MAINSTREAMERS - use general-line clothing and accessories from sutler-row and usually exhibit a "this is only a hobby" mentality. Mainstreamers are generally accurate in their outward presentations.
PROGRESSIVES – are reenactors that reach the stage when they begin making an all out effort (within the limits of their finances) to get things as right as possible. They'll usually have an increased interest in doing Living History, and a 1st Person mentality prevails.
HARDCORE - This is the big leagues where complete immersion is the goal. Finances be d***ed, there are no excuses to be made at this level. Do it right or don't do it.
And just for the sake of completeness, FARBS are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to clothing, accessories, or even period behavior. The 'Good Enough' attitude is pervasive among farbs, although even casual observers may be able to point out flaws.
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Recently, the National Geographic Channel had a special show about "Extreme Reenactors." I'm not sure why I became all excited over it except maybe because I figured that it was on National Geographic and not the History Channel ("where the past is history"), therefore would do justice to the world of reenactors.
The first mistake I made was thinking that anything produced by a such a corporate station would present living history in a truthful and accurate manner.
The title, however, "Extreme Reenactors," is very intriguing, isn't it? Wow! They're not doing something on plain old everyday mainstream reenactors, but those who take it beyond the norm.
Well, it wasn't so, Joe.
There was nothing unusual about the reenactors that were portrayed. In fact, it showed a few as being more farby than even mainstream, much less extreme; plastic water bottles and jugs, god-awful 'deaths,' automobiles in the background...they almost seem to go out of their way to show that reenactors do not take this hobby as seriously as the public is lead to believe.
Not that the group portrayed was necessarily a farby group. They just seemed to be portrayed in that manner.
But, there was absolutely nothing about Extreme Reenactors that was remotely extreme (which, by the way, most in the know tend to refer to them as 'hardcore' rather than extreme).
The fact is, most of who practice extreme/hardcore reenacting prefer not to do events for the public but, rather, for their own benefit and pleasure. A good example of this is the 20 mile march that numerous Michigan infantrymen from differing units participate in every June: they walk in the Michigan forests for 10 miles on the first day as if marching to the next battle, camping in the thicket overnight, and then they walk back the 10 miles the second day.
Although it's only for two days, the soldiers get a fair idea of what it was like - more than a progressive, and infinitely more than the mainstream reenactor - by carrying with them only what a soldier of the 1860's would have had, including food; no pop tarts or other modern snacks allowed, no modern water bottles or jugs, not a motorized vehicle in site, no cell phones (except for the person in charge, and it is only used in case of an emergency). They cross streams, brave the inclement weather, and, if they don't have a tent, they sleep out in the open.
I would say that's a bit more extreme than what most mainstream and many progressive reenactors do.
And I have friends that will also go and live for two or three days in the forest with no provisions. They'll have their musket and their knife and survive for a full weekend (or longer) on their wit and skills alone, eating whatever they can kill and drinking from whatever water and game they can find.
So what they gave the public on this National Geographic show was, more or less, an extreme joke rather than extreme reenacting.
Oh yeah, we laughed quite a bit.
For civilian reenactors/living historians, hardcore reenacting can be a little harder to come by. Let's face it, very few citizens of the 1860's lived in tents as we see them at reenactments. Yeah, I know...we pretend that our tents are our wood-frame period homes, but it's just that: pretending.
A few of us civilians get lucky every-so-often and are allowed to portray 1860's life in actual 150 year old structures, but that doesn't occur as often as we'd like, for there aren't that many period homes to hold all that may want to do this. But when we do have the opportunity to make a historic house our home, if even for only a few hours, we attempt to take it as far as we are allowed.
For the most part, however, that is very limited due to the fact that although it's a home, it is also a museum.
|The Civilians of the 21st Michigan and the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society can really get into a progressive mindset
This is my dream, by the way.
To do this would be almost impossible, if only because I have not heard of any historic place that would allow such living history to happen. (Yes, I know about living history museums, but the presenters are designated to a certain area, sit only on certain furniture, and do not get to sleep there).
Another form of hardcore civilian reenacting takes it beyond anything I would ever do; 21st Michigan member, Larissa explained of her hardcore civilian adventure called "Into the Piney Woods." This event took place in Louisiana - three years ago to the date of her telling us the story, and she told how she and four others dressed in their period clothing and ventured into the 'piney woods' to get away from the Yankees, who had entered and terrorized their village.
|"Into the Piney Woods" - before the adventure (photo courtesy of Larissa Fleishman)
For three days and nights three girls and two guys survived in the rain and heat and even cold by their wits, sleeping under a make-shift lean-to made of pine bow tree branches that really didn't give them much protection, eating only the period food they could carry with them, and remaining in 1st person the entire time (nothing modern except medicine for health reasons were allowed so the photos you see are at the beginning and end of their adventure). They spent most of the three days soaked to the skin and could not readily return to their vehicle even if they wanted to, for they were over over six miles deep in the unfamiliar woods from civilization.
|"Into the Piney Woods" - after three days of rain, heat, and cold (photo courtesy of Larissa Fleishman)
I admire this group of "civilian campaigners" for what they did.
As you can see, the National Geographic show was way off the mark in the title and premise of Extreme Reenactors. As I've mentioned in previous postings, those of us who practice living history and reenacting are very much like the classic car owner who makes sure every minute detail of his 1957 Chevy is as exact as when it was on the car lot in '57, or the rare stamp collector that is willing to spend thousands of dollars on a stamp because something may have been inverted, or even the Beatles collector who absolutely has to have the extremely rare straight out of the factory first-state Yesterday and Today butcher cover, which has a current mono value of $7500 and stereo of $12,000 in mint condition.
Can a living history/reenactor put themselves in that same category as the hobbyists mentioned above? Ask someone in the artillery. Ask a cavalryman. Heck - just read a posting I wrote a few months back that explains the time and basic cost of reenacting.
We take our own living history hobby seriously, so when we see shows on a supposed respected TV station we would hope that they just might get it right.
Well, maybe one day they will.