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Thoughts & Views

Hollywood vs. history

Did “Lincoln” win the Oscar for Best Picture? Don’t know, since this is being written pre-awards. I have yet to see the film, but my attention was called to it this week in an email noting a small problem in the screenplay.

In a scene depicting the final balloting on the 13th Amendment, two members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation are portrayed as voting “no.” Or, more accurately, “nay.” But neither is accurate at all. In fact, all four Connecticut representatives approved the amendment.

Current Nutmeg State Rep. Joe Courtney, rightly appalled at the inaccuracy, fired off a protest letter to director Steven Spielberg, noting that “placing the State of Connecticut on the wrong side of the historic and divisive fight over slavery is a distortion of easily verifiable facts.”

According to a report on CNN, screenwriter Tony Kushner “conceded the discrepancy but defended the film.”

Kushner, CNN said, “explained that the alterations were made to serve the narrative that the outcome of the vote was in doubt until the very end.”

Other defenders noted that “Lincoln” is not a documentary but historical fiction, and, hence, the filmmakers were permitted some poetic license. Well, what the heck, it’s only history, right? And who the heck cares about history these days? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even taught in schools anymore.

Two anecdotal notes.

1) Some months ago, I was watching one of those “person- in-the-street” TV bits in which they question passersby on this and that. The subject was Abraham Lincoln.

“Do you know how Lincoln died?” one woman was asked.

“Yes,” she said. “He was assassinated.”

“And do you know the name of his assassin?”

Her answer: “Lee Harvey Oswald.”

I repeated this story to two twenty somethings the next day, and they both looked at me as if I were mentally challenged. One, because he thought “Lee Harvey Oswald” was the correct answer. The other, because he didn’t understand why this bothered me so much.

2) This one I know was on “Jaywalking.” Jay Leno was at a college commencement, questioning the grads, including one woman still wearing her cap and gown and clutching her degree.

“Have you ever heard of the Gettysburg Address?” Leno asked.

“Of course,” she sniffed.

“Do you know it?”

Her answer: “Well, I don’t know the EXACT address.”

I do believe that young woman has a bright future in Hollywood.

–Karen Zautyk

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