Hey Conservatives: Don’t Bash ‘The Butler’ (From a Conservative)

Over at PJ Media, John Boot has written a devastating take down of The Butler, the movie loosely based on the long-time White House butler Eugene Allen.

He says it is false, overstated, and attacks Reagan. The same general complaints appear from Will Allen on National Review, my friend Christian Toto at Big Hollywood, and probably elsewhere on the web.

I’m going to have to disagree with my conservative brethren. I’m as conservative as they come, mostly, and I’m wondering if we saw the same movie. I loved it. My review is here.

Lee Daniels has made a film that works and moves precisely because it is about a man and a family. It is epic in scale (like the film to which it’s often compared, Forrest Gump), and meant to show the vast experience of black people in the 20th century through the lens of one man and his family.

The point of the film is to show the perspectives of black people over the decades of the 20th century, not to be a history channel documentary of all the presidents. In fact, the presidents are minimal characters.

And we conservatives are mad because it doesn’t lionize Ronald Reagan?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall a lot of African-Americans being big Reagan fans in the 1980s. (I was a child during that era, but I lived near Oakland and am pretty sure my impressions are correct.)

Are conservative pundits wanting to do what they accuse the film of doing and rewrite history? Do they expect a film to portray African-Americans as loving Reagan’s policies?

The genius of this movie reflects the genius of Lee Daniels’ earlier Oscar winner Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. I am increasingly convinced that Lee Daniels, as much as any director, wants to tell true stories. The true stories he wants to tell are about African-American people. He did not set out to make Precious be a takedown of the social services system, but it was because that was a true story.

We need more, not less, of this in our culture because exploring the African-American experience through film is exploring our shared history and creates a conversation we all can share.

The conversation will not go very far if we conservatives immediately overreact to perceived slights in an excellent film.

The skill of the screenplay and direction in The Butler make it clear that the political views in the movie flow from and are expressions of the characters in the film. The movie itself does not make judgements on any of the presidents, but some of its characters sure do. And some of the characters disagree with each other.

That’s called good movie-making.

I think it is a beautiful and moving film for anyone to enjoy. Even whites. Even conservatives. Especially white conservatives. Try to understand the other side a little. Buying a movie ticket isn’t conceding every political point made by a character in the movie. It is simply learning.

But, because I think John Boot’s column does a disservice to the film and to conservatives in general, I will speak to each of his points. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

1) It overstates its case by adding elements to the story that are not true in Eugene Allen’s life.

So what?

It’s a movie and, as in Forrest Gump, the main character is supposed to stand in for every man. This time, every black man. Daniels never marketed it as a completely true story.We can argue that lynchings and rape by the white overseer would not have happened in that day and age, but I think black people’s experience feel like they came out of that history, that that history is theirs. An African-American everyman would feel wrong if it did not have an echo of that.

Plus, let’s not in the specifics of that case, imply that racism did not exist in Jim Crow America. Perhaps my black neighbors on Capitol Hill in DC never witnessed a lynching, but I personally know people who were denied a year or two of school because the schools shut down rather than integrate. It was real. Too real.

Finally, the two sons, one of whom becomes a radical and the other fodder in Vietnam, represent different sides of the African-American experience at the time. It’s called a plot device and it works very well in the film.

2) Everything happens to one person.

That’s what happens in a movie.

3) It says Ronald Reagan was an enemy of Civil Rights.

Characters in the movie do make this claim, but only someone bruising for a fight would say that the movie itself does. In fact, Reagan is treated rather well in some ways. He’s not shown as stupid or checked out. He’s not shown as boorish. He is not a caricature. He’s depicted as a decent man.

In fact, a long-standing plot point in the movie is that Cecil Gaines (as Allen is renamed in the film) and other black employees are paid less and given less chance of promotion than their white counterparts. JFK doesn’t fix that. LBJ doesn’t fix that. Reagan does.

It is through the personal intervention of Reagan that Gaines is able to right that wrong (somebody fact check THAT!) in the film. Plus, Nancy (played by Jane Fonda, who does not make her a caricature either, amazingly) appreciates Gaines and invites him as a guest to a state dinner.

