Over at Crossroads, Brooks Simpson has offered some thoughts
about a critical review written by Hari Jones concerning Kate Masur’s November
New York Times OP-ED on Spielberg’s Lincoln.
After viewing Lincoln for myself before Thanksgiving, I
found myself agreeing with much of what Jones had to say and posted a few thoughts
Today’s post by Brooks lays out a clear set of arguments
concerning why he thinks Jones was wrong to write what he did about Masur’s
critique. He also links to my November post when observing that “my fellow
bloggers…may want to consider using the other end of the hammer to yank out
that nail,” implying that I might want to rethink my overall support of what
In short, I don’t think I will.
To me, all of this boils down to arguing over preference. With
no standard criterion for what the film should
have been about (in other words, “A Film about Lincoln’s last days must include a, b, c, and d…”), we can
only state with certainty what elements we feel
should or should not have been included in the film.
Masur’s article stated that “it’s disappointing that in a
movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States,
African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men
to liberate them” and bemoaned the lack of other key players in the abolition
movement. I found the statement about passivity absurd, considering that the
movie began with USCTs fighting for their freedom.
Hari Jones took serious issue with the criticism that
Frederick Douglass was not included in the film and said that Masur was quibbling
with Spielberg because her choices were different than his.
What gives wiggle room to both Masur and Jones is what many
people considered a main weakness of Lincoln
in the first place – namely, that it bit off more than it could chew. As Brooks
notes, “events during the movie move forward all the way to Lincoln’s
assassination, including a reading of the Second Inaugural Address.: the
passage of the [13th] amendment is a focus, but not the only one.”
While mainly a story about the struggle over the 13th Amendment, Lincoln tries to cram a lot of other
information into the finale and it is dubious as to whether or not this is
So I’d say it is as equally valid to take issue with Lincoln
over a dearth of fleshed-out African American characters as it is to suggest
that Frederick Douglass would not be a good fit for the story that Kushner and
Spielberg were trying to tell.
In order to sort through all of this, perhaps it will help
the reader to read all of the abovementioned posts and reviews in the order
they came out:
Before giving any additional thoughts, I’m going to use this
as blatant excuse to view Lincoln one more time. Thankfully, I have a friend
who’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild who can loan me a DVD (bwa-ha-ha!)
And as always, I’m interested in what you think.
Who do you
agree with most?
Or are we all full of it?