Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Today's good thing is that my daughter got safely home from a two week trip to Shanghai -- where she contracted bacterial gastritis and had to make two trips to the ER for IV fluids.  We were so worried, but now she's back home and feeling better.

I have a little rant today about "The Butler."  We went to see it last weekend because it was reviewed very positively and, as history buffs, we thought the life of a man who had been a part of the Whitehouse staff through five administrations would be fascinating.  Even more interesting, he was a black man seeing the civil rights movement from a privileged place inside Washington politics.

What we saw was a rabble rousing indictment of how this man had been oppressed as a black man in a white culture.  The story opens as he picks cotton on a Georgia farm.  The overseer openly rapes his mother and when his father speaks a word in protest, the overseer shoots the father in the head in front of the entire group of workers.  There is no punishment for the overseer, but the lady of the house takes pity on the traumatized son and teaches him to be a house servant.  

Over the course of time, he marries, has two sons of his own, and works his way into a job as a butler at the White House.  His older son is a rebel and becomes part of the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. King and spending a lot of time being beaten and thrown in jail.  In fact, much of the movie's focus is on this older son.  The younger son is dutiful and home-loving, so he is sent to Viet Nam, where he tragically dies.

The only white people who are nice are Ron and Nancy Reagan, who invite him and his wife to be guests at a state dinner.  But this is also portrayed as a token gesture meant to make the Reagans look egalitarian to their other guests.  He and his wife are embarrassed and ill at ease.

At the end, he resigns from the White House staff and goes to join his elder son in a protest that lands him in jail. The son later becomes a congressman.

At the very end of the movie, Barack Obama is elected president and the theater erupts in applause and cheering.

We left the theater thinking, wow, what an amazing journey this man has had.  They made it clear that it was based on a real life person, so I went to the Internet to find out about which parts actually happened.  Was his father murdered?  Did his son become a congressman?

It turns out that ALL the horrible things were completely fictious.  His father wasn't shot by a lecherous overseer.  His older son, the civil rights worker, was COMPLETELY made up.  He only had the one son and that son returned safely from Viet Nam.  One true thing is that he and his wife were invited to a state dinner by the Reagans, which was one of the happiest memories of their lives.

Why make this stuff up?   What's the purpose except to sow dissension between people?  This man knew five presidents intimately.  Wasn't his life interesting enough without making it into a racist pile of propaganda?!  Even if his integrity prevented him from revealing personal information about about the presidents, surely his unique perspective would be interesting and there would be some interesting stories over the course of thirty years.  But no.  They hung a fictious and inflammatory story on this guy's life and most of the people leaving that theater will forever believe that it actually happened just as it's portrayed.  

I think that's irresponsible film making and it only hurts understanding between the races.

That's my two cents.  

1 comment:

Lilac Haven said...

Thanks for the review. We thought it looked good. Think we will skip it now. Sad thing is that most people don't do the research that you did and they believe all the crap that the media spews.