The issue of sanctions for South Africa is an issue in the movie because it is an issue for the characters. In other words, the movie is not ABOUT whether Reagan was against sanctions, but it is the point that the characters revolve around for a while.

Cecil Gaines, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is in his eighties, is ready to retire and so he does. He then joins his son, who has become a Congressman, to protest for sanctions against South Africa. He does not retire in protest of the sanctions policy. That would be a simplistic reading of a complex movie. The protest itself is really a vehicle for the reconciliation of father and son. Cecil is not so much protesting the sanctions as telling his son that he is important to him. It’s a family story first and a historical story second, which is why it works so well.

Again, the movie depicts the viewpoints of black characters at that time. Are we as conservatives going to argue that black people were happy with his policy on South Africa? That’s ridiculous. We can, however, take this opportunity to point out he was ultimately right.

Finally, each president is presented, briefly, and humanized. Kennedy is sympathetic, glamorous and kind, but also addicted to pills and a bit naive. LBJ is considered by the characters as good on Civil Rights, but someone who barks orders from a toilet. Nixon, yes, is presented as slimy.

But, really? We’re mad because a movie presents Nixon as slimy? Really, conservatives? Can we just concede that one?

And even he (played by John Cusack) has his moment of pathos, as he sits alone, deserted by all his political friends, planning a comeback that would never happen, reaching out for sympathy from his butler and finding it’s too little too late.

A very nice scene.

4) The Black Panthers Were Great Guys

Ok, here I have to just say “what the what?” to John Boot.

Ahem…What the what?

The Panthers were clearly portrayed as going too far, which is why Louis, the son played by David Oyelowo, ultimately rejects them, losing his lady love in the process. “Are you really ready to kill people? I’m not,” he says to the woman he’s shared protest, arrest, and agitation with since college. She is. He isn’t. He leaves.

There is some wistfulness in the film that the inspiring vision of the Civil Rights movement, of being gentle yet firm, demanding rights but hurting no one, turned into something as ugly as the Black Panthers.

This is what we call a story arc. Yes, Louis Gaines joins them. Yes, he’s enthralled by them for a while. But utimately, he rejects them unequivocably.

To portray the film as pro-Black Panther is just dishonest.

5) It casts the term “house slave” as something to be ashamed of

This feels a little creepy to me, to be honest. Slavery is, of course, something of which we should be ashamed as a nation.

But when I read past the bullet point, that’s not what John Boot is saying. To quote:

Whitaker’s butler character is portrayed as the ultimate house negro, and is denounced as such several times. Though the butler is the hero of the film and is given excellent reasons in his back story for not wishing to be a troublemaker, The Butlerisn’t subtle about pushing the audience to think there is something pathetic about a man who simply kept his head down and did his job for many years instead of agitating for change.

In fact, distaste for being lumped in with such so-called house slaves can be a destructive idea for youngsters just starting out on the economic ladder. Everyone who isn’t born rich has to take orders when they’re just starting out.

I think this is a another dishonest reading of the movie. The movie holds at its core a tension between being a “house slave” versus being a rebel. Cecil is the ultimate “house slave” (or the movie uses a more brutal term). His son Louis becomes the ultimate fighter. Louis despises his father, at times, for his perceived subservience, but the movie does not. The other son, Charlie, follows more closely his father’s path. Louis goes off into utter radicalism, but learns at the end to respect and honor his father and his father’s generation.

The tension around this issue is the great genius of the movie and a reason why it so well depicts the African-American experience. But it is a tension. Good stories operate with tension at their core and this tension makes the movie very good indeed. It is not, as John Boot argues, a take-down of people like Cecil Gaines. Rather, it is a celebration of the generation who worked harder to be better than the white man so they could rise up.

Finally, there is a central scene in the movie where no one less than Martin Luther King Jr. defends the “Negro domestic.” Domestics are subversive, he says, because they do menial tasks but by their very honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness prove that the racial stereotypes under which they suffer are not true. It is a ringing endoresment of Cecil Gaines, and a central quote that guides the whole movie.

