I've devoted space in the Bookhouse lately to subjects as seemingly varied as Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Titanic. But to me they are variations on a theme.

I have to admit, I was taken somewhat aback when I first read of the popularity of Mad Men. The clothes! they said. The culture! The good old days!

What??? What???

Again with Downton Abbey. Titanic. The clothes! The culture! The good old days! And where would you have been? Upstairs? Or downstairs? On the A-deck? Or in steerage?

I recently watched the Best Picture choice for 1931, Cimmaron (from Netflix). Wonderful stuff. The clothes! The culture! The good old days! When, as an ex-husband used to say, men were men and women were weeps.

But there's more to that story than one might expect. Just as there is more to the stories of Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Titanic.

Some of us love reading history. More of us love novels. Most of us love movies. And with all the ways now available to us to watch a movie, any movie, any time, there is another way to learn our cultural history. Movies like Cimarron do that. Racism, sexism, prejudices of all sorts, the raw edge between absolute freedom and the violence that made possible, and the civilizing influence of government, which makes actual lives possible.

The movie is based on Edna Ferber's novel, It's a good yarn, but it's a yarn that goes beyond nostalgia. It's a yarn about the people we came from. They all are.