, all the propaganda and myths are by now so ingrained in the western population that they come quite naturally. I didn't mind it in this show because Chernobyl was clearly a problem caused by the rot of the system, and anyway there were too many great things in the show to be spoiled by the mindless insertion of various myths (KGB didn't just go around shooting people in the 1980's, nobody was to be thrown out of a helicopter, for that one had to go to the US protege Pinochet, etc...).
The propaganda that is in Chernobyl is IMO the usual level that can be found in the better western production. Nowhere near Red Sparrow (that movie spoiled Jennifer Lawrence for me) and certainly nowhere near current everyday reporting about Russia. You know what is interesting? Here in Slovakia, most people my age and older, the ones who actually lived during communism long enough to remember it, don't harbor any ill will towards the Soviets. We were all in it together and in the end they had it worse than we did. It's the younger generations who, without their own memories, can be massaged by the anti-Soviet propaganda, that usually very easily transfers into anti-Russian propaganda and then outright Russophobia.
Guess people get Stalin’s era USSR mixed up with 70s/80s Russia. Bit of a difference IMO

Though for actual Stalin’s era people argue he was somehow worse then Hitler, which I find absurd. Hitler was more in Mao or Pot’s level and Stalin was more in line of an evil dictator with a very large country. Chances are the Kims are worse if scaled up to the same size.
 

Vorpal

Administrator
Administrator
Honestly, I have a certain pet peeve with people assuming random TV Shows have an intentional political agenda when often I think it’s because a lot of politics are just a reflection of who we are as people and some of that shows in writing even when unintentionally.
That's not unfair in general, but past a certain point of untruths of sufficient magnitude, I have trouble believing such a thing happens unintentionally. I mean, it's obviously not impossible, although contrary-wise unintentionally pushing a dumb agenda does not remove it from happening.

As it happens, I know exactly where this particular stuff comes from: Vasiliĭ Nesterenko, especially in Thomas Johnson's The Battle of Chernobyl, being an almost exact although slightly toned down quote from there, from the few megaton range to effect on Minsk to effect on greater Europe. As in, Chernobyl literally dropped the yield by a single megaton from Nesterenko's statements in TBoC (Nesterenko: 3-5, Chernobyl: 2-4), kept his statements of the destruction of Minsk, and somewhat tuned down effects on greater Europe. As for TBofC, one simply does not make claims like “render Europe uninhabitable” in a supposed documentary without it being a huge propaganda piece.

So to me it looked like Chernobyl very slightly tuned down TBofC for increased believability, which makes me uptick the probability of deliberateness and lower the probability of an independent development. They didn't calc it themselves; they passed along pre-existing nonsense. Although in general it is possible that this prior pseudo-documentary makes the writers of this show more innocent, ultimately I don't really care: even in that case, that they would pass along nonsense of this magnitude uncritically (even perhaps deliberately toning it down a bit to make it more swallowable) is a huge red flag for me. Although I will again say that one shouldn't make any strong judgement of the overall show from this (or more generally from impressions from someone who didn't watch it); I'm simply saying why my initial impression of it was very negative, enough to lower my expectations by a lot.

You know what is interesting? Here in Slovakia, most people my age and older, the ones who actually lived during communism long enough to remember it, don't harbor any ill will towards the Soviets.
Received interweb wisdom: “the younger the blogger, they more they have personally suffered under [Soviets/Stalin/etc.].”
 

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