I guess John Boot was in the bathroom for that part.

Frankly, the criticisms coming from the right seem so petty. The movie is excellent.

I maintain that every conservative should see this movie. Sure, there are things about which I disagree, but so what? It is excellent and we just might find we understand each other a bit better afterwards.

  • B Thomas

    You are wrong.
    The reason blacks were not fond of Reagan or any conservative is because of the liberal brain washing via the media. It still continues and now they are enslaved by the left with crumbs from the table instead of jobs.
    It was the republicans who led the civil rights movement…you are probably to young to remember.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      I am too young. (Way too young, right? I barely remember 9/11. Haha. Just kidding.)

      I don’t disagree the media can be obnoxiously liberal, but surely that’s not the whole story?

    • Agni Ashwin

      Reagan didn’t lead the civil rights movement: he opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        He, of course, wasn’t president in 1965. He was just beginning his political career and would become governor of CA in 1967. (Elected 66.)

        And I think he was pretty clear his opposition was not about whether it should be done but how.

        • 65noname

          but he DID oppose the voting rights bill. And it wasn’t about how; he opposed any govenrmental action to enforce civil rights. but did not have any problem with various levels of government enforcing segragation

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Ok. So when I looked this up, what I found was that he SAID later that he WOULD have opposed it. And because he thought it was a slap in the face to the South. The methodology.

            And that he was always very clear that it wasn’t that he thought segregation should continue. Not at all. But that he didn’t think this was the best way to do that.

            I’m not a Reagan scholar, but I think it’s only fair to agree that him commenting after the fact is VERY different than the idea of him being in power and actively opposing it. He didn’t “Oppose it” he said in retrospect he would have wanted the process to go differently.

            Secondly, the idea that it wasn’t the right way to make desegregation and civil rights happen, in his opinion, is different than him being a racist and opposed to civil rights.

            Lots of good people have different views on how best to achieve good goals. That doesn’t make the other side evil.

          • 65noname

            except that he WAS a racist. Also, many, many people cl;aim that they don’t oppose something, just the method being used. very few people who have political ambitions wider than, say the south were going to admit that they were in favor of segregation.
            And as to the silliness of saying that it was “a slap in the face of the south”, well what about the faces of afro-americans who couldn’t use hospitals, go to schools, were being lynched for using public sidewalks? And why should we be too interested in the “face” of people who were supporting the horrific things that the act was designed to prevent? And why are some people so worried about the face of those oppressing othersa but never seem too concerned about the face of those bein oppressed?
            And what did reagan propose as an alternative? I mean besides waiting another hundred years and suffling and dying in the meantime?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            He was not in a position of power at the time. He was not in a position to propose alternatives. I just don’t think it’s fair to make a case against him about something he really didn’t have anything to do with.

            I think for 1960s, “being lynched for using public sidewalks” is overstating the situation. Are you referring to Emmett Till?

            The situation was horrible, of course. I’m not trying to downplay it. And the great achievement of the Boomers is that they changed that system. They forced change, and without the kind of civil war that could have happened, and did happen here a hundred years before, the kind that happens in Syria or Iraq. For most Americans, black and white, the change played out on the TV screen and in small but significant ways in their lives. That is no small thing.No small thing at all.

            I just don’t think 1960s Civil Rights is Reagan’s story. And I think there are reasons he took the positions he did other than “he hates black people.” I don’t think he did. I think he had a bedcore belief in liberty for all and in getting the government the hell out of peoples’ lives. In the 1980s, that meant opposing welfare which is a totally different issue than desegregation. And I think that’s why people are mad at him. For taking the position of self-reliance and dismantling the welfare state. And so they’re looking for reasons to create evidence that he’s racist, like the whole CRA thing, which is something he only talked about, not something he actually affected.

            He was generally opposed to government imposition on individuals or states. And that because he thought it was the right way to create liberty for all.

