Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Said Ben Franklin to John Adams:

"Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up."


(and God bless America)


cineboy said...

Happy Independence Day to you!

If I'm not mistaken, that image is from the 1972 film version of the Broadway musical 1776. And it's true, the history books did clean it up. So… I saw 1776 in a theater back when I was a kid. At the time my parents had me going to a Christian elementary school. The teachers decided to take up all out to see the film, which was in re-release because of the bicentennial (or something like that, I really don't remember the year. I figure I was about ten at the time). I remember the theater (the McDonald theater in Eugene) being packed with kids. It must have been a showing for the school district or something. I loved the film, but the teachers and some of the kids at my school were offended by the apparently mild sexual content or bawdy humor (or something) in the film. So the school had us all write letters of protest to the filmmakers and send them off. I guess it was a way to get us all to improve our handwriting. Needless to say I have always regretted writing that letter (I don't even remember what I wrote), and as an adult I look back on those days and I have to laugh (and cry just a little). But this story also highlight how history does get "cleaned up" over time. People want mythologies of their own history because they are easier to understand (simpler) and easier to swallow (more sweet, less bitter). The teachers at my school liked the myths and felt it was their duty to propagate those myths – they were well meaning I'm sure. Ironically, 1776 is as much about mythmaking/propagating as the history books, but at least it is more entertaining than my old teachers. I am sure the truth of the birth of this nation and of the people who participated in it is far more interesting than the stuff we were taught in elementary school. What is so great for me about the founding of this country is that it was founded on ideals. That is why we are able to step back from current events at any given time and critique them. We know there is a higher good. We know this country is better than it often appears at any given moment.

Damian said...

That's a great story, Tuck, and you're right in that that image is indeed from the movie 1776, one of my favorite musicals and a film I have to watch every year on this date. You're also right in that the film mythologizes the the likes of Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Hancock and Washington just as much as the history books do... and yet I learned more from the movie 1776 than I ever learned from any high school history class (which is where I first saw it).

What I really love about the movie (besides the sets, costumes, cinematography, performance and, of course, the music) is that the filmmakers at least tried to probe beneath the exteriors of the legendary figures with which we've become so well-acquainted. The bawdy humor and dialogue might've offended a lot of people but it helped remind us that these great mean were still just men. In fact, what they accomplished is even more remarkable given the fact that they were highly flawed, complex, compromising fellows who just wanted to get hom to their wives. At the end of the film when all of them sign their names to the Declaration, knowing full well that they essentially signing their death warrants, I always get very moved.

Emma said...


Thanks for signing up to my “Performance that Changed Your Life” blogathon. Time has flown, and it is this Saturday! So this is just a poke from me to remind you.

Looking forward to reading your entry,

J.D. said...

I could tell that's 1776 because that's Mr. Feeny!

Damian said...

And when he speaks he sounds remarkably like the Knight Rider car. :)

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