Thursday, December 13, 2012

Historians - Stop It

Time to vent. I have no need to name names - you've read the reviews and you know who they are. But I swear if I read one more historian's erudite treatise attacking Spielberg's Lincoln for not delivering a comprehensive history of the abolition movement I am going to light myself on fire and jump out a window into oncoming traffic. So instead of doing that I think I will take a long winter's nap. It is an activity far less dangerous and far more interesting. Here's an idea for all scholars of history, American studies, or anyone else who feels a burning desire to weigh in on this film. Why not write about what Lincoln does do instead of what it doesn't .
Okay here I go...
Wake me up when this is all over.



  1. Great post! It seems historians or plain folk with a deep interest in history get twisted in knots over movies while forgetting it is just a MOVIE! You are correct, they should focus on the merits of it rather than its flaws while remembering its a MOVIE! That's entertainment! I am glad you opted for the nap by the way.

  2. Four years of civil war can never be squeezed into a couple hours, much less the essence of one man's whole life experience, or those of the other primary characters. No need to be concerned. LINCOLN the movie is pretty good and it will remain what it is forever, while the reviewers are forgotten within a few days.

  3. Well said! It's a great movie, it's Hollywood as well and hence will always be flawed!!!

  4. As a non-historian I just have a wry smile at all of the academics fretting about this kind of stuff. It wasn't until my now 20-something sons realized that the guy from Dumb & Dumber was in Gettysburg that they started to have an interest. I think that anything which sparks an interest in the Civil War (or other history, for that matter) should be applauded - whatever may be missing from an overly precise academic historical perspective

  5. The film stresses the centrality of slavery to the war. The showing of Radical Republicans is a stand-in for the broader white abolition movement. Blacks are active agents of change. Not bad for a film 10 million people have seen!

    Let us recall, historians, that the film is aimed at the broad American public, 68% of whom do not have a B.A or B.S., and not at a seminar of graduate students. As I wrote last month:

    Modern America only began when slavery died. Lincoln, more than any other popular film ever, puts the old Jeffersonian America of unbridled racism and African American enslavement on display as it endured at the end of the Civil War. The film dispels any nostalgic notion that slavery was due to wither away as reason and benevolence led the (white) American electorate to embrace equality in the mid-19th Century. It was only through the brutal path of human slaughter that non-whites were even allowed to trammel the road to freedom.

    Lincoln is the finest historical movie I have ever seen. It is cerebral, funny, naturalistic, emotional, and tragic by turns. The script treats viewers as intelligent sharers in a common history that too many of us, actually, are unfamiliar with. By crediting us with knowledge we may not in fact have, the film mimics Lincoln’s own project of lifting the commonality of people above their circumstances.

    This film will be used for generations to transmit to young people and new citizens alike the values of modern America and the sacrifice and struggle, and the dying and killing, that were necessary to realize them.

  6. Amen, Keith. Amen, Pat.

  7. Lol! A case of not seeing the forest from the trees. And they wonder when people make jokes about them.