            I happen to agree with that as a principle because I think it’s better for everyone, the poor person included, that we be responsible for ourselves.

            I just think it’s too easy to say, oh, he opposed sanctions against South Africa (which he later yielded and imposed) or CRA or welfare or whatever. RACIST!!!

            Rather than consider his reasons for doing so. They were consistent and not about race. Now, we can argue that the federal government needed to impose itself on the South because justice was not served there and it was a federal issue. I think that’s true in the 1960s. But that’s a different issue than “Reagan hated black people.”

            Once you get to “xx policy means you hate black people,” the person who says that is pretty much out of the constructive conversation.

            On both sides.

            I’m not saying there weren’t politicians in 1960s who were fighting for racism. There certainly were.

            But I think in general today and since the 1970s, Americans generally want the same things. We want things to be fair. We want prosperity. We want common decency and for all people to have a chance at a good life. We all want that.

            Believe me, Republicans want that. I am conservative, but I live in DC and, believe me, there are a gazillion Republicans whose deep desire is to help poor people.

            And I know enough Democrats who whole heartedly are working to make their country a better place that I can never think “Democrats hate America” or whatever.

            They don’t and neither do Republicans.

            We disagree on how to get there. Ok. So, we can disagree without accusing each other of being evil and hating the other side. We can.

            We don’t but we can.

          • 65noname

            Of course, in other context, people are admired for recognizing “evil”, whatever that means; for instance, reagan is admired by the right for referring to “the evil empire”. Some could say that just because the people so referred to had a different way of achieving “peace and prosperity” doesn’t make them evil. And we would laugh at them.
            As to being governor at the time, the question was not whether he was in tthe position of making policy; the question was whether he opposed the civil rights act. Clearly it did and does matter what a candidate for governor of the largest state believes about a law that will fundmentally change the rules of access to public places for afro-americans (and asians and jewish peoples and latinos’, etc). It was and is a important policy change that everyone in the country was discussing, especially the governors of states; for instance, while governor of michigan, george rommney, no progressive, strongly supported civil rights bills during the exact same time.

            And reagan certainly did weigh in on other “national” and “international” issues such as nuclear weapons and viet nam even thought he was “only” a candidate for governor.

            But the question was whether reagan supported the civil rights act. In fact, reagan, even his supporters say that he opposed it. And he opposed each and every policy proposal concerning civil rights. He never proposed any other solutions (just as you fail to suggest any) other than to say that well, time will take care of it; or we’ll talk them out of their sgregation beliefs.

            And, yes, I agree that clinton and obama have done nothing for civil rights. I’d be glad to discuss those guys sometime. But the discussion here was about reagan.

            I don’t know what is anyone’s heart. But you don’t either. We can only go by what people say and do. And while I don’t use the word evil, I said “racist”, if you are going to discuss using it, I have to wonder, is it o.k. to call wallace evil? how about bull connors? How about the murderers of viola luizo and emmitt till? How about the politicans who supported a political system regime that denied people the basic right to walk down the street? how about people who denied other people basic education health care based on their race? And then said that they were only supporting “local customs”?

            Yes, we can disagree witthout hating; we can also call out racism when we see it. and discuss history honestly. and not devolve into the feelgood argument that rather do so we can have “kumby ya” (?) conversations about how we are all sitting around the same campfire trying to acheive the same good things.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            The Soviet Union was evil. Because it consistently murdered people, inprisoned them, and intimidated them for disagreeing with it. Because it was corrupt to its core. Because it attacked and subjugated millions in countries not its own. Killing them.

            If we can’t call the Soviet Union evil, we can’t call anything evil. More people died under Stalin than Hitler. Gulags are not ok or simply another choice.

            It was not evil because it was communist, exactly, but this type of oppression and corruption go along with communism.

          • 65noname

            and reagan was racist because he consistently supported policies designed to subjugate people and oppress them economically and politically, based on their race. and opposed any policies.

            And he was evil because he consistently supported and advocated policies around the world that oppressed people and can killed people who were attempting to get free of facist regimes imposed on theem in part by the US government and kept in power by the US government.

            For afro-americans, the south was a gulag where they were killed for forgetting to look down at ghe gground when a euro-american walked by; where they were denied basic education; where they were denied the right to basic health caare; where they rounded up dozens at a time for loitoring and then rented out to the owners of underground mines where they were worked, often, to death. And where afro-americans who attempted to leave the csouth were often arrested at trains stations for attempting to move north and deprive “the south” of its cheap labor.
            And, yet, reagan opposed the civil rights act designed to end some of those praaccticees because it would “humiliate” the south.
            But my point was that to simply say that I am calling reagan “evil” instead of discussing reagan’s policies and positions is to avoid the issue. For instance, you stated both that reagan did not take a position on the act at the time that it was current and that it was not vrelevant to being governor. But when facts are brought up that might contridict thosae cassertions, you have no response other than to suggest that it is impolite to call reagan “evil” (which I hadn’t done at that point)

          • Darrell

            Democrats always manipulate or lie to prove their point. What party do you think brought in the Jim Crow laws? The Democrats. Have you even looked at the % of Republicans vs Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act? I watch video on YouTube with the director Lee Daniels about the movie and he said that the Butler actually had one of his best relationships with Reagan. He also said that Reagan was against Apartheid. The movie made Reagan look like he was for Apartheid. He was strongly against it and it show in the Reagan Diaries. He was looking for a diplomatic solution rather than sanctions that could have hurt the South African economy. You can actually see in the diary where he was meeting with people from South Africa about it. Luckily the sanctions worked quickly but that isn’t normally the case as you can see with Iran and North Korea. He also said he regretted his decission to veto. But at the time it was like playing Russian Roulette with the South African economy and when they pulled the trigger, luckily there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber. But you Democrats always do the same thing. It’s like a witch hunt.

          • Jeffrey Turner

            All the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act either changed their minds about racism or became Republicans. That’s why the South is now solidly Republican.

            As for Reagan, he kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and laid a wreath at a Nazi cemetery in Germany. But Reagan was mostly AWOL, with Alzheimer’s, and did whatever his handlers told him to do – the legacy of a long career as a pitchman for large corporations.

          • 65noname

            Oh, and by the way, according to Linda Chavez, a reagan friend and reagan supporter said ” I have to tell you, I do think it was a mistake. [referring to his opposition to the civil rights act] President Reagan was not originally a supporter of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as many conservatives were not at the time.” If you “google reagan & civil rights”, there are multiple other sources that describe him as opposing the civil rights act at the time.
            Oh, and also by the way, he said that the law was humiltating to the south”. Now, obviously, he didn’t include afro-americans as part “the south”, as with many people, he didn’t seem to think that thye were actually part of what we mean when we say “america”. But, its humilitating to pass a law saying that 100 years after the civil war it was no longer o.k. to keep afro-americans out society?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            He was a candidate for governor of CA in 1964, right? Not a politician in power. I just think this is important because, as Obama has amply proven, the guiding principle you affirm as a candidate (in Reagain’s case, restricting the power of the federal government) is very different when you’re actually in a position of having to act in a specific circumstance.

            I completely disagree that he, or conservatives in general, don’t include African-Americans as part of America.

            See my other comment on this thread. In general, right and left want the same things (fairness, prosperity) for all. We disagree on how to get there.

    • mrichardson84

      Wrong. You clearly have no recollection of history class. Republicans (the party of Lincoln, not Reagan) abolished slavery. By the 1960s, all that had changed, and the Democrats were now the party of progress. Stop watching Faux News, and get an education.

      • Stephen Voss

        mrichard, Im a Democrat but I do need to point out to you the civil rights act of 1964 would never have made it out of the senate or the house without almost universal Republican support. It took LBJ using the votes of Northern democrats and making deals with Republicans to get the deal passed. Many of those Democrats who voted against the civil rights act would either change their mind or switch parties over the next 12 years

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          Reality is always more complicated than bumper stickers, innit?

          Stop watching MSNBC and, um, well, do something else!

    • BT

      It would be inaccurate to give credit to the republicans for civil rights. While Eisenhower started the civil rights commission and kicked off the process, and while republicans were originally on the progressive side, they soon realized that political gains were to be had by opposing it. Democrats actually closed the deal, but lost the south as a result. Formerly segregationist southern democrats defected en mass and became republicans. That dynamic remains in place today.

    • JW

      I think the point in the movie relevant to RR was that he didn’t support sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime, which, as the movie pointed out, even many moderate Republicans (I believe Olympia Snowe was being portrayed?) did.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        But not because he didn’t like black people.

        He was a very strategic person. In fact, I think if you read the movie fairly, it’s not even saying he was doing it because he liked apartheid, but rather for a long term goal he thought would best move the world in the right direction.

        I have no idea if that was Olympia Snowe. Funny. I’m not that versed in the nitty gritty of the Reagan era, although I do have an campily awesome photo of my grandfather shaking Reagan’s hand in the 70s.

      • GF

        Senator Kassebaum was portrayed in the film. The actress certainly did resemble Senator Snowe, right down to the hairstyle and outfit. Olympia Snowe moved from House to Senate in 1995 – her pragmatic leadership is definitely missed.

    • Jeffrey Turner

      “Liberal brain washing”? Liberals actually watch more than one TV channel.

      It certainly wasn’t conservatives leading the civil rights movement. And it was primarily conservative Southern whites opposing it. That demographic is now the heart of the Republican Party.

      • B Thomas

        Try getting your history from honest to god research and not TV channels

        • Jeffrey Turner

          I don’t watch TV. What research have you done?

          • Mark Workhoven

            I think the confusion is over the terms “Republican” and “conservative.” Yes, Republicans at one time led the civil rights movement. And most progressives and black people were Republicans. However, they were NOT conservative. Anti-civil rights Conservatives were all in the Democratic Party. Then the parties switched places, conservatives left the Democratic Party for the GOP and vice versa. But whatever party they were in, most conservatives did not support civil rights, although some did.

  • Craig_Ranapia

    “In fact, distaste for being lumped in with such so-called house slaves
    can be a destructive idea for youngsters just starting out on
    the economic ladder. Everyone who isn’t born rich has to take orders
    when they’re just starting out.”

    Good God almighty, I really wonder if Mr. Boot has the slightest idea how obnoxious and ultimately condescending that is. The point is, that for men like Whitaker’s character (and the characters played brilliantly by Viola Davis and Octavia Spenser in ‘The Help’) domestic service wasn’t “the first step on the economic ladder” but as good as it got. As you say, that’s a real tension that exists, and not just in the African-American community — even if a misguided one. My father left school at eleven, lied about his age to go to war in 1939, and worked as a bus driver to make sure I had all the opportunities in life (from a house where the floor wasn’t dirt to a university education) that were unimaginable to him. I didn’t fully appreciate that at the time, not because I was a wannabe black radical but because I was a teenage jackass, as so many adolescent males of all races are wont to be. I got a pretty sharp reality check when I ended up supplementing my scholarship with cleaning offices at night But I’m also thankful I had other options; a lot of other people don’t, and no amount of glib pontificating from Mr. Boot will change that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Wow. That’s amazing. Thanks for sharing that.

      I lived in SE DC for ten years and, let me tell you, I met people who worked harder than I ever have or probably will to give their children a shot at a better life. And, yes, they had a system that held them back.

      Teenagers always think they have it figured out, don’t they? Sounds like your dad was/is pretty special.

  • TrueBlue

    “Buying a movie ticket isn’t conceding every political point made by a character in the movie. It is simply learning.” A-MEN! Exactly what I say to my liberal brethren every time I rave about my beloved Gary Sinise.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Ha. Excellent.

      I see your Gary Sinise and raise you an Adam Baldwin.

      • TrueBlue

        Only if we’re talking “My Bodyguard.” :)

  • calski

    Rebecca, I whole heartedly endorse your review and critique of the knee jerk reaction of commentators who react to any perceived slight of the Reagan legacy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks.

      Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Ronnie.

      It’s just he’s not what this movie was about.

  • BT

    Well done.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks BT

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

    Hmm. Yes. Quite.

  • Al

    People like John Boot have an issue with seeing blacks in positions of power or demanding fair treatment or simply viewing blacks as equals. Thats why he thinks Cecil was right for keeping his head down and that you shouldn’t demand change unless your born rich.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Yeah. I’m not sure that’s what John Boot was saying. Not to defend the guy, but I didn’t read that in his piece.

  • Terry Washington

    So what if “The Gipper” was unflatteringly depicted in “The Butler”??? FDR was depicted as having a mistress in “Hyde Park On The Hudson” during the 1939 state visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother- this is party political posturing of the worst order- Roosevelt was a Democratic President and Regan a Republican!!!!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      And then there was this, which is only loosely based on reality.

      • JP

        I hope she was humming

        Tiara Boom de-ay as she was….um……spinning.

  • Greg

    Dear Rebecca, I appreciate your defense of THE BUTLER and do believe some on the right are exaggerating, but this movie indeed tilts to the left. Think about it: Why does the movie show a main character claiming that Reagan wants to take away all civil rights for blacks? No where does the movie provide any counter argument to that charge, nor do they remotely defend it. When we see Reagan opposing sanctions against South Africa, no where do they explain why or that he was following the SA policies of the Carter administration. The obvious implication here is this: Reagan was a hypocrite. He stood up to wage discrimination in the WH, but wouldn’t stick up for those poor blacks in South Africa.

    btw, why does Reagan get dinged in the movie, but Carter gets a complete pass?

    You can claim that Nixon was a slim ball in real-life, but this movie fails to give Nixon any humanity. My goodness, Oliver Stone gives Nixon a better shake and he accused him of cutting shady deals with rich oil men. All what we see him in the movie is act paranoid and attempt to win his next election. Why is it so wrong for Nixon to hand out buttons to the other butlers and ask them what there concerns are? Why is it wrong to want to win the next election and come up with strategies to help black people? The movie seems to frown on this, and we don’t see any of the qualities which made him a sympathetic or dare I say it smart/decent man. Meanwhile Kennedy gets away clean. No negative aspects of his life were ever depicted.

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked THE BUTLER, but the film gives very poor treatment of the Presidents (all of them), and it unfortunately gets into partisan politics.

  • mllyjul

    This passes for sound reasoning?
    “It says Ronald Reagan was an enemy of Civil Rights.
    Characters in the movie do make this claim, but only someone bruising for a fight would say that the movie itself does.”

  • Byron

    Just saw it – a very good movie. It was fictional yet in a very real historic context. The Butler did see it all – as did, the reviewer acknowledges, Forest Gump. Was it true about pay discrimination in the White House? Shame! Oh yes, I’m a conservative.

  • Charme Robarts

    One of your best points here :It’s about learning. Thank you for the reminder that there is always more to learn about another point of view and life experience. I loved the movie too, and I am a liberal, white, middle class person.

  • Kristi Wilson

    I may give this flick a second look. I was focused on the man and his family. I believe all politicians are slimy though. I could care less about their depictions. Only one president had the balls to say cut the sh!t and pay all staff the same wage. I thought the film was a fantastic epic. I don’t think the panthers were poorly depicted either. A person/group can only get bullied for so long before standing against the attacker. I’m glad to come from a different generation. Separating people because of melanin is IMO the definition of insanity.

    Futhermore: I didn’t like the treatment of Gaines parental family, but thought the story was excellent. He came from a devastating situation to raise an U.S. Congressman. I found his life inspirational. He wasn’t afforded many opportunities for advancement, but never made excuses. If you are offended by the showing of segregation be ashamed by our past transgressions, but don’t blame good art. I loved son Louis. He was the change he demanded to see in this world.
    The father was not against being treated fairly. He was worried his child would be killed/shot the same as his father. Most would agree alive and wrong is better than dead and right.
    I disagree with all the yuppie critics.


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